On the 23rd of January 2007 and then two days after that Lebanon almost slid into civil war. What initiated these dangerous events was the opposition’s general strike. Many voiced their bafflement on why a “simple protest and road closure” that got a bit out of hand had such disastrous consequences.
The answer is very simple if one looks at those events with hindsight, taking in the whole picture. On that fateful day the opposition tried to rob the Lebanese of their most sacred right: their free will in expressing and acting upon their political views and believes!
Let me elaborate, a couple of days before Tuesday 23 of January the general strike was announced and –this is crucial in understanding those events- it was portrayed as a measure of the popular support that the opposition can muster.
The 14 March coalition responded by a general call to consider Tuesday a normal working day and encouraged all its supporters to make an extra effort to show that Lebanon was a country for life, work and prosperity not for strikes, paralysis and death!
In short it was a political vote of confidence; if you went to work you were siding with 14 March while staying home was a declaration of your support of Hezbollah and its allies.
Personally I promised myself to go to work, as a political statement to express my support for 14 March.
The next day the opposition closed most businesses and most importantly most roads by force, by intimidation, by burning tires and by mounting barricades of dirt and rubble –ironically brought form the building destroyed by the Israeli in the last war- on most main roads, effectively paralyzing Beirut.
Hezbollah robbed the Lebanese, those supporting it and those against it, of their ability to freely express their political choice, their freedom of expression. On that day the Lebanese people could not CHOOSE whether to go to work and support 14 March or stay home and support the opposition, they were FORCED to stay home!!
Hezbollah’s actions were similar to stopping citizens from going to voting booth on Election Day, these actions were not only anti-democratic and terrible dangerous, these actions verged on tyranny, robbing people of their free will in expressing and acting upon their political views and believes! And for me no crime is greater than that!
The road took me three hours instead of 40 minutes, but at the end I arrived to my office, proving first to myself and to all those who tried to force a choice upon me, that my free political will is and shall always remain FREE!