Misleading slogans were popular at the beginning of the 1980s that marked the worst turns in the region’s history and led to the political deterioration which has lasted until today. If terrorism had been contained during that phase, it may have not given birth to groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Eleven months after the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat, Lebanese president-elect Bachir Gemayel was killed in Beirut. Bachir was 34 years old. He was an ambitious and frank leader confronting fierce powers led by Syria whose troops had occupied Lebanon for more than 7 years. The Palestinian Liberation Organization and rival factions shared controlling Lebanon with Syria after they were expelled from Jordan. Iran was working on developing a foothold for itself in Lebanon as during that bloody year, it inaugurated a party called Hezbollah that will later dominate the country and surrounding areas. Sadat’s murderers belonged to the armed Gama'a Islamiyya while Bachir’s assassin was a Christian who belonged to the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Sadat and Bachir were killed because the regimes of the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front wanted to obstruct the peace process. The Steadfastness and Confrontation Front was formed to confront Sadat’s announcement that he plans to make peace. Iraq’s Saddam, Syria’s Assad and Libya’s Qaddafi competed over leading this violent front and Algeria, South Yemen and the PLO were also part of it.
Amid these circumstances, Arab extremist governments played the role of today’s terrorist organizations or used groups that were called “liberal.” Bachir’s assassin Habib Shartouni was a mere tool in the hands of the Syrian regime which viewed Bachir’s election as a challenge to its political and military presence in Lebanon. Shartouni was detained after committing the assassination and he was jailed for 8 years but Syrian forces freed him when they later seized control of almost the entire country.
A dirty regional game
Leaders and thousands of innocent people lost their lives in Lebanon due to this dirty regional game which further divided the region and sowed chaos in it. The Palestinian people’s rights were also lost due to regimes that did not fight, did not accept truce and did not let the Palestinians choose their destiny.
Bachir’s assassin remains on the run. All the judiciary did was sentence him to death in absentia. The decision has been delayed for 34 years. Perhaps it had been better not to issue this decision than to issue it and not respect it. The murderer responded to the sentence against him and mocked the state and its institutions. This press interview is not the first of its kind!
Shartouni is not the only killer on the run. The murderers of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri are also on the run and they live in secure locations although the international tribunal announced their identities and demanded their arrest along with the murderers of other Lebanese leaders.
Justice in Lebanon is relative as Ahmad al-Assir is a murderer too because he is hostile towards Hezbollah. He was arrested and sentenced to death shortly after, and he may deserve this punishment. However the judiciary only recorded a theoretical death sentence against Shartouni, who confessed to killing a president and 20 other political figures, and no one has dared to implement justice.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.