Vive la Liberté! Vive le Liban!

As the Lebanese people braced themselves for another report on the killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, they, perhaps by no coincidence, suffered another shock last week — one targeting their intifada for independence.

  • E-Mail
By  Massoud Derhally Published  December 18, 2005

|~||~||~|As the Lebanese people braced themselves for another report on the killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, they, perhaps by no coincidence, suffered another shock last week — one targeting their intifada for independence. For months, there had been talk of a hit list floating around Lebanon, including the names of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and other members of the anti-Syrian camp. As a result, Gibran Tueni, the charismatic lawmaker and publisher of the widely read anti-Syrian An Nahar newspaper — along with several other Lebanese personalities including Saad Hariri, the son of the former slain premier — had moved abroad, mainly because they didn’t want to meet the fate Rafik Hariri met last February. In the end, though, Tueni tired of living abroad and saw hope for a country he worked tirelessly and bravely to free from Syria’s tutelage — particularly after seeing the international noose tighten around Damascus and the discovery of mass graves. But on the day German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, the head of the UN investigation into Hariri’s assassination, was to deliver his report to the UN, Tueni was callously killed by a car bomb — one of many that have targeted those representing freedom and democracy in Lebanon. Tueni had just come back from Paris the night before but was at ease and in high spirits. When the stewardess on his flight apologised that there were no copies of An Nahar left, Tueni turned to the person next to him, laughing, and said: “See, I can’t even read my own paper.” Like his father, Ghassan Tueni, Gibran was a journalist turned politician, and had won a seat in the recent parliamentary elections in Lebanon — the first since Syria left last April. As a central figure in the country’s ‘Cedar Revolution,’ the 48-year-old was a symbol of inspiration to the million Lebanese that took to the streets and demonstrated day after day at Martyrs Square in the heart of Beirut, until Syria withdrew its 14,000 soldiers earlier this year. The pen was always mightier than the sword, and Tueni’s vehemently anti-Syrian columns in the paper his grandfather founded in 1933, had piqued Damascus and its pro-Syrian loyalists in Lebanon. In an open letter to Syrian president, Bashar Al-Assad on March 23, 2000, Tueni wrote: “Many Lebanese are not happy about the Syrian military presence in Lebanon and believe that Syrian behaviour in Lebanon contradicts the principles of sovereignty and independence. People are wondering about Lebanon’s fate, the utility of the Syrian army’s presence in Lebanon and if the price of peace in the region resides in Syria’s seizure of Lebanon. People do not accept that Lebanese can be detained in Syrian prisons.” He added: “The people are asking for a timetable for Syrian re-deployment and are waiting for answers. Those asking for this redeployment are neither traitors nor enemies but persecuted citizens who want answers that will dispel their justifiable fears.” A natural born leader, Tueni was fearless and hated cowards. In the same article, he added: “It is time for us to speak honestly at whatever cost. Straight talk can lead to strong, healthy relations; sheer deceit can only result in more hate, fear, revenge and destruction on both sides. Don’t you think that a relationship founded on straight talk and mutual respect, rather than hypocrisy and deceit, will last? Don’t you think that we’ve paid a high enough price for the policies of a bygone era?” On February 14, Hariri was killed and like most Lebanese, Tueni believed Damascus had had a hand in his killing, as well as other assassinations that have targeted prominent Lebanese figures — given, he argued, its 29 year occupation of the country. But even after Syria had withdrawn, Tueni’s attacks did not wane. Like most of his colleagues and countrymen in the Lebanese intifada, he campaigned for an international tribunal to try those implicated in Hariri’s killing. His uncle, Marwan Hamadeh, who miraculously survived an attempt on his life in October 2004, will do the same and more, despite Syria’s denunciation of Tueni’s killing. When fellow journalist Samir Kassir was killed last June after a bomb tore through his car, Tueni was incensed and in typical Tueni fashion became more resilient. Before Kassir’s funeral, Tueni stood next to his uncle in Martyrs Square in an hour of silence, holding up a black pen bearing Kassir’s name. As we walked to Hariri’s grave I asked him if he thought the intifada was in vain, so long as assassinations and confessionalism in the country continued. He said: “No. Not at all. I think March 14 is still going on. If it were in vain, they wouldn’t have killed Samir Kassir.” And when I asked him if he thought he was a target, he prophetically replied: “Everyone is a target in Lebanon. We are not fragmented at all. We are going to continue.” Gibran Tueni paid with his life, but his legacy continues among the million Lebanese that came together on March 14, a day of national consciousness, etched in the minds of all Lebanese and one which history will mark as the rebirth of a nation. Tueni was a martyr for a free, sovereign and independent Lebanon. His death ensures the march of freedom will continue. Massoud A. Derhally is the Diplomatic Editor of Arabian Business. ||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code