I can still hear the ravaging sound of hands clapping during the funerals. I can still hear Talal screaming in anger “We are your dream, Samir”.
But most of all, I could still hear my heart asking for revenge… Now, it no longer does.
Seven years ago, today, Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir left his house in Beirut, only to encounter death.
The dictator, and the ‘men from the (horror) play’, had it all planned. The car would explode, the body will vanish, his idea would die… but it didn’t.
Putting Samir Kassir into words might be quite a difficult task, not only because he was himself a master of words, but mostly because Kassir was an unusually rich and complex person.
An intellectual from Beirut, of Syrian and Palestinian descent, a historian, a journalist, a politician, an activist, a francophone…
Maybe his friend and columnist Michael Young best described him in 2005 in his article ‘Samir Kassir, R.I.P.’:
“Samir Kassir had balls in a country that under Syrian rule spawned cowards and sycophants; he had ideas and openness in a system that rewarded mediocrity and intolerance; and he had the compelling scornfulness for imposed authority that so irritated his murderers—and that we will continue to relish when this cowardly confederacy is kicked into a shallow grave.”
In his complexity, Samir Kassir was a huge threat to his assassin. He was wittier than him, more cultured, he was handsome, optimistic, and he had influence.
He was against Arab dictatorships, and supported the Palestinian cause unconditionally. He was French, modern and a deeply rooted Arab. He reviled Assad and treasured the Syrian people.
Kassir was not the usual courageous journalist. His daily life was shaken by events that we taught only happened in thriller movies.
In 2003, the head of the General Security Directorate in Lebanon, a man of the Assad (father and son) regime, ordered his men to follow and harass Kassir for weeks, twenty four hours a day, only because of his articles. The journalist was also subjected to censorships, passport confiscation, death threats etc.
Yet, the dark ages’ ruling force did not halt the man, as he and his companions prepared the ‘Independence Intifada’ in 2005, following late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s assassination, a popular revolution that forced the Syrian army and intelligence out of Lebanon.
Samir Kassir never killed anyone. As a matter of fact, he despised any form of violence, whether physical or moral. He rejected any kind of oppression and praised freedom till his last breath.
So murdering such a person would at least trigger a revolting hatred and the strong determination to seek vengeance.
But I don’t want revenge anymore. I want justice. And then, if humanly possible, to forgive.
The Arab spring, and the Syrian revolution more precisely, taught me the true meaning of retaliation.
It is standing bared-chested in front of bullets. It is creating (slogans, songs, love, friendships, unity) while the dictator destroys. It is calling for peace when ‘he’ launches war. It is standing hand in hand while he plans to divide.
Some would call it naive to come holding a rose as the opponenet is armoring his tank. And frankly it just might be.
But seeking vengeance for beautiful people is also accomplishing the beautiful things they wanted, they fought for, they dreamt about…
What I am asking for, and maybe pretentiously, might be surreal. It might also be a crime in the eyes of the families of the Houla children, and others who were much closer to the victims, and who will only be at peace when the butcher is no more.
But until my impulsivity and emotions draw me back, I will continue believing that hatred and revenge will only create hatred and revenge.
In his last book, ‘Being Arab’, Kassir wrote about the new Arab era and the possibility of the Arab societies to overcome their despair: “It would be impossible to exaggerate the benefits of restoring the ‘Nahda’ era (enlightenment period) to its proper place in Arab history. It may perhaps not reveal tailor made formulas for putting an end to the malaise, but at least it would allow one to reinterpret this malaise as a moment in history.
If Arabs don’t reclaim this history, their relationship with modernity in the twenty first century will remain warped by misunderstanding.”
The Arab world today has a tremendous chance of building just states for all, modern, free nations where the criminals should (and will)be put on trial and held accountable, where our history is modeled with our own hands, but also where love wins over odium.
Because hate only torments the hater.