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Lebanon: Bomb aims to silence independent media

Lebanon: Bomb aims to silence independent media

by Henri Bou Saab ,Beirut

A few weeks ago, Lebanon celebrated its first National Day since 1975 in which no foreign army of occupation was stationed in our cities and in our countryside.

It was a day of hope that the past few years of reconciliation between our country's various communities was bearing fruit, that the unique form of representative democracy that has evolved here since 1926 was getting stronger and that Black Days of civil war (1958 and 1975-1991), which had enticed much more powerful economic and military States to directly intervene in Lebanese affairs by supporting one domestic party or another, were receding into the past.

The Greek Orthodox Christian community, which is the fourth largest of the more than 15 distinct religious communities that make up Lebanon, has generally played a big role to help bridge across misunderstandings and to promote Muslim-Christian dialogue and reconciliation.

Perhaps the Greek Orthodox play this role because it is a community which is represented in all of the mainly Muslim states in the region.

Greek Orthodox communities are prominent in commerce not only in Lebanon but also in Syria, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan and perhaps it is because it is a community heavily represented in trade and in business that it is all too aware of how bad for business political conflict always is!

The Greek Orthodox are not one of the Big Three communities that dominate politics in Lebanon (Maronite Catholic, Sunni and Shiia) and politically the Greek Orthodox community has traditionally taken up the role of mediator and go-between amongst all the others.

It is from within the Greek Orthodox community that some of Lebanon's strongest advocates for political dialogue and peaceful democratic renewal come.

One strong advocate for progressive non-violent democratic reform has been a Member of Parliament, and very respected writer and journalist, Joubran al-Towainy, who chaired the Al Nahar newspaper, a liberal paper that strongly advocates against corruption, sectarianism and privilege.

On Monday, MP al-Towainy was assassinated in the latest car bomb outrage - the latest very targeted politically-motivated murder which have been aimed at high profile members of the Greek Orthodox community of Lebanon.

These targeted bombings have already taken the lives of Mr. George Hawi , for very many years a high profile Communist Party of Lebanon member, a Mr. Samir Kassir , a progressive journalist and columnist who helped establish The Democratic Left Movement (HYD in Arabic) which advocates for social democracy and a secular State in Lebanon and won its first seat in Parliament in general elections held six months ago.

Like the earlier murders, the killing on Monday was directed at prominent Greek Orthodox community members best publicly known first, for their continual criticism of foreign political and military interference in Lebanon, but also for their advocacy against corruption and privilege inside Lebanon itself.

For most of 2005, MP al-Towainy was best known for his very public criticism of the dictatorship in neighbouring Syria, not fearing to call not only for the Syrian Army and Intelligence Service to withdraw from Lebanon, but also advocating for human rights' activists and democratic reform within Syria itself.

His mother's brother, Mr. Marwan Himady, survives him as a Member of Parliament and belongs to the Progressive Socialist Party which is affiliated to the Socialist International, an uncle who himself survived an earlier assassination attempt.

In Lebanon these days, one of the very strongest critics of the Syrian dictatorship's policies is the Progressive Socialist Party, a party which has supporters primarily in the Druze Moslem community but also among some members of smaller Christian communities.

Many in Lebanon view the latest political murder as the latest attempt to silence independent thinking and the development of Lebanese democracy and while tens of thousands are now morning the loss of yet another outspoken progressive advocate, there is no sign that the campaign to silence dissent will succeed in its mission.

On the contrary, peoples' views in favour of promoting and enhancing our democratic sovereignty seem to be growing with every attack and the bombs are merely motivating more and more citizens to take an active interest in politics and defending the democracy from those that would silence it.

  • NOTE: Mr Henri Bou Saab is a Greek Orthodox.
  • ENDS

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