This is an in-depth conversation with Ziad Majed, a Lebanese-French writer and Program Coordinator for Middle East Pluralities at the American University of Paris.
Ziad was one of the founders of the Democratic Left Movement (DLM) in Lebanon, one of the few independent and leftwing groups that came out of the anti-Assad mobilisation that followed the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005.
The DLM soon found two of its prominent figures and allies assassinated: George Hawi, former secretary general of the Lebanese Communist Party, and Samir Kassir, the man we’ll be talking about in this episode.
Samir Kassir was assassinated on this day 15 years ago, June 2nd 2005, with a car bomb just outside of his house in Beirut. Born to a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother, Kassir brought together his multiple identities with his principled opposition against both Israeli and Syrian occupations of Lebanon to create a unique persona.
I wanted to have Ziad on because he was ‘there’. He saw first-hand some of the major events that defined Lebanon in the past three decades, and he saw his friends pay the ultimate price for their principled stances. He himself also had to pay a price due to the increasing threats made against him.
Naturally, we also spoke about what Samir represented, about Syria, Lebanon and Palestine and how and why they are interrelated, and about why it’s two prominent anti-Assad leftists Samir Kassir and, later, George Hawi who were assassinated first after Hariri’s assassination.
We spoke about the Syrian revolution, the role of the Assad regime in Syria and Lebanon, the intsrumentalisation of the Palestinian cause by authoritarian regimes and groups, the difficulties in dealing with Hezbollah and the recent October uprising in Lebanon.
There was a particular focus on the Syrian occupation of Lebanon since it is linked to the assassination of Samir Kassir, and George Hawi. We spoke about how Hezbollah took over the Assad regime’s role in Lebanon and its relationship with the Iranian regime’s foreign policy.
We also spoke about how the sectarian groups within March 14 preferred to deal with Hezbollah and Amal rather than deal with independent Shia voices, as that would have meant dealing with independent Christian, Druze and Sunni voices, and thus feeling threatened ‘from within’.
This is a long conversation but one which I think will stand the test of time. I wanted us to do justice to Samir Kassir’s legacy and I hope we succeeded.
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Resources relevant to our conversation:
- Beirut Banyan’s reflection on Samir Kassir and the interview with Ziad Majed
- Ziad Majed’s talk on Syria and Lebanon on the occasion of the 6th year commemoration of Samir Kassir’s assassination
- A lot of videos with Ziad Majed available on YouTube, mainly in French and Arabic. Focused on Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.
- Ziad Majed’s Arabic website and English/French website
Music by Tarabeat. Photo by Syrian Banksy in Idlib.