Paris, Asharq Al-Awsat – Nazek Hariri expressed her confidence that the international investigation into the murder of her husband, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri “will undoubtedly arrive at the truth,” but condemned the time lost because of the difficulties and obstacles that the probe has faced. She stressed, “The procedures of the upcoming trial are imminent.”
In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday, Nazek Hariri revealed that friends warned her husband of new plans to assassinate him, describing the attempt on former minister Marwan Hamadeh’s life as a warning of things to come. She indicated that, at the time, the stark choice was between Hariri becoming a martyr or the country suffering and “his decision had been taken a long time ago: Lebanon rises high and no one towers above it.”
Nazek Hariri indicated that she remained convinced that national dialogue in Lebanon was “the only true democratic way to reach a strong agreement among all Lebanese groups so that no group feels cheated or mistreated.”
Q: Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri. What would you like to say on this occasion?
A: A year has passed since the martyrdom of President Rafik Hariri and we are still awaiting the announcement of the truth: who planned the assassination, who executed it and who gave the orders. Lebanon is an oasis for the Arabs and the world; we want to know who killed this man of peace and reconstruction. A year has passed and we will continue to wait no matter how long until we know the truth and the muderers are punished for their heinous crime motivated/committed by their hate and malice.
My message is to every good person who loves his brother. My message is to every Lebanese and Arab. Oppression will undoubtedly meet its end. The killers will undoubtedly face God’s justice and be punished. Our martyr will undoubtedly rest in peace and set his mind to rest because justice has prevailed in his country after a long wait.
Q: To return to the assassination, how did you learn your husband had been killed? Did Prime Minister Hariri fear for his life in the period before his death? Did he confide in you about this? Were you aware of any definite or serious threats against him? Had he been the victim of previous assassination attempts that remained secret in the past? How did you advise him?
A: I do not want to remember that dreadful moment when I learned by phone from Paris and on satellite televisions from Beirut about the assassination of my beloved husband and his martyrdom in the most horrific bombing operation that Lebanon has ever known. More than one informed friend had warned him of new plans to assassinate him. The attempt of his friend Minister Marwan Hamadeh was warning. Of course, he used to minimize the significance of these death threats when in front of us. I do not know if any secrets have been hidden until now. In any case, the truth will reveal everything in the end. My advice was surpassed by events. The choice was between his self-sacrifice and the martyrdom of the country. He had taken his decision, in this respect, a long time ago: Lebanon rises high and no one towers above it.
Q: There is an ongoing Lebanese investigation and an international probe into the assassination of your husband. Despite all the means at the committee’s disposal and the international resolutions, the investigation has not yet reached a conclusion that would allow a trial to begin. Will we one day find out who planned and carried out the killing? According to your knowledge, where is the investigation currently at?
A: What I know and I believe is that, despite a year passing since the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri without any trial taking place, the international investigation will undoubtedly reach the truth. A long time has been wasted in difficulties and obstacles. In spite of this, the truth will undoubtedly appear and the procedures of the trial are looming. It is true that the victim has to show patience but the perpetrators should be judged by God no matter how long it takes!
Q: Why did they kill Rafik Hariri? Who is responsible for his death?
A: I know they murdered Rafik Hariri because of his national attributes, which they lacked. I also know he loved Lebanon but they did not. The international investigation will uncover all the details and will not neglect anything.
Q: The friendship that linked French President Jacques Chirac with Prime Minister Hariri was not a secret and the friendship between the two families is well-known. What does President Chirac say about the investigation? Is he confident that it will expose the truth about the assassination and those responsible?
A: Our friendship with the Chirac family is deep and brotherly. President Chirac and Prime Minister Hariri were dear brothers throughout. When I heard his speech at the ceremony commemorating the issuing of medals to honor Rafik Hariri, I heard him announce with determination, force and transparency that those who assassinated his dear friend will be tracked down and given a just punishment. He also indicated that the crime of the century could not be left unpunished.
Q: We know a lot about Rafik Hariri the politician, statesman, and businessman but we do not know much about him as an individual, family man and husband. What is it you miss most about him? What are the private or public projects he wanted to carry out? Did he want to continue in politics despite all what he suffered?
A: The best characteristic of Rafik Hariri was his humanity. He was a rare individual who loved people and felt their troubles. He was a unique father in his leadership and care. He was my beloved husband. God help me deal with his absence. I miss everything about him. It is impossible to say I miss something more than I miss him. God help me and give me the strength to be patient.
As for his public projects and the dream which he sought to fulfill, as well as his continuation in politics, despite all what he had suffered, it was all for a single aim: the liberation of Lebanon and its rise as a free independent and developed country.
Q: Who were Rafik Hariri’s closest friends? What and who did he have misgivings about? What are the values and qualities that he used to favor? What did he dislike and abhor?
A: His closest friends, other than those from childhood, are those who were genuine. He was suspicious of hypocrites. He hated those who used to praise him. Amongst the values and characteristics he used to prefer were: loyalty, honesty, friendship and giving. Such values build a nation and not just a family or group or party.
Q: Was Rafik Hariri, the individual, the father and the husband different from Rafik Hariri the politician? Why?
A: The difference between the individual, the father, the husband and the politician was a difference of roles. The personality of Rafik Hariri was capable of pursuing unique roles. In all his exceptional roles, he was generous, dear, honest, loyal and loving. He loved people and loved his country. He was product of a set of values to which he remained loyal until his last moments.
Q: When Prime Minister Hariri was still alive, his sons remained in the shade, at least when it came to politics. Did he consider training them to take over in politics?
A: On the contrary. He used to distance them from politics. He used to consider that all the members in the Future Movement were his sons on the political level. He did not leave them sheltered from what was happening in the country, the Arab world and internationally. He would always explain to us and share his worries and hopes. He used to think aloud in front of us. But not once did he try to prepare them for a certain political role. His assassination changed all our considerations and inheritance dictated our actions for the family and each individual.
Q: Nayla Muawwad and Solange Gemayel, both widows of assassinated Lebanese presidents, have entered politics. Do you intend on becoming involved in politics or will you concentrate on social work? What projects are you currently involved in?
A: Bahia Hariri also entered politics as an MP for Sidon, the birthplace of Rafik Hariri. As for myself, what matters most to me is the unity of the family and its cohesion and solidarity. We studied our situation after the death of our leader and divided roles to guarantee the success and unity of our work in all its facets. For my part, I am engaged in humanitarian, social and charitable work as well as the Hariri Foundation whereas my son Saad has taken control of the political side. Other administrative and financial duties have been divided amongst family members.
Q: Many consider that the death of your husband provided a huge service to Lebanon and hastened its second independence. However, the political and security situation in Lebanon are still beset by difficulties. How do you look at the situation a year after the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri?
A: In the domain of national achievement, Rafik Hariri distinguishes himself from other world leaders because he was able to realize important roles during his lifetime, such as reconstruction, and after his death, when he liberated Lebanon from [foreign] tutelage and placed it on the way to its second independence, unity and freedom. It is true that the situation is still unstable but a quick look at the situation a year ago and now shows the country is on the road to salvation. There is no going back. The country is on the path to freedom and progress. With the martyrdom [of Prime Minister Hariri] the march towards true independence was launched. There is no retreating.
Q: What are the priorities that parliamentary majority and the government should be concerned with and seek to carry out?
A: In my opinion, the priorities start with the truth and end with the truth and national dialogue. We are one people and we have to unite the country more and more. The truth will serve to liberate Lebanon from the threats to security and its leaders. National dialogue is the true democratic way in order to reach a strong agreement between the different parts of Lebanese society.
Lebanon is a small country and we can achieve miracles if we truly believe in the unity of the country and its people. Positions are not important but projects, institutions and modern thinking are. It is crucial we seek what will benefit all Lebanese and not only individuals or private interests.
Q: There is a fearing of fear in Lebanon and a worry about national unity from sectarian and factional divisions. Do you share this feeling? Did the dream of 14 March 2005, when more than a million people assembled in downtown Beirut calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops end?
A: The memory of 14 March 2005 will remain forever. It is no longer a dream. Martyr’s Square has transformed it into a reality and the starting point for the better. Those who feel lost in Lebanon or fear for national unity should visit the tomb of Prime Minister Hariri and remember 14 March 2005, and regain their strength and belief in the throngs of Lebanese who were each praying for the soul of the martyr of Lebanon. It is normal for people to be confused but in times of crisis, as has happened in Achrafieh lately, it is immediately transformed into a will that can withstand the storm to reaffirm its national unity in the face of unsuccessful terrorist attempts. No, the glory of 14 March 2005 will not end.
Q: One last question: What is the most important thing Prime Minister Hariri left behind which could be considered his legacy?
A: His grave beside the Mohammed Al Amin mosque, several churches and a square that has received its name from the history of freedom in Lebanon and our martyrs. The most important thing Rafik Hariri left behind to all of us Lebanese was that we remain loyal to his promise to us and our promise to him to safeguard Lebanon and protect it for future generations.