In memory of Wissam al-Hassan

Randa Takieddine

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When President Nicolas Sarkozy said he was glad that Le Figaro’s French journalist Edith Bouvier had left Syria, the professional and competent Lebanese Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan made statements to al-Hayat newspaper that Bouvier had not yet left Syria.

It was difficult to believe that the French president had erred in saying that Bouvier exited Syria. Later Sarkozy apologized on television to the French people, saying that he had been mistaken and that Bouvier was still in Syria.

After Bouvier’s return to France, Sarkozy thanked Lebanese officials, including former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, because he knew that al-Hassan had helped in saving the journalist from the hell she experienced in Syria and after she had been seriously wounded.

Al-Hassan was an exceptional figure and was skilled in his job as the head of the Information Department at the Internal Security Forces. He was open, frank and modest when dealing with people, especially with the media.

He was not frightened from the media; instead he enjoyed a wide network of ties with journalists. His relationship with journalists was based on an unprecedented openness for an intelligence official. Put simply, he trusted the media because he was honest with them.

His gruesome assassination, along with his bodyguard Ahmad Sahyouni, was similar to the killing of al-Hassan’s mentor, former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The latter was also a perfect professional who is loyal to his country.

Both wanted to protect the country from the Syrian regime’s war against people of Lebanon. Wissam al-Hassan was assassinated like Premier Hariri, Gibran Tueni, Samir Kassir, Pierre Gemayel, George Hawi, Wissam Eid, Walid Eido and a long list of martyrs.

He was also killed similarly to the Syrian martyrs, who are being killed massively by the Syrian regime’s army.

Al-Hassan was working for more than a year on the case of Michel Samaha, monitoring his movements and actions because he knew that the Syrian regime was preparing to wreak havoc in Lebanon.

Syria’s allies in Lebanon, mainly Hezbollah, were aware that al-Hassan and internal security forces’ General Ashraf Rifi had solid and condemning evidence when they decided to arrest Samaha.

Al-Hassan was very disappointed that the Lebanese government failed to issue an arrest warrant against the head of Syrian intelligence, who tasked Samaha with this mission.

Al-Hassan was a member of the new generation who had a promising future not only in security, but in politics too. This is why they killed him, along with other residents in Ashrafieh. The assassination did not only include people and civilian passers-by but they killed the heart of his wife, whom he wanted to be safe and protected in Paris from the brutality he knew she would be subjected to in Lebanon. Al-Hassan’s two sons became orphans, crying over their loving father on the day of his funeral, with the pain weighing heavily on these two young boys.

However, the March 14 movement made a mistake in inciting people to attack the Serail (government headquarters) in downtown Beirut. The demand to bring down the government will not be convenient now as it will not help in terms of the elections. The electoral law will not pass or be effective in any case, and it will not help on the security level too, as long as the Syrian regime exists. In any event, this paralysis has been the case ever since the assassination of Hariri in 2005, and the series of killings that followed. During such critical phase in the region, the survival of Rifi and Colonel Imad Othman, who was appointed to succeed al-Hassan, is fundamentally important.

The ambassadors of the Great Powers to Lebanon rushed to President Michel Suleiman, asking him for the government to remain in office, because they are determined to hold Hezbollah responsible if any disaster occurs to the United Nations peacekeeping troops. They are aware that if these troops are targeted they will pull out from Lebanon and this will represent a huge danger for the region. There is no doubt that if Hezbollah’s government remain in office, it will be better for these countries than a vacuum that will expose them to even greater dangers, even if the government is unable to prevent this scenario if Iran or Syria insists on it. The international community has its special calculations with regard to its interests and these are not necessarily in line with the interests of the Syrian and Lebanese peoples. May God rest the soul of General al-Hassan, and we hope that the killing machine will be stopped immediately in Syria as in Lebanon.

(Randa Takieddine is a writer for Dar al-Hayat where this article was published on Oct. 24, 2012)

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