15 June 2005

In a challenging message to the international community, prominent writer Samir Kassir was murdered in midday during a visit by U.N. Special Investigator Prosecutor Detlev Mehlis. Lebanese Statesman Rafik Hariri was similarly murdered midday in Beirut 14 February in an explosion so powerful that the observation scale at the American University registered what amounted to an earthquake.

The Secretary General issued an immediate condemnation of both terrorist acts. A tendency to expand the investigation into Mr. Hariri's murder to that of Mr. Kassir was short-lived. The U.S., which supported the "Cedar revolution" and France, which considers him one of its distinguished citizens, seemed to support that request, but decided against it later, allowing the new Lebanese government to take action. The prominent columnist in Beirut daily An-Nahar was killed by a timed bomb taped to his car as he was leaving home to his office on the morning of Thursday 2 June. His hard-hitting comments which appeared every Friday on the paper's front page focused on freedom of speech and human dignity. A Lebanese born of a Palestinian father and Syrian mother, he sustained a courageous sharp attack on the local security services controlled or trained by Syrian elements across the border. For the last five years he was trailed, and openly threatened. His passport was lifted for a while on the claim that his nationality required clarification. He never wavered. When friends and colleagues cautioned him that his sharp wit may be placing his life in danger, he would laugh and write even tougher comments. As a professor at the Universite Saint Joseph, Kassir inspired youth into active involvement in shaping their country's destiny. During the Spring of Beirut, or the Cedar Revolution, Samir Kassir supplied the main intellectual inspiration. While politicians posed for photos, he stayed with the young crowds in their tents of many colours and varied backgrounds -- chatting, arguing, mobilizing.

Most recently, he managed to draw in a number of active Syrian writers who openly questioned the tight grip of the Baath party in Damascus. He felt confident that he was safe because he campaigned peacefully and argued with good reason. He thought that an adversary could only argue, threaten or cajole but not kill. But those threatened by freedom, ruthless thugs, could not bear to see his smile of victory, as a unified Lebanese front retrieved the country's unity and sovereignty. They could not bear their defeat as the Lebanese people were voting on their own destiny. In desperation they killed Samir Kassir not realizing that his martyrdom will only expose them further and quicken their demise and hasten the resurrection of free dynamic and sovereign Lebanon.