Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed on 14 February 2005 because he wanted to build a sovereign, free and prosperous state. He was a giant in his work, accomplishments, perseverance and his network of contacts. He had international ties from the east to the west. His exceptional personality often generated extremism – either in terms of the love for Hariri, or in jealousy of him and rivalry with him, because of this jealousy. Hariri fell as a martyr because he miscalculated in thinking that he could convince dictators and consult with them, in order to see the liberation of his country's decision-making ability, and its revival. Those who killed him accused him of being part of a conspiracy, just as the people of the Syrian uprising are accused of being "conspirators," because they are demanding freedom and dignity. The seventh anniversary of the assassination of Hariri is also an opportunity to salute the brave Syrians who have risen up, just like Hariri did, in pursuit of freedom and democracy.
In August 2004, Hariri returned from his famous meeting with President Bashar Assad, where he was informed that a decision to extend the presidential term of Emile Lahoud would be imposed. It was a painful experience because he realized at the time, as the people of Deraa, Homs and the Damascus countryside and the families of martyred Syrians do today, that there is no way to work with such a regime. Hariri was a peaceful man, and believed his persuasive powers would overcome the mentality of repression and hegemony, intimidation and terror. But unfortunately for Lebanon, the martyred premier miscalculated, and was killed in a monstrous explosion, just as the people of the Syrian uprising are dying today for freedom. How many martyrs will be commemorated in Syria? How can the ally Russia continue to support a regime that has been given all of the opportunities from all countries, despite the wishes of its people, and yet remained deaf to all of the advice? In July 2004 his Iranian ally gave him advice; former President Mohammad Khatami said that there were a number of potential presidential candidates in Lebanon and that there was no need to extend Lahoud's mandate, but Assad did not listen. Many people maintained ties with him despite the Hariri assassination, from French President Sarkozy to the Emir of Qatar and King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz of Saudi Arabia, who took Assad to Lebanon on his private plane, with the aim of achieving a reconciliation. However, all of this was a waste of time, in fruitless attempts with Assad. The Syrian regime does not hear or act unless there is violence, intimidation and terror. How many martyrs fell in Lebanon before and after Hariri, because of the policy that Assad is carrying out in his own country at present? Now, he will take his brave people into a sectarian war that he wants, to take revenge against the young people who have risen up, demanding freedom and dignity. Hariri believed in dialogue and persuading others and paid with his blood for sovereignty and freedom, just like the people of Syria today.
The Syrian regime and its supporters such as Iran and Russia are taking the country toward a sectarian civil war. The people of the Syrian revolution must avoid the trap that was earlier set by the Syrian regime throughout the Lebanese Civil War, when it invaded the country, divided the Christians, fought the Palestinians on Lebanese territory and produced martyr after martyr, from Kamal Jumblatt to Presidents Bashir Gemayel and Rene Mouawad. The heroism of the Syrian people is not a conspiracy, as the Syrian regime claims, an accusation that was made against Rafik Hariri. Hariri dreamed of a free, united Lebanon. His conviction was that by cooperating with Walid Jumblatt and Patriarch Sfeir, he could unite and liberate Lebanon through the course of electoral democracy. However, the killing machine did away with achieving his dream. But it ignited the banner of revolution in Lebanon and now in Syria.
Hariri died, but the winds of freedom have come from Lebanon to Syria and the court of the people has preceded the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. It is hoped that the Damascus spring will triumph, and that Syria not fall into the trap of civil war. The dream of Lebanon's martyrs, Rafik Hariri, Basil Fleihan, Samir Kassir, Gebran Tueni, Pierre Gemayel and the many others, will succeed in eliminating a regime that has wielded destruction in Lebanon and Syria.
The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in the London-based al-Hayat on Feb. 15, 2012