Political Islam militias do not stop at confiscating lives in assassinations: they also confiscate death. The victim must not solely lose his life and all the meanings it bore. He must also be robbed of the rights to his death narrative.
Coincidentally, the assassinations of political activists Chokri Belaid in Tunisia (2013) and Lokman Slim in Lebanon (2021) are commemorated two days apart. In both cases, a Political Islam militia is accused of the murder: the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood in the former, and the Lebanese Hezbollah in the latter. It just so happens, also, that both victims had openly pointed the identity of their eventual killer.
In the wake of both crimes, Ennahdha and Hezbollah’s rhetoric were both marked by preventing the victim’s murder to take its proper shape. Both parties were not content with merely denying any responsibility for the crime; they had to the extra mile and pose as the real target. As such, Belaid and Slim’s assassinations were but an attack on Ennahdha and Hezbollah, not on the victims themselves. The suspect takes the stead of the victim as the target of the assassination plot. Under this logic, the victims are portrayed as a mere excuse, their murder just an attempt to get a message across. Belaid and Slim are not the targets themselves, nor is their assassination an attack on the bold political stances they represented, but merely a coincidence, or perhaps a message. Ironically, the recipient of that message per this rationale would thus be none other than the main suspect in their death.
When Lokman Slim was murdered, the chief of the Hezbollah militia, Hassan Nasrallah, presented a juridical review of the “presumption of innocence,” as did Rached Ghannouchi following Chokri Belaid’s liquidation. The two chiefs wondered, in all seriousness, who could possibly benefit from the assassination. But after taking a quick look at the two parties’ history with the course of justice, one can only laugh – gross as the joke may be.
Formerly, Nasrallah had also went through the trouble of establishing a virtual court in Lebanon when he dedicated a whole press conference to presenting the evidence, as he called it, of Israel’s involvement in the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which rocked Lebanon 17 years ago yesterday. The man painstakingly collected “evidence” dating back to 10 years before Hariri’s assassination, disregarding the entire political, security, and intelligence climate that prevailed 10 months, weeks, or days before the assassination.
Just as Nasrallah decisively determined the objectives behind the assassination, so did Ghannouchi. Both agreed that the murderer is looking to undermine stability in their country and lure it into chaos! And because both parties ruled their respective countries at the time of the assassination, each in their own way and to the extent that the political situations in Tunisia and Lebanon allowed it, the murders were attributed to none other than Ennahdha’s and Hezbollah’s respective rivals.
This rationale leads to grimmer conclusions in the Lebanese case than in the Tunisian one.
If we go with Nasrallah’s proclamation that the murderer’s objective is to undermine stability, Israel immediately jumps to the top of the suspect list. This is Hezbollah’s mantra after every assassination. Both Slim and Hariri, then, were normalizer Israelis in their lives, and in their death, martyrs who fell at the hand of Israel’s conspiracy in their murder. The victim’s entire history is vilified for his disloyalty, but their death is crowned as “martyrdom,” thus depriving the victims their right to death just as they were robbed of their right to life.
In parallel with denying responsibility for the murder, posing as law and justice advocates, and elongating the suspect list to keep their condemnation at bay, Political Islam groups unashamedly celebrate and protect the suspected killers and obstruct all legal and judicial ways to do justice by the victim.
For all his fatwas on the presumption of innocence, Hassan Nasrallah openly vaunted his refusal to present any evidence to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) that investigated Hariri’s assassination. He viewed his party members’ killing of those who reached breakthroughs in the investigation as a source of pride, boastfully bestowing his religious protection on the suspects, who were glorified by some Hezbollah members as heroes.
When the STL found Salim Ayyash guilty of conspiracy to kill Hariri and participation in the murder, Nasrallah’s militia raised his photographs in the streets and celebrated him as a glorious champion. When the Lebanese politician Michel Samaha, an intelligence and security operative, was caught red-handed devising bombings and assassinations with the aim of inciting sedition in Lebanon, he found in Hezbollah defenders and protectors, and in its media a mouthpiece waxing lyrical about his spotless history, standing, role, and intentions.
In Tunisia, Ghannouchi followed in the footsteps of his Lebanese counterpart. In a video leaked last year, Ghannouchi admitted to Ennahdha’s role in protecting detainees on terrorism charges and working to liberate them by expanding the scope of Tunisia’s amnesty laws. In the video, Ghannouchi can be heard saying that “many detainees on charges of terrorism are good people, and we are constantly defending them,” adding: “The [Ennahdha] Movement has persistently requested their release. Even after the revolution, the first version of the Amnesty Law that was issued excluded them, but the Movement insisted on an amnesty law with no exceptions. They are grateful to Ennahdha because our lawyers defended them.”
How bizarre is this parallelism between Political Islam militias that master violence, albeit with a maturity in execution that surpasses the pure monstrosity of other groups, like ISIS.
First they deny, then they falsely invoke laws and justice, then they rob the victims of their history, then they glorify the supposed murderer.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.