It has been two years since the brutal murder of prominent secular activist Lokman Slim. The loved ones of the murdered Hezbollah critic met at his family house in the middle of Dahye, Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold, to commemorate his death.
A number of ambassadors and other notable individuals attended the commemoration on February 3. This was a portion of a three-day memorial celebration that Slim’s family and friends called “Justice Even If The Heavens Fall.”
On the first day, honors in the form of laurels were given to significant figures who had aided Slim in his search for the truth, including journalist Marie-Joe Sader, artist Alfred Tarazi, and media personality Dima Sadek. Following this, the award recipients, ambassadors, and members of Slim’s family gave speeches. Each made a unique contribution to the fight against Hezbollah that Slim promoted.
Dima Sadek has been constantly under attack for criticizing the party and its regional backer, Iran. Maire-Joe Sader has investigated the details of Slim’s murder and published a book on the matter. Sheikh Abbas Yazbek has also been a staunch critic of Iran, despite being a Shiite religious figure himself. Alfred Tarazi created an archive-based artistic display, which was hosted in Beirut by UMAM Documentation and Research (UMAM D&R), co-founded by Slim and his widow, Monika Borgmann.
Ambassadors then took center stage to assert their support for Slim’s family and remind the audience of the importance of ending impunity, in order to punish those responsible for the murder.
The American, French, British, Dutch, German and Australian ambassadors were among those present.
“Those who assassinated Lokman Slim traffic in deceit, fear, and hate. Let us not give in to those brute tactics. Rather, let us continue to be led by the spirit of tolerance that brings us here today,” said the American ambassador Dorothy Shea in her speech.
The crowd then made its way to a tent, which was set up in front of the damaged port silos in downtown Beirut. The same tent was originally erected during the October Revolution and was attacked by Hezbollah assailants.
During their monthly protest on February 4, the families of the port blast victims once again demanded justice.
Investigating judge Tarek Bitar’s recent summons, which have caused him great suffering and even put his life in danger, are now their only source of hope.
The following day, a gathering with the theme “From Scattered Recollections to a Healed Memory” was held in Lokman’s tent. Speakers included Abbas Hadla, Amin Elias, Rabih Haddad, and Diana Moukalled, with the discussion being moderated by Suha Flayfel.
Films and research surrounding the collective memory of the civil war were discussed. Abbas Hadla discussed the creation of UMAM in honor of Slim’s dedication to safeguarding Lebanon’s long-lost collective memory.
Afterward, Amin Elias spoke about Slim’s contribution to the publishing scene, as he had always encouraged Shiite voices to counter the dominant Shiite culture imposed by Hezbollah and Amal movement. He then discussed how narratives and history differ in the way people remember important events and figures.
According to Elias, “narrative is a group of components from facts and imagination as well as from old myths, the narrative then lasts for decades – even more.”
“This story could center on a person, a group of people, or a nation… For instance, in Lebanon, not all of the historical accounts are presented as factual accounts but rather as myths and stories,” he continued.
The speaker discussed the myths that have become ingrained in our memories and argued that stories, whether or not they are true, are crucial to the formation of a nation.
“The Shiite parties in power constantly remind their people of the narrative of resistance and deprivation that has characterized their history. This enables the Shiite political establishment to defend their hold on power,” he said
Rabih Haddad then discussed the past’s capacity to reconcile the present.
He recalls his encounter with Slim saying that they agreed on the principle “that one should always forgive but never forget.”
The next speaker was journalist Diana Moukalled, who discussed the pressure on the prevailing narratives in Lebanon’s current political climate, particularly in relation to the explosion at the Beirut port.
The civil war documentary “The Second Survival” was then shown.
Later that day, the topic of “Justice and Ending Impunity” was discussed, with speakers, Moussa Khoury, Riad Kobeissi, William Noun, Firas Abi Younes, Aya Majzoub, and moderator Dima Sadek.
On Sunday, February 5, a meeting was held in the tent to discuss regional developments and their impact on the Lebanese situation under the title “Lebanon in the Eye of The Storm.”
Ziad Abdel Samad moderated a discussion on Lebanon’s difficulty in achieving sovereignty in light of the presence of armed parties.
In reference to Slim’s murder, Abdel Samad said, “You can cancel the body, but you can’t cancel opinions, thoughts, and words.”
Afterwards, Ronnie Chatah discussed the difficulty of free speech when criminals remain in power.
“The last militia in this country preserving an everlasting status quo, causing a total collapse,” he said.
The next speaker, Mona Fayyad, discussed the Beirut explosion and the persistent obstruction of the port investigation. The government’s ongoing pretense of being sovereign was then the topic of discussion of Mostafa Allouch.
Then Sami Nader discussed Slim’s legacy and what his perspective would be if he were still alive.
The roundtable was followed by a meeting of the Lebanese Democratic Coalition.
The memorial culminated in a musical performance by singers Ahmad Kabour, Nadine Hassan and Scarlett Mounzer and the band, in addition to refreshments to honor Lokman Slim’s life and to remember that Lebanon celebrates a culture of life, not death.
Dana Hourany is a multimedia journalist with @NOW_leb. She is on Instagram @danahourany and Twitter @danahourany.