Lebanon: Behind the Assassination of Lokman Slim

Kevork Sassouni

Summary: Assassination of independent-minded Shiite intellectual Lukman Slim, apparently by Hezbollah, is a blow to democratic resistance — Editors

Lokman Slim, a Lebanese publisher, activist and prominent critic of Hezbollah has been assassinated in Nabatieh, South Lebanon. A Shiite Muslim himself, Slim openly and vocally criticized Hezbollah for years, which with little doubt is responsible for his death. He was shot 4 times in the head and once in the back in his car. Some reports talk of his kidnapping and subsequent torture before death. His degrading murder infuriates and at the same time sends shivers down the spine of the opposition in the masses of Lebanon. On guard are especially journalists and well-known dissidents. The main reason for his murder, an Al Arabiya report suggests, is his assistance with a Hezbollah member involved in money laundering activities to defect to the US.

Slim reported a year ago of graffiti reading “glory to the (firearm) silencer” and “death to traitors” on the walls of his residence. Slim had preemptively written a letter accusing Hezbollah of foul play should any harm come to him. Numerous death threats had been made to him publicly on social media and little done by the authorities to condemn/punish them. Less, in fact, is expected of investigators assigned to find the perpetrators. Very few assassinations have been solved in the country; most are still “ongoing investigations.”

Lebanon has had its terrifying share of political assassinations in the past, most notably the killing of MP Marwan Hamadeh in 2004, PM Rafik el Hariri along with several other MPs in 2005, journalists Ali Ramez Tohme, Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni in 2005 and the attempted assassination of May Chidiac in the same year, Kataeb leader Pierre Gemayel in 2006, and numerous other stabbings, shootings and bombings until around 2013, leaving dozens of politicians, journalists and pedestrians injured or killed. A big number of these targets have been vocally anti-Syria (and consequently anti-Hezbollah).

The murder of Slim brings about great fears of renewed political assassinations of dissidents/critics in the country. With the Lebanese economy in shambles, the political situation increasingly unstable and unpredictable, alongside the pandemic and ongoing protests in Tripoli (the second biggest and most neglected Lebanese city in dire economic situation) and Beirut, assassinations are the last thing the people deserve.

The fact that Hezbollah is the defender of the Lebanese political class and mafia-style neoliberal state (and its despicable and utter failure, one that has bankrupted literally the entire population) needs little argument. Its role in disrupting and terrorizing protests since they broke out in October 2019 (and 2008 and 2013 and 2015…) , alongside the police and army, is enough proof. Its role in atrocities in Syria, and assassinations in Iraq and Lebanon in the recent past has been well documented. Its entrenchment in all affairs of state and complicity in all acts of corruption needs no elaboration. Hezbollah, de facto, has an almost absolute monopoly on power and violence in the country. Now, with the murder of Slim, Lebanese fear another phase of political violence.

There were mixed reactions concerning Slim’s assassination. Some pointed to his affiliations with US officials and its embassy, others cited his repeated suggestions of “building common grounds with Israel,” as reported by WikiLeaks. Many, especially on the left, conclude that he is not the opposition they have any trust in. Needless to say, the left in Lebanon has a bad history of justifying the presence of Hezbollah as “anti-imperialist movement/force.” Others correctly point out a void in opposition politics in general, and Slim happening to fill it. His silencing is therefore a blow to any progress a Lebanese citizen could dare envision in the country.

It is assuredly significant what stances, affiliations or ideas Lokman Slim had. His criticisms of Hezbollah come from a specific framework. However, his assassination remains a disgusting crime and a gigantic loss. In many ways, it represents a breaking point. What could follow could be a dark revival of past methods of “handling business,” of silencing dissent with brutal force, a process all too familiar on Lebanese streets. In fact, Hezbollah and its base have their way of (re)legitimizing themselves by such acts. It is quite unbelievable, but somewhat related to the last point: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s son, minutes after Slim’s death, tweeted in Arabic, “Loss of some is in reality an unexpected gain and kindness for others,” following it up with #NoSorrow, before deleting it amid backlash.

The left, anywhere and everywhere, must absolutely stand against political assassination of this type. The left anywhere and everywhere must unequivocally denounce the reactionary forces that oppress us under the guise of security from the enemy. Power and justice to the family of Lokman, the Lebanese uprising and all dissidents in Lebanon.

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