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Lebanese turmoil withers 'Beirut Spring' optimism

But many young activists are still struggling to maintain the movement that followed in the wake of Hariri's death.

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Shattered: The movement that formed in the wake of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s death has been overshadowed by almost daily violence. Lebanese soldiers were deployed to end rioting in a Sunni-Shiite neighborhood over the weekend.

Jamal Saidi/Reuters

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Rafik Hariri's assassination three years ago triggered an uprising in Lebanon. Following the death of the former prime minister, young Lebanese poured onto the streets in a movement that not only pushed out Syrian troops, but also gave rise to a new optimism for political change known as Beirut Spring.

Since then, however, much of the ambition of those young protesters has been eroded by a devastating war with Israel, political turmoil, and ongoing violence.

"Spring 2005 was a very euphoric moment for all of us," says Asma Andraos, president of 05Amam, a civil society group. "Everything was going to suddenly change from a feudal and [client-state] country into a modern democratic transparent country. I think we were all very naive."

Leaders of the anti-Syrian March 14 parliamentary coalition had hoped that a rally last week in downtown Beirut to mark Mr. Hariri's death would rekindle the movement's spirit. But the event was overshadowed by the funeral for Imad Mughnieh, a Hizbullah leader killed in Damascus two days earlier. And many Lebanese who participated in the rallies of the Beirut Spring stayed home, partly because of weather, but also out of a sense of disillusion at the turmoil engulfing Lebanon.

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