On December 10, 2019, 54 days into the October 17 revolution, the HUB – a tent that was set up in downtown Beirut in the first days of the revolution – was assaulted by Hezbollah who accused the organizers, of which I was one, of prompting normalization and peace with Israel. The lecture which was slated for that day “Neutrality as a strategic choice for Lebanon,” like the 45 lectures which preceded it, was only prompting nation-building, accountability, and sovereignty, notions that the Lebanese political class that hides behind Hezbollah weapons never wish to see implemented.
When the attack took place, I was busy teaching one of my classes at AUB, and once I arrived at the tent, I noticed my comrades were discouraged and had started packing up the tent in fear of a new wave of assaults. Once I dissuaded them of this action and turned the lights on in the tent, we were instantly surrounded by tens of assailants who were bent on setting the site on fire, and chanting my name, accusing me of being a Zionist, often an invitation for murder in the culture we sadly inhabit.
In only a few seconds, my friend Lokman Slim and around a dozen of his brave friends appeared next to us to support us against the mercenaries who were ostensibly supporting the Palestinian cause, while in reality, they were shamelessly supporting the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and Hezbollah’s attacks on the innocent people of Syria, including Palestinian refugees. Lokman’s stance was not really something that surprised me, nor were his sharp words uncommon from a man who has dedicated his life and career to the promotion of values of justice, pluralism, and critical thought, elements which the culture that Hezbollah and their ideological master in Iran dreads and fears the most.
The brave stand we took with Lokman was unfortunately not enough to save the HUB, as the Minister of Interior at the time, saw it fit to order the disassembly of the tent, and thus gave way to Hezbollah and their fellow travelers to systematically remove other opposition groups from the open space in downtown Beirut.
Almost a year after the incident, on Feb 3, 2021, my brave friend Lokman was assassinated in the south of Lebanon, a few miles away from one of the biggest bases of the United Nations Interim Force, by who I believe was a Hezbollah hit squad, whose surveillance teams were picked up by CCTV cameras in the area. Lokman’s body was drafted by seven bullets from a gun that was suppressed by the killers, yet his mind, wit, and sharp eyes are still omnipresent.
This year, for his second commemoration, we at the Lokman Slim Foundation, have decided to revive the tent, which we have pitched opposite to the Beirut port to remind everyone that the killer is one. To remind the Lebanese at large, and some of the members of the international community, including the Special Coordinator of the Secretary-General for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, that wagering on the decency and sanity of assassins is not only lunacy, but an act of immorality.
Lokman’s tent will be a celebration of life and intellect, as he had been, and will bring forth Lebanon’s opinion-makers and those who simply want to live in a normal state ruled by law and not by the wagging finger of a tyrant.
“Justice Even if the Heavens Fall” is our motto and our roadmap to fighting to regain the normalcy of Lebanon and what it once stood for.
Join us to remember Lokman and all the victims of the Beirut Port, some of which survived yet remain in emotional and physical limbo. Join us to remember and remind those who still have an ounce of fear in their heart, that these killers will come for you if you do not stand your ground.
The Lebanese, at least some of them, might be afraid to champion this call for justice as it will bring them face to face with a beast that lives on the blood of the innocent, yet if we are to live in peace and to flourish, the Lebanese are left with no choice but to join the party of Lokman, and to be allies of the Shiite Lokman, whose dedication to truth will never falter.
Makram Rabah is the managing editor at Now Lebanon and a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History. His book Conflict on Mount Lebanon: The Druze, the Maronites and Collective Memory (Edinburgh University Press) cover collective identities and the Lebanese Civil War. He tweets at @makramrabah.
The opinions expressed are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOW.