Monday, October 24, 2005

Detlev Mehlis report

Did you listen to what the people said, minutes after Hariri was killed? Every Lebanese knew who killed him! They knew and they shouted it, loud and clear, when they marched on Martyrs Square.

After 250 days, Mr. Hariri can finally rest in peace. Detlev Mehlis the Head of the UN probe into the assassination of Prime Minster Hariri has pointed a finger. In his 50 page long report, Judge Mehlis drew a picture of the circumstance surrounding the crime, how it was prepared and executed and who were the perpetrators.

It was not a surprise! Judge Mehlis said that "converging evidence point towards" the Lebanese-Syrian security apparatus that ruled the country since President Lahoud came into office in 1998. He even spoke about a role in the crime played by Maher Assad and Assaf shaoukat, respectively brother and brother in law of Syrian President Bashar Assad..

A great deal was said on the report and a greater amount shall be said, but the main point is that this is a primary account of the investigation, a sort of an outline. It goes without saying that there is no hard evidence listed or definite suspects accused –expect ofr the phone records-, for this is still an on going investigation and listing these information might jeopardize it

However, the investigation into the telephone records of the suspects sheds a light on who was involved and what were their roles and the extent of the conspiracy. And here again the Lebanese were proved right. They Knew al along that their so called President Emil Lahoud, had a hand in the crime, for he received a phone call minutes before the explosion, from one of the suspects.

The report is not a final accusation or indictment, that should be left to a court of Law. This is only a step, a first and important step towards solving – for the first time in the Arab world- a political crime that targeted one of the most prominent politicians in Lebanon.

Finally I cannot but thank Judge Mehlis for his dedication, objectivity and above all his steadfast resolve to uncover the truth, the whole truth, no matter the dangers, impediments or threats that face him.

Thank you Judge Mehlis

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A country full of surprises

I was barely awake when my phone rang, and my dad urgently asked me to open the TV for the UN chief investigator in Rafic Hariri's assassination has issued orders to arrest the three ex-leader of the security apparatus in Lebanon as suspects (These three are part of the five top brass who effectively ruled the country with their Syrian counterpart, until the Syrian troops withdrawal, and still held a lot of clout on Lebanon's shady security apparatus)

I felt as if someone emptied a bucked of cold water over my head! What? Who? How? I switched the TV on and watched some of the best news bulletins ever. Especially when they announced that Nasser Kandil, one of the staunchest Pro-Syrian ex-MP ever, was among those who will be incarcerated for further questioning. Oh how low has the mighty fallen!

I immediately remembered the post I started writing - a couple of days ago, for my blog- about the eerie atmosphere that permeated Lebanon, for the last month or so. As everyone anxiously awaited Detlev Meliss (the UN investigating team's chief investigator) final report, dreading its conclusion and their effects on our fragile country.

Therefore, here are parts of what I wrote a couple of days ago so you could have a feel of the surprising twist of events that happened overnight:

"Time seems to stand still in Lebanon these days. As if the Lebanese people are holding their collective breath, waiting for the release of final report of the UN probe in Hariri’s assassination.

Lebanon feel deserted, most tourists -who dared in the first place to come to Lebanon in these troubled times- have started packing. Our esteemed politician have migrated en mass to Paris. People are still commuting and going out but their minds seem elsewhere. Most restaurants and shops are open, but work is scare, people go to work and sit all day long staring at walls and dreading the worse.

The tension is palpable. Anxiety on what will happen is running high. So it is no wonder that the rumor mill has run amok. One day Hezbollah was behind the assassination, another it is the Palestinians who are behind it.

Rumors range form the plausible to the nightmarish, and even to the outright ridiculous like the accusation that Meliss – the chief investigator of the UN team- is working, once again, for the Israelis (another addition to the grand conspiracy theory that never seems to abate)

What will the UN report will say no one knows but it sure will send tremor throughout the political and civil fabric of Lebanon. Let us hope that our country will not unravel back into civil war."

What happened today amounted to an explosion. Suddenly everything seems to moving at breakneck speed. All the bottled up anxiety and fears have materialized. We are no longer waiting for events to happen, we are in the middle of them. So brace yourselves and hope for the best.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

IIMCR Symposium as i lived it!

Finally, I got around to writing about the IIMCR one month symposium in Cyprus. It will be a two part piece, in the first part I will talk about my impressions of Cyprus. The second part will be about the symposium proper, the participants and most importantly the many friends I made. Cyprus is an island in the eastern Mediterranean, just 300 km off the coast of Lebanon, it is quite a nice place -for a vacation!- long beaches, quiet towns and a few cities.

I was struck by several strange facts when I arrived on this Island. Foremost among them was the cost of living. Cyprus is unbelievably expensive! It is so expensive that even basic grocery cost a fortune.

Cyprus is crazily expensive – I can’t stress that enough- and for no reasons at all. I could understand why London, Paris or New York are expensive, but why Cyprus? It is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean with some tourist centers, nothing extraordinary or unique. Even more, the whole island suffer from bad plumbing (private IIMCR joke!)

Another issue I had with this island was the weather. Cyprus was very hot and dry especially in Nicosia, the capital which is situated in the middle of the island. Mind you I come from Lebanon and our summers are fairly hot, but in Nicosia it was scorching hot.

At noon and untill five it is suicide to just walk outside. And maybe this is why Cypriots take -every single day in the week- a long siesta between 1 and 4, when all life grinds to a halt, even banks and goverment offices.

Cyprus also suffer from a strange condition, I would tentatively called horizontality. Their urban landscape is so spread, so horizontal. That even in down town Nicosia or Larnaka (their two main cities) there is not a single tall building to speak of, just some five or six story buildings in an area that supposedly should be filled with skyscrapers.

And what makes it even more annoying is the fact that everything is so distant. A walk to the local grocery or even from the dorms to the university is a 10 to 15 minutes trip. It was crazy; you could not get anywhere walking. Cyprus is defiantly a car country.

Strangely enough for all the cars they own, Cypriots drive like maniacs and the country lacks proper sidewalk. You would be very lucky if you could find a small stretch of dirt to walk on away from the road and its very real dangers.

All in all, Cyprus would have been nice for a one week or a ten days vacation. But for a one month academic symposium it was not the place to be!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Out of touch

I haven’t posted in a long time for I am in Cyprus attending the International Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution (IIMCR) Symposium on the Middle East, in Nicosia Cyprus from the 18th of June till the 16th of July.

Until now it has been fantastic. I made many friends from all over the world, and we are having a lot of discussion and conversations on lots of issues ranging from the Israeli Palestinian conflict to the situation in Iraq and Iran nuclear ambitions.

Moreover the Academic part has been great so far. We had many interesting speakers, like Saeb Oreakat the chief Palestinian negotiator and many simulations of negotiation and mediation.

I will write a more comprehensive report on the IIMCR Symposium and my experience there, when I come back in mid July.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Here comes "Le General"

General Aoun has just accomplished a very rare feat in Lebanon's political life. He peacefully turned the tables on the power that is – the Joumblatt Hariri and Kornet Sehwan coalition.

Aoun swept all the seats in the first two constituencies of Mount Lebanon, toppling most of the other Christian figures. And he almost won an impossible victory in Baabda-alley, the third constituency, which is considered one of Walid Joumblatt private fiefdoms.

General Aoun has just entered the very exclusive club of Lebanese factions that control the Parliament (in addition to the Hariri, Jumblatt, Hizbullah and Nabih Berry’s bloc) and completely changed the Lebanese political arena.

One of the most striking changes due to Aoun's victory, is that no one will be able to outset Emile Lahoud, the current pro-Syrian President, from office after the election. Not even the once mighty Hariri-Joumblatt alliance.

For General Aoun has repeatedly declared that he will not accept the removal of the Maronite President. And now, after his victory, Aoun and his parliamentary bloc have the means to obstruct any parliamentary motion to remove the president from his office.

Another consequence is the sounding political defeat befallen Jumblatt and his ally Saad Hariri. The great majority they thought they will get (more than 80 MP) has evaporated. And their Christian allied faction (Kornet Shehwan) is now officially dead. They are now left with only with Nabih Berry and Hizbullah. And their prospects for a clear victory in the north are diminishing by the hour, especially after the reconciliation of Sleiman Frangieh and Omar Karame and their alliance with General Aoun.

General Aoun has accomplished in these elections what Bashir Gemayel did with political assassination. He has become the uncontested Christian political leader, with influence that transcends the many confessional barriers.

The General will lead a parliamentary bloc of around 20 to 25 deputies (depending on the last round of election). Most of them are young, university graduates and moderate Lebanese who did not participate in the civil war.

These new arrivals will hopefully introduce some greatly needed fresh blood in the Parliament, which could help with Lebanon's economic and political problems. Moreover General Aoun’s free patriotic movement is the only group of the four others that have a clear set and defined electoral program.

However, General Aoun’s victory allowed some of Syria’s staunchest allies to return to the Parliament. Like MPs Michel Murr and Sleiman Frangieh. A fact that might alienate many Lebanese, who consider Syria and its cronies as the source of most of their country’s problems.

Finally, General Aoun victory will profoundly change the political life in Lebanon. Although, some of these changes look very promising, the rest further assert the need for a radical overhaul of the Lebanese political elite and institutions.

In the end, the real consequences of this victory depend on Aoun’s future actions. If he sticks to his announced reform program and secular principles, then maybe his stormy entrance to the Parliament will herald the first steps of Lebanon's on the one thousand miles road towards democracy and prosperity. If not, then he will become just another corrupt politician in an ever-growing repertoire.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

You call this an election?

With the unfolding of events, and the advent of the electoral law and alliances, I became very demoralized, which might explain the delays between my posts.

What made matter worse, was the assassination of the brilliant intellectual and the staunch Anti-Syrian journalist Samir Qassir. For, after the big protests of 14 March, I, and many others thought that our political situation will undergo a major overhaul, and Lebanon will start its long climb towards democracy. I was wrong.

Because, our “esteemed” politicians – and here I stress ALL, politicians – had others plans in mind. They decided to sell us short, for a few seats in the parliament.

The 2000 electoral law was used again. A law made and forced in by the Ghazi Kanan the former head of Syrian military intelligence – the "current" one, Rustem Ghazali, was booted out of Lebanon a few weeks ago- a gerrymandering law that makes sure that in each region a single faction will be able to controll all the seats.

And it came to be that the same four parliamentary blocs that controlled the parliament from 2000 to 2005, shall dominate the new one, with slightly changed proportions.

The four parliamentary blocs are: Nabih Berri's( a Shiite warlord, best know for his corruption), Hezbollah's, Walide Joumblatt's (a Druze warlord), and Hariri’s ( now headed by Saad Hariri, the son of the assassinated Prime Minister Rafic Hariri) see previous posts for more information about the assassination

Of course other groups and factions will be represented in the new parliament but their numbers will pale in comparison to the four big ones.

After all what happened from the death of Hariri to the great uprising of March the 14th, it seems that we are back to square two! Two not one! Because, we are no longer under the Syrian yoke, and that is quite an achievement, but we still have much more to do.

To be continued, with more on the electoral alliances and the composition of the new parliament…

Monday, May 02, 2005

An interesting book on Lebanon's history

With all the recent events I went back to my library to refresh my knowledge of Lebanon’s history. And believe me no book retells the historical background and explains why our country have been plagued by endless wars and conflict, better than Kamal Salibi’s "A House of many Mansions"

It is a very interesting and easy to read book. It is full of interesting insights and handles thorny issue with tact. Its title alone, “A House of many Mansions” explains the whole Lebanese quandary.

All in all, the book is very informative. It starts with the story of Lebanon from the WWI, when the Ottoman empire was crumbling, and recounts how Lebanon was created, and its early relation with its surrounding and the western world.

The most interesting parts in this book, is the explanations it gives about Lebanon’s problems. These explanations are so insightful, that for the most part they even shed light on today’s issues and offer a part of a solution. For example, the Author finds that one of Lebanon’s main problems is that the Lebanese have not yet agreed on which country they want: An Arab Lebanon or a fully Westernized Lebanon.

I recommend this book for all who are interested in Lebanon has been picked by the recent events and want to understand the historical background of the country.

Link for the book page on Amazon:
  • A House of many Mansions

  • Tuesday, April 26, 2005


    I want to congratulate all Lebanese and all freedom supporters everywhere, for the withdrawal of all Syrian troops from Lebanon.

    This dream that seemed so far away just four month ago was made true so fast that I still can’t quite believe it!

    Alas the price was, oh, so high. Rafic Hariri had to die for our dream to come true. So thank you Mr. Hariri where ever you are…

    May Lebanon stay forever free.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2005

    What an awful time, an anticlimax is

    The exuberance, the anger, the sadness and then the thrill of victory the pride in our new found unity of the first few weeks, just got muddled over time.

    The president and those who still followed Syria’s orders had only one goal, to lose time, in order to postpone the election, by any means. For if the election were held on time it would be an overwhelming victory to the opposition.

    Even though Omar Karamah was forced to resign by the pressure of the Lebanese who took to the streets, Syria could not accept its defeat. So in spite and in disregard of the Lebanese people will, they ordered their Lebanese collaborators to reinstate him. And reinstated he was.

    Then the prime minister did as he was told, losing more than a month in a so called effort to form a new national unity government.

    Meanwhile the country economic situation was getting even worse. Downtown Beirut was becoming a ghost town. And as if the situation was not bad enough, a series of explosion rocked the country.

    Every four days of so an explosion went out in the middle of the night, in a Christian dominated area. The explosions targeted areas deserted at night. It was clear that the aim was to damage the economic life of these areas. In a way the Syrian president was holding true to the promise he made to the late Hariri.

    Bashar al Assad, the Syrian president told Hariri in their last meeting, “I will go out of Lebanon, but rest assured that before I go I will burn it to the ground, like we did two decades ago…”

    After five explosions this terror campaign stopped as suddenly as it began. No one was arrested. And the security appertus did not even pretend to make an investigation.

    Why did the explosion stop, no one know. Maybe because the Christian did not rise to arms and attack the Muslims as a response to the bombs. Maybe because several civil groups from all over Lebanon raised funds to help pay the damages. Or maybe because those who planted these bombs achived their mysterious goals.

    Finally, after a week or so since the last explosion – What a coincidence! - the PM seemed on the verge of finalizing his prolonged charade, and forming his government. The distribution of the ministries’ spoils went sour. Some found that the ministries they got, had no more money to be stolen! And they refused to head them.

    Karameh resigned, for the second time. His orders to lose as much time as possible, perfectly executed. And a new Prime minister was chosen. A somehow neutral guy - with ties to both, the opposition and the Syria’s allies - was agreed upon. And Najib Mikati, our new PM formed his government in less than two days!!! A solution to Lebanon’s crisis seemed possible.

    But, this perfect happy ending frightens me. I sense a trap. Or maybe I am getting too paranoid. There is no way to know. For, as the old saying goes; only time will tell.

    Thursday, March 17, 2005

    They came, Oh how they came

    They came. They came by car. They came by bus. They came on trucks, on foot, even by sea. And they came with a vengeance, thousands upon thousands, upon hundred of thousands.

    Monday morning, by noon, Martyr’s square was full. Yet the march was not officially started till three. A sea of red and white filled the square.

    An unbelievable number of people packed the square to bursting. Even the adjacent roads were slowly filling… people came to make a point, to answer a challenge.

    For when Hezbollah organized a large march last Tuesday, numbering around half a million we felt despair. When I saw all those people Hezbollah gathered- in an adjacent square to martyr’s- rage and anger filled my heart.

    Why? Why did Nassrallah - the head of Hezbollah - choose to side with Syria. Why didn’t he join us, the opposition, to form for the first time since 1943, since our independence, a true national unity. To prove once and for all, that we Lebanese we are one people, not a patchwork of warring communities

    It seems that people everywhere felt this anger, this betrayal and they came. They came to Monday’s march, to prove that Hezbollah was wrong. To show Nassrallah that he made the wrong choice, that he should have chosen Lebanon over Syria and over Hezbollah’s own selfish needs and interests.

    People came till both squares were filled. Martyr’s square , where the opposition held most of its protests , and Riyadh el Solh , the adjacent square where Hezbollah held its Tuesday’s half a million march.

    I have never seen that many people in one place. The mobile phone network crashed. I couldn’t find the group I came with.

    And several times while walking around martyr’s square, trying to find a place to look in on the podium where the opposition leaders delivered their speeches. I was stuck in a sea of bodies.

    It felt like being trapped in the currents of a ragging river. Helpless but to move with the mass, driven forward by the press of bodies.

    It both suffocating and exhilarating. To see all those people united in protest , united to find out who killed Rafic Hariri, united to see Syria out, and the resignation of the heads of the Lebanese security services.

    And hope blossomed inside of me. Hope snuffed out by Hezbollah’s betrayal rekindled. Hope that no matter what they do. No matter how hard they try to divide us, to try to pit us against each other. Our unity shall prevail, and that the specter of war shall never again visit my country.

    Monday, March 07, 2005

    Then my dream chattered into a million shards

    What pains me most is that we all had this perfect chance to unite, a chance to build our country on sound basis. For throughout the short history of Lebanon our sectarian cohabitation was always doubtful, everybody was just waiting for the other side to show signs of so called “treason” to start getting help themselves from the outside as a response to the other side betrayal.

    Unfortunately Lebanon used, and to some extent, still have two main factions the Christian side and the Muslim one. Usually the Muslims side got help from Arab world and more especially Syria. Whereas, the Christians got help from the west or Israel.

    However this is not a sacred rule. The powers helping the Lebanese factions switched sides with the whims of international geopolitics and grater nations’ interests. Usually we, alone ended up paying the price.

    Like in 1976, when the Syrian army entered Lebanon to help the Christians against the Muslim-Palestinian alliance, then a few years later the Syrians switched sides and attacked their formers allies (the Christians)

    With the death of Hariri I hoped beyond reason, beyond hope even. That this time we, all of us Lebanese, we will agree once and for all to live united in our country in peace and accept to cohabit in the same definit country that is both part of the arab world and of the west. A unique bridge in a world that dearly needs such bridges.

    What a naïf idealist I was… The first chance it got - while Hariri assassination was still a mere three weeks behind us- Hezbollah betrayed us all. Hezbollah betrayed Lebanon, betrayed its people – most of the Shiia Muslim faction- and betrayed itself.

    Why Hezbollah did that… Forever I will ask that question. Many answers arise. Out of allegiance to Syria and Iran – Hezbollah has been the backed finacilly and military by Iran and Syria in its mini-war with Isreal on Lebanon south -, or out of fear of disarmament.

    No matter Hizbollah choose to side with Syria against the rest of the Lebanese.Even though the opposition tried everything to convince Hezbollah’s leader to join them. The opposition offered to postpone Hezbollah disbarment till after the election and after a national dialogue. The opposition agreed with most of Hizballah conditions and demands, asking just that Hezbollah proves its patriotism and joins its fellow Lebanese.

    They were rebuffed. Just after the speech of Syria’s president Bashar - a mediocre speech given by a mediocre man while he laughed and joked in front of his puppet parliament members, which clapped in unison like schoolboys at his feeble jokes. In a time when the fate of two countries hung on his words and actions- Hassan NassraAllah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah choose to commit himself to the Syrian side.

    For Hezbollah have been sitting on the fence for a while now. Even before Rafic Hariri’s assassination. Hope blossomed that our unity will be total that all sects all Lebanese will join our side … but no Hezbollah choose to join Syria’s side. Choose to bring old division back. Choose to draw the line again in the sand. This time the factions have changed a bit, but no matter the slogan are still the same.

    Hezbollah announced it loud and clear. “We are the true patriots; we are Arabs and will defend the Arab world while the opposition are traitors, trying to make a peace agreement with Israel.” The old deadly accusation has surfaced again. It matters not if the Palestinian themselves are on the way to make peace with Isreal. It matters not that halve the arab countries have relations with Isreal, that we are sick and tiered of war and the endless killing.

    All what matters is that they rule. Rule absolutely with no opposition. Syria and its proxy Hezbollah are even willing to rule over ruins. And if they are obliged to get out of Lebanon, by the effort of the international community they will leave ruins behind. For Bashar Assad told the late Prime minister Hariri : “ Tell your friend Chirac- the French president who was a close friend to Hariri - that if he want us to leave Lebanon, we will leave it but we will burn it. Just like how we burned it in the past…”

    Monday, February 28, 2005

    It was a dream come true

    Lebanese security forces has a very neat trick to stop protesters and their marches. They create a ragtag group and give them a pompous name, then incite them to mount an anti-manifestation at the same place and same time of the opposition’s own march. The result is always the same – until this time- The government bans both demonstration out of fear of renewed “blood shed and sectarian tension.”

    On Sunday night after the Interior Security Minister banned both demonstrations, tension skyrocketed. The army and police forces were deployed in force. Confrontation seemed imminent.

    No one imagined what happened next. From the moment of the ban’s announcement, young Lebanese from all wake of life started arriving to the surrounding of Martyr’s square, where the peaceful sit-in was planned next morning –Monday- to accompany the Parliament discussion session.

    I was stunned. Most of the TV networks ran live coverage from Martyrs square. Night had fallen; the army forces surrounded the square. The throng amassed outside the army cordons. A fight seemed unavoidable my heart thudded.

    Miracle! Young Lebanese just stepped in front of the Lebanese soldiers, they smiled to each other and the protestors went thru! Miracle! The numbers multiplied. No roadblocks or fears stopped these patriots.

    By midnight thousands were in the square. Weaving Lebanese flags, and only Lebanese flags! Chanting all as one “Syria out, Syria out” The dream was coming true.

    Next morning I woke up early – I live in Saida 40 KM south of Beirut- I wanted nothing but to join my co-citizens who were freeing my country. The roads were closed. Army roadblocks everywhere. Yet I drove. I choose “less traveled roads” The lines of cars stretched miles, the wait was agonizing. But here also the army, our army, looked away. Helped us, and let us pass. Slowly at first, but pass I did.

    An hour and half later –the trip takes usually half an hour- I was in Beirut. My blood sang with the chants. I parked my car on the highway close to Martyr’s square and I ran to join the Lebanese people in the Independence March. The sight was riveting. A sea of red and white, with flicker of green filled the square.

    The army was still surrounding the square. But here too they looked away. No, here too they helped us! Showing us where to go and how to break the cordon. The army, our army, the soldiers were fantastic. It was happening unity encompassed all Lebanese. Christians, Muslims, civilians, military all were drawn together to grab their freedom, their independence.

    The square throbbed with the rhythm of the MPs’ speeches, broadcasted live from the parliament. With each speech, pressure mounted.

    Then the session was adjourned at two in the afternoon, till six and half o’clock. Eighty MPs asked for a turn to speak. The session could take several days. Yet everybody at the square was eager to stay, no matter how long it will take.

    Six thirty. The session was declared open. An MP was supposed to make his speech. The prime minister rose, out of turn and started to speak. “ Because I was moved by Hariri’s sister speech – Bahia Hariri is Rafic Hariri sister’s and an MP- which asked for the resignation of my cabinet…, therefore …” The square fell silent, “ … I offer my resignation.”

    And the square exploded with joy!

    All that night the street of Beirut was jubilant. Convoy of cars branding Lebanese flags filled the streets. People danced in the streets. It was magnificent! For the first time in Lebanon. For the first time in whole Arab world, a government resigns under the street’s pressure. Freedom. What a sweet taste it has, when it’s hard won. Freedom…

    Late that night when the haze of victory lifted, the long path ahead daunted me. This victory was only a small step on a long and treacherous road. But I believe that those proud, brave Lebanese patriots who stood firm, with an unbelievable sense of responsibility and restraint – For over three weeks of protests not an injury, not a beating, or a spill over were reported- will and surly shall prevail.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2005

    A diary of the assassination of Rafic Hariri -Part Three-

    I woke the next day, after a night troubled with nightmares. I opened the TV and I still couldn’t believe that Hariri is dead. My family, my colleagues, even people on the street had this look of incredulity mixed with fear plastered on their faces…

    Lebanon was sad and fearful. Beirut was closed. Monot Street and Down Town were closed. Even Beirut’s night life that never stopped during the civil war worst moments’ halted on that day and for three more days. It was suffocating. We used to go out several nights a week, after work. That week sadness crushed us.

    All that sadness, anger and pressure exploded on the day of the funeral – Wednesday 16 February- Thousands, Thousands, hundred of thousands of Lebanese came from all parts of our small but heavily divided country. Muslims, Christian and Druze came to pay homage to a leader who had to die so that they knew his real worth.

    The funerary procession was solemn but popular. Masses littered the streets from the house of the former Prime Minister, along the planned route of the march to the place of burial. Thousands upon thousands nothing unified them but their sadness for the death of Hariri and their anger directed towards Syria. It was a first, at least for me, that I heard Muslim crowds chanting in unison: “Syria out, Syria out”

    Throughout the civil war and even before Muslims were always on the side of Syria, wrong was it or right. With the death of Hariri it was over. All Lebanon was shouting for Syria to go out.

    As I walked down to the Martyr’s square – Hariri was buried on the side of that square inside a mosque he built- the most amazing site I have seen as a Lebanese welcomed me.

    That square used, in the civil war, to be the playground of the militias’ snipers and shells. It was a no man’s land. Martyrs’ square used to be part of the “green line” that divided Beirut into two halves, a Muslim side on the left of the square and a Christian one on the right.

    On that day echoes of the churches bells from the Christian side mingled with the reverberation of the muezzin’s chants from the Muslim side, above a square filled with Lebanese weeping for another slain national leader.

    On that day Hariri’s greatest dream was made true. Lebanon’s two halves were truly united for the first time since our independence. We were once more one people…

    Friday, February 18, 2005

    A diary of the assassination of Rafic Hariri -Part two-

    It was agonizing!

    From the moment we heard the explosion, time seemed to inch slowly forward. Information trickled gradually. First we leaned that the explosion occurred on the seafront, close to the prestigious Phoenicia hotel. A few moments later a rumor flew that the target was the HSBC branch –which was indeed close to the place of the explosion-

    The local TV networks started showing the first images from the explosion’s site. It was a war zone. Debris littered the street. Several cars were ablaze. Corpses were scattered around the place. However no word on who or what was the target.

    An image will forever stay engraved in my mind. A poor man –who latter was identified as a paramedic, who accompanied Mr. Hariri’s motorcade- was being burned alive. He was still in the car, a big blue suburban ablaze and he burned. Flames engulfed his head, his arms. It was horrible; he weakly moved his hands, calling for help perhaps. And he burned and burned…

    Somehow that poor man pushed himself half out of the still burning car, while a bystander rushed to his side screaming “get me water, get me water!” Water never came. The bystander got his jacket off and started dosing the burning man. Later, the paramedic was transported to the hospital where he died a couple of days later.

    The images never stopped, bodies and severed limbs. And after 20 minutes we got a call. Hariri’s motorcade was passing when the blast went off.

    I am certain now that when my colleague spoke those words, deep down I knew Hariri was dead. But man is always hopeful, clinging to hope against reasons and reality. But slowly more news came in. The official announce that Hariri’s motorcade was the target of the blast. Then the name of one of the dead was announced. It was “ Abou Tarek” one of Hariri’s oldest and most trusted bodyguards. Who seldom left his side. The horrible truth crept closer.

    Everything else is a blur. Till the time the death was announced. Hariri was dead. Lebanon has just had its own 11th September.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2005

    A diary of the assassination of Rafic Hariri -Part one-

    It began as quite a nice day, the sun shown copiously, after a dark week filled with clouds and rain. I was sitting with two colleagues of mine, in an office building close to the Lebanese American University. Which is more than kilometer away from the site of the explosion. It was 10 or 15 to one pm.

    Suddenly the building shook for several seconds and a great roaring filled the air. Brought up in the our country’s darkest days, amidst the nightmare of a civil war – Lebanon had a full fledged civil war from 1975 till 1990 – I instantly knew that this was a bomb explosion. We rushed to the windows and saw a great ball of smoke billowed up from the north-east.

    I feared that the explosion targeted Walid Joumblatt’s house, which was roughly situated in that direction. I was almost right, let me explain. Lately a large opposition coalition was forming up, headed by Walide Joumblatt – the leader of the Druze sect – and Rafic Hariri - the leader of the sunny sect -

    This opposition was adamant about the necessity to free our country and to regain its independence and sovereignty from the Syrians. I thought the bomb targeted Walid Joumblatt but it was Rafic Hariri who died. However, more than an hour passed, before we knew that horrible truth.

    From that moment till the fatidic instant we knew for a fact that Rafic Hariri is dead, I passed the longest two hours of my live. It was exacerbating, news came by bits and pieces, contradicting and incomprehensible. The TVs showed horrible image of people being burned alive. While we hoped beyond hope and reason that the former PM made it alive, every minute that passed diminished what sliver of hope we had left

    Until finally what drops of hope we had left were savagely squashed, when the fatidic moment arrived and they officially announced that Rafic Hariri was dead...

    To be continued

    Monday, February 14, 2005


    Rage fills me. Rage for my poor country that has always paid and pays still for other people ambitions and plans.

    Once again when my country is on the verge of freedom. When we came so close to form a true national unity, against Syria that suffocates us, they strike again, to make sure they reign supreme…
    The Syrians have once again struck. They killed Rafic Hariri.

    The same people who killed Bashir Gemayl, the people who killed Kamal Jounblatt, and who tried to kill Marouan Hmadeh.
    It is too much!

    Time has come to rise against our people's oppressor, no our people’s murderer…

    I swear these people are my enemies. No more compromise or politics. The Syrians regime and their Lebanese lackeys are my enemies.

    Thursday, February 10, 2005

    Azrael my only friend

    O Azrael my only friend
    I felt your wings' caress on my face
    Was it me my friend?
    Or was it you?
    Either ways I am here
    Hurt but unbent
    Till next time my friend
    Soar high and proud
    O Azrael my only friend

    A poem I wrote a few days after my accident...

    Monday, January 17, 2005

    The Accident

    When shit hits the fan time slows. Images freeze. Three of them I remember clearly, no more no less. Sound however is absent…

    The first image: A car just takes off from the other part of the highway and I see her wheels. I am in the middle lane of the highway going from Beirut to Saida.

    The second image: I slam on the brakes and veer left, just missing the car that slides in front of me leaving behind loads of debris , bits and piece of metal and concert from the highway divide.

    The third image: I am heading towards the divide, I try to veer right to evade hitting the divide. My car veers a bit right but its rear slide and SLAMS into the divide.

    Moments later time regain its true march, my car points backward (towards traffic) a burning car smolders in flame in front of me. Six or seven peoples died from that accident. The car I just missed slammed into another following me. All the passengers died, some burned some other died from the shock. Four young men were in the car that flew from the other highway. In the one that followed me there were three persons, a family.
    A man, his wife and their teenage son… All died, I lived … Why…
    Was it me or was it you!

    O my only friend Azael!