About a voice that will not be extinguished by an assassination

Maha Yahya

The assassination of Luqman Slim is a new omen looming over Lebanon. Lokman was not just an activist, but he was also an outspoken critic of Hezbollah, and he chose to stay in his family’s home in Haret Hreik, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, where those who criticized them dominate.

I met Luqman in 2004 with the late journalist Samir Kassir and his wife Giselle Khoury. Luqman has invited us and his wife , Monica Borgmann to watch your movie presentation of documenting their output Sabra and Shatila massacre that took place in 1982 . The discussion that followed the presentation was both heartbreaking and enlightened. This meeting was the first of a series of other meetings that brought us together over the next two years, during which we exchanged ideas about the civil war, accountability and accountability issues, remembrance of the victims, and the importance of this for the future of Lebanon. However, these discussions abated after the assassination of Samir on June 2 , 2005 .

Luqman was also a vocal critic of the Lebanese political class, and he also did not hesitate to denounce the suppression of the Syrian uprising, the Iranian intervention in the region, and so on. But he was not just a critic, but much more than that. Luqman and Monica established in their home the ” Ummam ” Center for Documentation and Research, which aims to document past crimes in order to avoid their repetition in the future. Since 2005, the center has been engaged in collecting information and preparing a database of the names of all those killed, kidnapped and missing during the fifteen years of the Lebanese civil war, as well as producing documentaries and organizing discussion sessions on the most bitter chapters of the war. There is no doubt that the work of this center is necessary in order for Lebanon to be able to reconcile with the heavy legacy of the war, and to hold accountable those responsible for the crimes they committed during that stage.

The work of Luqman and Monica is of great importance in Lebanon, given that most of the political leadership participated in the civil war that ended under the slogan “neither victor nor vanquished.” In 1991 , the Lebanese Parliament passed a general amnesty law that covered most of the crimes committed during the years of conflict. Militia leaders who used to rule the streets took over the reins of power through the occupation of the state and its institutions. But the history of the Civil War is not included in the school curriculum. Thus, most of the events of the Civil War became narrated according to multiple viewpoints, rather than becoming part of a collective effort to understand that war and its legacy in order to better overcome it.

The assassination of Luqman can only be understood after placing it in the general context of events in Lebanon. Since October 2019 , when the Lebanese took to the streets to express their discontent with the corruption of their political parties and leaders, the country has witnessed an economic collapse that drove more than half of the Lebanese into poverty and caused the atrophy of the middle class. Instead of addressing the roots of the crisis, the political leadership refused to implement the necessary reforms in order to obtain financial aid from international donors, fearing that this would weaken its control over its popular bases. Meanwhile, lockdown measures have accelerated due to the COVID- 19 outbreakThe wheel of economic collapse, and the conclusion is that Lebanon will continue to collapse unless it receives international financial support. The irony is that if political parties maintain their current approach, they will inadvertently mark the end of the system they are so desperate to protect. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but the cost will be exorbitant, as millions of Lebanese will endure bitter suffering.

The explosion that occurred in the Beirut port on August 4 , only exacerbated the public anger, and the criticism directed against the ruling class increased. Six months have passed since the explosion, and no one has been held accountable, while the official investigation stalled. However, many Lebanese did not doubt for a moment the identity of those responsible for the port explosion, as demonstrators hung a number of dolls representing political leaders on symbolic galleries in Martyrs Square last year.

The assassination of Luqman is the best evidence that the margin of opposition to the existing system in Lebanon is narrowing at an accelerating pace. The political leadership has become less receptive to criticism since more than a year, and this has been evidenced by the authorities’ arrest of increasing numbers of journalists and activists who criticize the ruling system.

The assassination of Luqman also marks the return of the era of political assassinations as a way to silence the voices of opponents of the existing system. The occurrence of this crime was widely reported in and outside Lebanon, especially among the opposition groups in general, and the Shiite opposition in particular. It recalled the events of 2005 and the years that followed, and the assassinations of Samir Kassir, Gebran Tueni, and others. We can only ask whether Luqman Salim would have been killed had those who assassinated Kassir and Tueni been prosecuted. For this reason, the impunity of the murderers of Luqman Slim, in turn, should pave the way for similar crimes in the future …