Dad, who was Al-Hariri?
Yussef Bazzi - 02/03/2005
Beirut, Martyrs' Square
“Dad,” my son asked, “who was Al-Hariri?”
When we were young, years before you were born, we lived through war. We had our fill of exhaustion, filth and wretchedness, and thought about emigrating a lot. Then peace came, and with it, a constantly smiling, unbelievably optimistic man. He astounded us. We were told that he was very rich, that he wanted to rebuild the country and that his name was Rafiq Al-Hariri.
At that time, the whole city was a wreck. We heard that he’d start in central Beirut, so we went down and watched the bulldozers at work. After a while he turned to the electricity, telephones, roads, pavements and schools and, bit by bit, we saw things improving. People started to live normal lives again: buying and selling and planning for better times. We started hearing talk about “investments” (i.e. trade and industry), “tourism”, “infrastructure” and “construction” (i.e. we’ll make the country lovely again).
Around that time I met your mother and we fell in love. Optimism was everywhere and Mum and I planned for the future. We found work, our life became a little easier and we were able to get married, and then have you, certain in the knowledge that the war was behind us, and that the life we dreamed of was finally possible. We no longer thought of emigration and travel.
Most of this time, Essam, Rafiq Al-Hariri was prime minister. Lebanon faced a series of crises under his stewardship: sometimes it was the dollar shooting up, sometimes it was the Middle East (the place we live in) rocked with wars and killing. Yet despite it all we carried on dreaming of a happy, contented life, especially for our children.
At times I used to disagree with Al-Hariri’s politics. Fir instance, it worried me when he allied himself with Zaraan’s men, or kept silent over patent dangers. I’ll admit that I was delighted the last time he resigned. Unlike him, I’m a born protestor. I didn’t understand him then, and I didn’t realize he was trying to save the country from chaos.
I remember that when he’d rebuilt central Beirut -- where you love to stroll -- I felt it wasn’t my city any more. I felt a pang of sadness, then realized that it had become your city, and that Al-Hariri was looking to the future. The point is, that he was the only one who could do anything.
For 15 years we’ve been supportive, wary of and at odds with Rafiq Al-Hariri, may God have mercy on him. In other words, he was the only one we cared about, since he was almost the state itself, and politics revolved around him.
Your father, Essam, belongs to no sect or party and follows no movement or leader. I’m just a citizen, and you must be the same. Al-Hariri loved people like us. Although he didn’t know me, and despite the fact I’ve never met him, I’ve nearly always felt that his success depended on people like me.
“Ok, Dad… then why did they kill him?”
Because he was Lebanese, and he loved Lebanon like we do. How can I explain…? Lebanon is still forbidden to us. Yussef Bazzi