Thousands of Lebanese rallied in Beirut on the seventh anniversary of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s killing and backed calls for the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“I salute you, Homs and Daraa,” said Samir Geagea, head of the Christian Lebanese Forces, in reference to two cities that have been central to the 11-month revolt against Assad. Faris Soueid, another Christian politician, read a statement from the opposition Syrian National Council that predicted the collapse of the Syrian government and better relations between the two neighboring countries. Amin Gemayel, Lebanon’s former president, said “any party that obstructs these revolutions will be held responsible in history.”
Many Lebanese blamed Syria for Hariri’s killing, leading to street protests that forced an end to Syria’s military occupation of Lebanon.
“The Syrian people will triumph,” Saad Hariri, the former premier’s son, told supporters via a video link from Paris, after a skiing injury last month prevented him from attending. “The Syrian regime will inevitably fall,” he said, adding, “we are living a moment of historic transition from one era to another.”
Saad Hariri’s government was toppled in January last year when the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement and its allies quit the Cabinet in a dispute over the United Nations investigation into Rafiq Hariri’s killing.
Hezbollah says the probe was biased against it and its backer, Syria. An indictment filed by the tribunal last year named four people affiliated with Hezbollah as being involved. The group, like Syria, has denied killing Hariri.
“I call on Hezbollah’s leadership to adopt a new approach in dealing with the Special Tribunal because insisting on protecting the accused will not cancel the indictments,” Hariri said.
Full text of Hariri’s speech
The following is the full text of the speech delivered Tuesday, through satellite, by Former Prime minister Saad Hariri during the February 14 commemoration, at Biel.
“As much as I feel present in each and every one of you, I feel the sadness of speaking from abroad while addressing my family, my friends and beloved ones in all of Lebanon.
It is not easy for me at all to speak on this February 14th commemoration without standing in front of the tomb of my beloved father and his fellow martyrs, joining the others in prayer. I am really sad to the point of suffocation and nothing compensates for this grief but the fact that we remain together on the path we have chosen seven years ago, for Lebanon, for justice, freedom, sovereignty, independence, democracy, coexistence and national unity. And what turns this grief into hope is seeing the model that we fought for seven years ago being achieved in many brotherly countries, that rose against dictators and corrupt unjust deadly regimes, demanding freedom, justice and democracy, from the dear Tunisia to wounded Syria, in what became known as the Arab spring .
Yes, brothers and sisters, let us remember, be proud and raise our heads high. Yes, we as Lebanese, what have we done? What have you done after the assassination of martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, martyr Basil Fuleihan and their companions seven years ago? You did not remain silent and surrender but went down to the squares, calling with loud voices and bare chests: The people want. You said: “The people want sovereignty, independence, truth, justice, dignity and freedom, you achieved sovereignty and independence, and justice is hopefully on its way, we still have to achieve dignity and freedom.
But we are no longer alone in our request. Listen to what the spring rebels say everywhere. Their first demand is the same: freedom and dignity, and their demand is human dignity. They say: We are people, we are humans. Their demand is freedom. They say: When did you enslave people when they were born free? Dignity comes from the right of people to live decently, to work without begging, to educate their children, to have health care and economic development. Dignity comes from freedom, freedom of belief, thought, expression, assembly and the freedom to run for election and to vote, freedom of production, creativity and work.
These were and remain our principles in March 14; these are the demands of the Arab spring everywhere, and most importantly: These are the values, ideas and proposals that the project of Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri was founded upon and still embodies.
Today, brothers and sisters, we meet again in Lebanon with the model that we have launched seven years ago, with the spring rebels everywhere and their demands for freedom and dignity, so either what is happening in the region will lead us towards achieving the rest of our demands for freedom and dignity, or it will lead to discord, God forbids. And our responsibility, as Lebanese, and our responsibility in March 14 is to prevent discord in order to achieve freedom and dignity.
Speaking of responsibility, allow me to talk about my personal responsibility. First, I say that I take full responsibility for the previous phase in its bitter and sweet aspects, responsibility of making concessions, in some places, and refusing to make them, in other places, responsibility of accepting the position of the prime minister and responsibility of stepping down from the position. . Today, I Saad Rafic Hariri, bear before you the responsibility of expressing solidarity with the Syrian people and supporting its right to establish a democratic regime. I also announce before you my willingness to assume full responsibility in preventing discord between the Lebanese in general and to prevent Sunni-Shiite strife in Lebanon in particular. This is a responsibility I have assumed in the past and assume it again before you today.
Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends, after February 14, 2005, the blood of martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and his fellow martyrs triumphed over thirty years of oppression, domination and tyranny, and Lebanon entered a new political turning point due to two events that occurred concurrently: The withdrawal of the military and security forces of the Syrian regime from Lebanon, and the announcement of the beginning of an international investigation and the establishment of the International Tribunal to investigate the crimes of political assassination.
Today, on February 14, 2012, the blood of martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and his fellow martyrs triumphs again, and Lebanon moves to a new political turning point, due to two major events: the Arab spring, and the beginning of the countdown for the one-party rule in Syria, and the spring of justice in Lebanon and the announcement of the indictments in the assassination of the martyr Prime Minister and the trial in absentia of the accused.
Between those two stages, Lebanon has faced waves of large and small wars, infiltrations, control over political and security decision-making centers in the state, attempts to disrupt the international tribunal and the course of justice. It seemed that Lebanon will be again the victim of a regional trap and reckless domestic policies, which want to take it back to the era of hegemony and domination, and work on besieging the gains achieved after March 14.That matter stopped at the borders of the Arab Spring, and specifically at the borders of the exceptional uprising of the Syrian people, and I will not be exaggerating at all today, if I confirm before you that all forms of reckless policies will not be able to take Lebanon back to the era of dependency and domination.
The great picture that the heroic Syrian people are drawing, will sooner or later, bring the real end of this era and its symbols. Hopefully The Syrian people will triumph, despite the horror of the massacres, and the Syrian regime will inevitably fall. We are living a moment of historic transition from one era to another. The establishment of a pluralistic democratic system in Syria will give a great immunity to the Lebanese democratic experience. The Lebanese, of different affiliations, should understand the deep dimensions of this transition, and of the historical intersection between the Lebanese democracy and the Syrian democracy.
The victory of the Syrian people, in the battle for democracy and national dignity, draws a straight and balanced line for the bilateral relations between the two countries, and promotes them practically and effectively to the level of real privileged relations between two brothers and neighboring countries, that cooperate in the framework of the democracy twinning, not of the stronger one bullying the weaker one or the larger one maltreating the smaller one. The Syrian National Council has reflected this approach of the relations. This is an occasion to confirm that our hands are extended to cooperation with the National Council, in which we see a hope for Syria in building a new democratic system.
Today, and because the Syrian Revolution will triumph inevitably, they are trying to scare the Lebanese from its implications. To the Christians in Lebanon, they say that their Sunni brothers will feel a surplus of power coming from Syria and they will move toward extremism. To those we say: We are the movement of moderation, coexistence, participation and pluralism. We are the people of Taif, and full parity between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon … whatever happens in Syria, we are the movement of freedom of belief and religious practice and freedom of thought and expression, and individual and public freedoms. We are the movement of independence, sovereignty and democracy. Whatever happens in Syria, we have launched the slogan of “Lebanon first” and we have paid the price with blood that always remains before eyes every day, in every moment and in every occasion, and not only every February 14 of each year.
To the Shiites in Lebanon, they say that the victory of the revolution in Syria will turn, in Lebanon, into a Sunni attack against you to avenge the blood of Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and to seize your weapons. And we clearly say: We don’t hold our Shiite brothers in Lebanon responsible for Rafic Hariri’s blood. We consider his blood to be yours just as it is ours, and that of all the Lebanese people. Needless to say that we chose the path of justice and not revenge, and justice is moving towards identifying those responsible and holding them accountable, them alone without generalizing the responsibility to a group or sect.
We also say clearly: the weapons don’t have a sectarian or religious identity. The reality in Lebanon is that there are partisan weapons, with a specific political identity, that make use of their geographical spread to protect the sectarian aspect of the weapons. We totally and fully reject and oppose this, and we believe that its continuation represents a great danger for partnership between the Lebanese people. We know that the Lebanese Shiite, like all other Lebanese, support Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence, freedom and dignity, just as Syria’s, and they support the democracy in Lebanon and in Syria. The Lebanese Shiites are a fundamental sect that is as equally important as all other sects in Lebanon. Together, we make Lebanon’s destiny: through agreement and not confrontation, and through dialogue and not discord.
The communities in Lebanon are a spiritual and human expression of the essence of the message which our country represents. They do not belong to any party. The Shiites are not political properties of Hezbollah and Amal Movement, neither are the Sunnis political properties of the Future Movement, and nor the Christians are political properties of any party. We, in Lebanon are brought together and are protected by one project: the state. Our project, and destiny, is the state, the state, the state.
The existence of weapons, whether personal, medium or heavy, in the hands of political parties proved that it totally contradicts the principles of the establishment of the state. It is a continuous source of discord. This fact doesn’t need evidence because it is a reality which all Lebanese, regardless of their sects and regions, experienced over thirty years. The Lebanese people have discovered that all illegal weapons are a direct or veiled project to control part of the State’s responsibilities. What is more dangerous, it is a rejected model that may tempt others to follow it. The spread of the Palestinian weapons in the seventies of last century, especially in the South, the Southern suburbs and the capital led Lebanon and the State into a great ordeal, and put a large part of the Lebanese in confrontation with the Palestinian factions. And the chaos of the militias turned the Lebanese Republic into an armed hell and launched a long series of wars between the brothers. And the chronic presence of the Syrian forces on the Lebanese territories, as a competitive partner for the Lebanese Army and legitimate institutions, contributed in organizing the armed chaos that spread military and security outposts at the expense of the state. The current reality of the spread of weapons is a renewed copy of all these experiences.
Israel is our enemy and a danger on us all that we should all face. Let us all defend our country and win within the confines of the Lebanese State. But when the weapons, under the pretext of fighting Israel, becomes a weapon to fight each other and eliminate the state, then it only serves Israel and no one but Israel. Frankly, we say that the State, to be a state, must have the monopoly of weapons because this means it has the monopoly of power, of preserving individual and national security, of adopting laws and applying them, of implementing justice. Distributing the monopoly of State power to groups condemns Lebanon to live in violence, and the state to wither. Thus, we reiterate the call to Hezbollah to start organizing its weapons to put them at the disposal of the State and spare Lebanon and all Lebanese the danger of violence, and spare the state the danger of collapsing. Let Hezbollah and all Lebanese work for the triumph of the State and for Lebanon to remain a pioneer among Arabs in the Arab spring.
The course of justice in the case of the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and his companions has reached a point of no return. This course will definitely lead to uncover the perpetrators and the accused, and establish the rules that protect Lebanon from the series of political assassinations. The attempts to evade the course of international justice will be useless.
This should be understood by the Lebanese government and the official parties concerned with cooperating and coordinating with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Just as I emphasize the bonds of brotherhood that binds us with all the Lebanese, and from my position of responsibility towards the blood of the martyrs who gave their lives for Lebanon’s freedom and independence, I call on Hezbollah’s leadership to adopt a new approach in dealing with the Special Tribunal because insisting on protecting the accused will not cancel the indictments. Hezbollah’s insistence on refusing to hand in the accused can generalize the accusation in the assassination of Rafic Hariri, and Hezbollah’s leadership should not fall in this and turn the trial expected in a few months into a political, moral and national indictment.
The changes we are presently experiencing deserve a new reading of the situation and a new look towards the future, with an emphasis on the necessity of protecting Lebanon from sliding towards risks, and with the spirit of commitment to our democratic system. I am confident that I will soon be with you in Beirut. I am also confident that justice will prevail, that spring will blossom and that Lebanon will always be Arab, free, sovereign and independent and a pioneer in its message among nations.
On this day, I bow to the memory of my beloved father and address his soul just as I do every year. I tell him that the legacy of Rafic Hariri will continue, and that the line of defense of freedom, moderation and coexistence will remain, regardless of the risks and difficulties. I ask God Almighty to protect Lebanon, and to help the people of Syria, hoping to meet you soon in Lebanon”.