Ten year ago in Beirut, on a day like today, the Syrian regime and its Lebanese agents assassinated the historian, journalist and left wing political activist Samir Kassir.
On a day like today, Samir sacrificed himself for his Syrian comrades and friends, who wrote, struggled for justice, fought fascism, and were imprisoned over the course of several decades. He also sacrificed himself for his Lebanese comrades and friends who alongside him confronted the dominance of that same fascism over Lebanon for many years.
A decade has passed since Samir leaned over for the last time, in his blue, bloodstained shirt, against the steering wheel of his car, which was destroyed by the explosion that killed him. The developments that have taken place in the decade since, and the horrors they have produced are difficult to digest. Death in the form of war, coup d’état, assassination and the invasion of Beirut by militias have been periodic occurrences in Lebanon. The surviving remnants of the Lebanese state, its institutions and its constitution have been torn down, and disappointments and regression have afflicted the civic political projects into which Samir had put a great deal of effort.
More dangerous and of deeper effect are the events which have taken place in Lebanon’s immediate and less immediate geographic surroundings over the past five years. There have been revolutions against tyranny and ‘Arab misery,’ and these have been followed by counterrevolutions, military coups and wars that have yet to end. Strains of barbarism and fundamentalism that are tearing apart the region’s social fabric have come to the fore. In the case of Daesh (ISIS), although it rivals the savagery of the Assad regime, the latter, along with its allies and patrons, still surpasses the extremist group as far as the number of victims and the industrial scale of killing are concerned.
However, the past decade has also brought much brilliance and hope. The cultural vitality in Beirut, its art and defense of freedom of expression, has continued to resist stagnation. It has not been overpowered by the stigmatization campaigns, threats and bullets. The arrival from Syria of Syrian and Palestinian artists, writers and journalists has greatly enriched the city’s culture over the past four years. Likewise, the Arab revolutions—which have either claimed victory, been defeated, or succeeded in toppling a dictator without yet successfully bringing about ‘democratic’ rule in the ruins of his former domain—have revealed tremendous societal forces in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. Although there is a fear that some of these forces may be stifled by killing, they will certainly not be extinguished.
Thus, the years of Samir’s absence have been full of events and dynamics have changed rapidly. The man’s ghost has remained present among his companions. They salute his statue in the center of Beirut when they pass by, or imagine that he is commenting, debating or observing. Lebanese, Palestinians and Syrians now gather there periodically on significant occasions or to champion causes. There is some solace to be taken in this, especially if it is coupled with the thought of Samir’s killers suppressing their anger as they pass by the statue and the people gathered in his garden.
But true solace will remain postponed until at least some justice is done. For some justice to be done, the murderers in Damascus and Beirut who ordered, planned, carried out and covered up the operation to assassinate Samir must be brought to trial. For some justice to be done, the Syrians must have victory over those murderers and liberate their country from the occupation that has remained in place since that fateful day in November 45 years ago.
Ziad Majed tweets @ziadmajed
This article has been translated from the original Arabic by Ullin Hope.