Ruins are all that is left of what Rafik Hariri (1941-2005) accomplished during the "rebuilding and reconstruction" phase (1992-2004) that followed the devastation of the civil wars in Lebanon (1975-1990).
Today, on the 18th anniversary of the assassination of Rafik Hariri on 14 February 2005, we take a close look at his legacy. Hariri's impact, career, and many transformative moments should be viewed in the context of the present day rubble.
Lebanon is in the throes of financial, economic and social collapse, political bankruptcy, the destruction of state institutions and infrastructure, and the flight of young generations from the emptiness and darkness of Lebanese lands.
These developments beg many questions: What is point of politics and public service if it leads to assassination? Can we separate politics from killing, war, and death? Can political society function in the face of killing, assassination, and death threats?
What is the role of politics within societies accustomed to war and political assassination?
What lessons can be drawn from Hariri's life and political career, and what did the Lebanese do after his death? How is Hariri's legacy and life viewed in the aftermath of his assassination?
On the 18th anniversary of his assassination, and to answer these questions, we recall testimonies from people close to Hariri, following the failed Lebanese uprising known as the Cedar Revolution between 14 February and 14 March, 2005.
These testimonies shed light on the dire situation Lebanon is currently experiencing.
The following officials and analysts gave their testimony:
• Former MP and head of the Progressive Socialist Party and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt
• Simon Karam, former Lebanese ambassador to the United States of America
• Daoud Al-Sayegh, former advisor to Prime Minister Rafik Hariri
• Zuhair Hatab, Professor of Sociology at the Lebanese University
• Franck Mermier is an anthropologist and researcher of urban communities
Between 14 February and 14 March 2005, the Lebanese created a new vision for themselves and their country, just as they realised the important legacy of the fallen former prime minister.
The reason was that the assassination and the four years that followed shed new light on and appreciation for Hariri, especially after we both won parliamentary elections in 2000.
This victory was challenged by a Syrian-Lebanese decision during the era of President Emile Lahoud, who, since 1988, wanted to humiliate Hariri and obstruct his achievements as head of government.
The decision to kill Hariri’s political career may have begun to loom after his electoral victory in 2000 before deciding to actually assassinate him on 14 February 2005.
Although he was forced out of office at the beginning of Emile Lahoud’s presidential term, he was relieved to leave and devote himself to preparing for the elections of 2000.
That was also the case in 2004 when he left power to prepare for the elections of 2005.
Hariri may have miscalculated things when he was reassured about his safety, especially after the American-French warning to the Syrian regime following the assassination attempt on MP Marwan Hamadeh.
I disapproved of his willingness to trust the Syrian government. It is more likely that the decision to execute him was made before the then-Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem visited Beirut two weeks before the assassination. Al-Moallem wanted to reassure Hariri, but Hariri was not reassured.
I remember his famous words back then, "They will either kill you or kill me."
He probably said that because he had a sudden, instantaneous intuition amid his overwhelming work in preparing for the parliamentary elections that did not happen until after his assassination.
I still think about what prompted him to say that phrase, which most likely came from an inner feeling that was difficult to explain or understand in a man like him, known for his patience, finesse, and dislike for political bickering.