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Cedar Revolution demonstrated the effectiveness of peaceful protests

Lebanese citizens effected major change during the March 14th, 2005 protests against Syria's presence in the country. [Reuters/Damir Sagolj]

Lebanese citizens effected major change during the March 14th, 2005 protests against Syria's presence in the country. [Reuters/Damir Sagolj]

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During Lebanon's Cedar Revolution that began on March 14, 2005 more than one million people gathered in downtown Beirut seeking change and political reform.

Demonstrations succeeded in driving the Syrian Army out of Lebanon, toppled then-Prime Minister Omar Karami, and led to many of Lebanon's top security officials to resign.

Before the recent protests occurred in Egypt and Tunisia, Lebanon provided an earlier example of how peaceful mass demonstrations can affect change, Lebanese political analysts said.

Kassem Ghosn, a sociologist, said peaceful movements can achieve more than violent actions because the latter "does not express the reality of the situation but instead reflects the viewpoints of specific people who want change to occur by force".

Mona Fayad, a professor of psychology and a researcher at the Lebanese University, told Al-Shorfa that the mass movements spreading across the Arab region are being led by a younger generation that learned from the experiences of previous demonstrations beginning with Lebanon and continuing throughout the region.

She added, "This generation has noticed that after 30 years of wars, and 20 years of all types of terrorism, that terrorism, in the first place, is causing harm to Arabs."

Fayad believes that peaceful movements and the effect they had in changing regimes and ushering in social, political, and economic reforms "contributed to reducing the use of violence by fundamentalist groups, as they proved the effectiveness of peaceful means. They also led people to discover that peaceful values, when justified and supported by mass popular movements, can achieve substantial gains."

Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University in Beirut, said, "The phenomenon of mass movements is a world phenomenon that started in Europe and arrived late to the Arab world." He pointed out that what generated the momentum for non-violent political activity is "the transformation of the globe into a small village, the development of communication tools, and the arrival of the information era".

Regarding the timing of the latest movements in the Arab world, Khashan said, "The Arabs were busy over the past years with suicide operations that were carried out against the West and against the foreign presence in their countries. However, these attacks did not yield any progress for the people because they did not bring about the desired change, and the pressing political and economic conditions persisted in their countries."

Sanaa Hamoudy, a professor of political relations at Beirut Arab University, said, "The problem lies with the transfer of power which is absent in our region because there is no orderly transfer even under parliamentary regimes except in Lebanon."

She said, "Mass popular movements, even the peaceful ones, have a greater potential to initiate change than the movements of limited groups that resort to violence and power because masses are more inclusive than small groups."