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…

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