The name of Samir Kassir remains etched in the Lebanese collective memory as a fierce defender of Lebanon's liberty and sovereignty. He became a true synonym of the struggle for a better Lebanon. The journalist instilled these values so well in his political science students at Saint Joseph University in Beirut. But above all, he emphasized them in his daring editorials, which reflected his faith in this cause and made him the true "thinker of the revolution" of March 14, 2005, which led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, after thirty years of suzerainty over Lebanon.
In his articles, Samir Kassir urged the Lebanese to rebel against the country's grim reality and fight for their freedom and independence, despite the Syrian stranglehold on their country. Who can forget his famous editorial "Soldiers against whom?" in which Kassir, a journalist, political scientist and historian, denounced the actions of the Lebanese-Syrian security regime and reiterated his attachment to Lebanon's freedom.
For the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, the name of Samir Kassir, who was born to a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother, is above all synonymous with pan-Arabism and freedom. Kassir, Jumblatt said, had even predicted the Syrian Spring. In his article, "Beirut, spring of the Arabs," the slain journalist wrote that "When the Arab spring starts in Beirut, it will herald the blooming of roses in Damascus."
"Samir Kassir fiercely believed that democracy in Lebanon would be complete only with a free Syria", Jumblatt told L'Orient-Le Jour. "He saw in the 2001 Damascus Spring - a period marked by a degree of political and social openness in Syria, but quickly repressed after Bashar Assad consolidated his power - a serious opportunity for change toward freedom. Thereafter, he was assassinated," Jumblatt added.
Samir Kassir 's memory remains as vivid as ever, and his political and journalistic legacy is once again taking central stage following the protest movement that erupted on October 17.
Many of his companions believe that the Lebanese have now finally understood the primary objective of Kassir’s struggle for a better Lebanon. Like him, they are now convinced that "frustration is not destiny," as he once wrote in one of his articles. Finally, they have heeded his famous call on April 15, 2005 "return to the streets, and you shall return to clarity," which he wrote a few weeks before his assassination.
Our colleague Gisele Khoury, Samir's widow, said the legacy of her late husband remains "one of burning topicality." She recalled that in the overwhelming majority of his articles, Samir Kassir denounced, as protesters do today, "actions reminding of militia rule, corruption, repression of freedoms and the instrumentalization of the security services".
"I see Samir's ideas in several slogans of this popular revolt," Khoury told L'Orient Le Jour. "The country is still managed by the same political class which led Lebanon to a dead end and total collapse. Hence the need to return to Samir Kassir's ideas," she said. Aware that the popular revolt is" the only way of salvation that remains for Lebanon," Khoury called on the protesters to unify their ranks and leadership to achieve their objectives.
An intellectual revolution
Nabil BouMonsef, deputy editor-in-chief of An-Nahar and a colleague of Samir Kassir, said the protest movement must draw up a clear plan and well-defined objectives. "The popular movement needs an intellectual revolution to avoid failure." Speaking to OLJ, he stressed that therein lies the importance of Samir Kassir's thought.
"Toward the end of his life, he was a perfect revolutionary, both in the street and his articles," BouMonsef said. "And he was quick to criticize the March 14 movement a few weeks after its creation, so it adjusts its course and avoids failure."
BouMonsef believes that Samir Kassir would have been much more critical of the October 17 revolt than he had been with March 14 Revolution, since it involves several factions raising political as well as social and economic slogans. “Samir Kassir's concern would have been to allow the social revolt to complement one with a political dimension," he said. "Future generations will continue to read Samir Kassir and will understand that he sacrificed his life for a noble cause."
(This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 3rd of June)