It is early evening in Martyrs' Square in central Beirut, renamed “Freedom Square” by Lebanon's opposition movement.

The passionate melody that Fairuz, the country's most famous singer, produced to lament the 1975-1991 civil war, “I love you Lebanon”, is blaring from a loudspeaker.

Her words merge with the chants of “Syria get out” from the crowds waving the national flag and sporting the red and white scarves that have become the emblem of the struggle to rid Lebanon of Syrian control.

Behind a podium that has been turned into a sort of Speakers' Corner, receiving nightly guests from Lebanon's opposition movement, dozens of tents have been set up by students who say they will not leave until Syrian troops leave the country.

Around them, banners denounce the “Syrial Killer” and demand to know the truth about the assassination last month of Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister credited with rebuilding Beirut and buried close to Martyrs' Square.

Soon after Lebanon's opposition parties produced new demands this week, namely the resignation of Lebanon's Syrian-backed top security chiefs, posters emerged all over the tent city underlining the conditions and listing the names of the seven officials.

Inside one of the largest tents, Michael Nakfour, 42, a partner in a corporate events management company, is wearing his red and white scarf around his neck. He is one of about 50 people who have set up a new organisation, Independence 05 Civil Society, to help organise the encampment.

His group is an example of the spontaneous popular reaction to the assassination that has swept the city, catching the imagination of the outside world as a new freedom movement.

The efforts of people like Mr Nakfour contributed to the toppling of the pro-Syrian government last month.

Independence 05 distributes sheets and food to the students in the tents, and flags to anyone who wants them. Restaurants in the capital have also been generous, sending over boxes of sandwiches.

The Hariri family is believed to be the biggest financial backer of the encampment. But logistical assistance and food have also been provided by Nora Jumblatt, the wife of Walid Jumblatt, the most prominent opposition leader.

Mr Nakfour's involvement started the night before Hariri's funeral: “We were sitting around, with friends, and we said we had to do something. We could see how shocked people were by the killing. Enough is enough.”

He started by printing a banner for the funeral that said “It's obvious, no?” referring to Syria's alleged involvement in the killing.

The day after the funeral, he and his friends laid a long white sheet on the ground, near Hariri's tomb, writing a single word on it: Resign.

It became a 300-metre-long petition on which people who visited the site signed their names and wrote messages to the late leader.

“We also saw that lots of political parties were waving their own flags and we thought we needed to have one visual identity, which would be more impressive,” Mr Nakfour continues. “So we raised money from parties, from people we know and we started printing Lebanese flags. From there, the whole thing started rolling, political parties set up a few tents and the tents multiplied.”

Most of the student tents belong to the myriad Christian parties that have been marginalised by Lebanon's pro-Syrian regime in recent years. But there are also young supporters of Mr Jumblatt's Druze-based party, independents, and some Sunni Muslim supporters of Hariri.

Perhaps most important, tent city and Martyrs' Square have become a magnet for people who have never paid attention to politics.

In a capital best known in the Middle East for good entertainment and flashy night clubs, it has become fashionable for Beirut's middle-class to visit the square in the evenings and join in the few mass demonstrations that have taken place since the assassination. Mr Nakfour says the local media have played a big role in the mobilisation.

Since the assassination on February 14, Future, the Hariri-owned television station, has dedicated every minute of its broadcasts to his memory, showing long interviews with people who knew him and producing video clips and songs reflecting Beirut's sadness at his loss.

Even the rival Lebanese Broadcasting Company has joined in the veneration of Hariri. When viewers complained that Star Academy, a popular talent show, was back on the air just a few days after the assassination, LBC quickly brought together hot new pop stars such as Nancy Ajram and Haifa Wehbe to create a melancholic Hariri tune for the next episode.

Mr Nakfour dismisses sceptics' assessment that the mobilisation will be short-lived. But he says many students would be satisfied if Syria set a timetable for withdrawal, removed its secret services and allowed the Lebanese to get rid of the Syrian-backed security and intelligence chiefs.

“We are aware the toppling of the government was the easiest target,” he says. “But people now see that protests have achieved something and this will sustain the movement.” The symbol of Martyrs' Square, he adds, will be contagious in the Middle East. “Sooner or later, it will happen in Syria itself,” he says.

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