'We are all Lebanese': Emotional soldiers break into tears after being told to confront protesters

'We are all Lebanese': Emotional soldiers break into tears after being told to confront protesters
Videos of soldiers overcome by emotion in the face of Lebanon's anti-government protests have gone viral, reflecting the conflicting allegiances between the army and those pushing for social change.
3 min read
23 October, 2019
Several videos of soldiers' touching interactions with demonstrators reflects their blurred loyalties [YouTube]
Despite their heavily armed exterior, it seems that at their core, Lebanon's soldiers are not immune to the powerful emotions coursing through the country-wide anti-government protests over the past week.

Several videos circulated on local news and social media on Wednesday showing soldiers stationed at various demonstrations overcome with emotion after touching interactions with protesters.

A video showing protesters embracing and wiping away the tears of a crying soldier stationed at Jal Al-dib, where protesters have staged a road block, quickly went viral for its moving depiction of the blurred loyalties between the armed forces and the protest movement that has swept the country for the past seven days.

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Commenters have hailed the video, with one posting: "We are all human. Your tears are precious. Pray that the system goes down so you won't be placed in this situation ever again."

Soldiers in Lebanon are typically low paid and act more as a national guard than a coercive force used to repress popular movements, a stark contrast to Lebanon's neighbours.

Another video broadcast by Lebanon's LBC channel on Wednesday showed a tearful soldier sitting in his armoured vehicle, after reportedly being told by demonstrators that he had their support.

A third clip from social media depicted a fully armed soldier gripped in an embrace with a sobbing demonstrator - which some reports have said is the soldier's father - before turning back and rejoining his ranks stationed at the rainy road block at the Zouk Mosbeh highway.

The army has been forcefully removing demonstrators from their peaceful sit-ins along the country's main motorways, in several instances of state violence against the peaceful protest movement on Wednesday.

In the wake of the social media storm, the army itself tweeted the picture of the soldier hugging the protester, with the caption: "We are all Lebanese… We are one family".

As class solidarity becomes a central element of the countrywide protests that aim to bring down Lebanon's powerful and corrupt elite, it comes perhaps as little surprise that Lebanon's underpaid and soldiers, also part of the marginalised masses, feel affinity with the protest goals.

In another show of protest solidarity, army units on Monday evening prevented groups of motorcycle-riding young men from entering central Beirut where they are thought to have been deployed to intimidate or beat protesters, as witnessed in southern Lebanon on Sunday.

Counter-protest violence and the use of regime thugs to weaken and defame the protests has been employed before both in Lebanon and in other Arab countries.

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