I do not believe the assassination of Gebran Tueni, the prominent Lebanese lawmaker and journalist, came as a surprise to anyone, even the late MP himself. He mistakenly returned to Beirut like a butterfly insisting to fly into the fire.
I remain puzzled as to why Gebran left Paris, which he had chosen as a temporary residence, even though he knew his name appeared on a hit list, along with that of George Hawi, who was murdered last August. After five months, Gebran might have thought his murder would be unjustified, given that Lebanon’s sovereignty has become an international issue in the hands of the U.N Security Council. He was incorrect because the list was not aimed at killing the opposition but at punishing its symbols. Gebran was assassinated for his role in shaping the new situation in Lebanon.
His killers were not wrong. Gebran was the first to fight in Lebanon and start a campaign against what he explicitly referred to as “the Syrian occupation” seven years ago in his newspaper an-Nahar. He repeatedly called for a truly Lebanese government and independent institutions. At the time, most opposition figures were in Paris and Washington D.C. Gebran issued his rallying cry from the center of Beirut. He devoted his newspaper, the biggest Lebanese media platform, to figh the Syrian presence in the country. He stated his opinion vocally, at a time when no Lebanese would dare say the same, even in murmur. In practice, he fired the first bullet against the Syrian presence in a resolute, public and direct manner.
In the last few years, we marveled at Gebran’s defiance as we read his opinions, especially as it was not difficult for Syria, at the time, to shut down his newspaper or incite local forces against him. With the passage of time, his opposition became acceptable to many, including the Syrians who co-existed with his fiery editorials and banned his newspaper from being distributed in Syrian only.
Nevertheless, the situation changed and became more extreme and more dangerous, the day a man such as Rafik Hariri was murdered. No longer is anyone immune, and murders have become routine, taking place every six weeks, according to an organized plan. Gebran Tueni’s name was at the top of this hit list.
At present, it is not important to discover the truth and answer the old question of who killed Tueni, since the majority is convinced that the murderer is one. The question should be: until when will this wave of assassinations continue? It doesn’t serve the interests of either Syria or or Lebanon. What is the purpose of killing Gebran and others leaders opposed to Syria before him? Is it a personal revenge attack because Gebran, in practice, was no longer active in effecting political change since his “role” ended with the departure of Syrian troops? A parliamentarian and a journalist such as Gebran could have participated in mending the broken relationship, instead of his corpse widening the gap with Damascus and tightening the siege upon it.