BEIRUT — During a short three-day visit to Lebanon former Prime Minister and leader of the Future Movement Saad Hariri will commemorate the 18th anniversary of the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. This year the commemoration takes place far from the political tumult.
وصل مساء الأحد, رئيس الحكومة الأسبق #سعد_الحريري، إلى بيروت.— Nancy Lakiss?? نانسي اللقيس ?? (@lakiss_nancy) February 13, 2023
وفور وصوله توجّه الحريري، إلى ضريح والده الرئيس الشهيد رفيق الحريري في العاصمة, وسط تدابير أمنية مشدّدة.
وتأتي هذه الزيارة للحريري استعدادًا لإحياء ذكرى استشهاد والده الرئيس الشهيد #رفيق_الحريري ليوم الغد pic.twitter.com/tdf2iTWXWb
Settled in the United Arab Emirates since he withdrew from politics in January 2022, the Sunni leader returned to Beirut on Sunday evening and hurried to pay his respects, in silence, before his father's grave in Downtown Beirut, where security forces were heavily deployed.
According to a source close to the Future Movement interviewed by L'Orient-Le Jour, Hariri's silence is "revealing."
"Hariri's stay will not exceed three days. The former prime minister, who is currently at Beit al-Wasat [the Future Movement's headquarters in Beirut], will hold meetings with political leaders, religious dignitaries and executives of his party," the source explained.
The source added that the former premier "will pay his respects again on Tuesday at 12:55 p.m. in front of the grave of his father in Downtown Beirut — the time of his assassination in 2005."
Subsequently, the party's headquarters "will be open to all those who wish to meet him," the source continued, assuring that "Saad Hariri will not hold speeches and will not take political positions."
"The stage is silent, but this silence is revealing," the source concluded.
Until 2020, the annual commemoration of Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in a car bombing on Feb. 14, 2005, was an opportunity for Saad Hariri to gather his supporters and his party for a large event during which he would deliver political speeches.
No such commemoration will take place on Tuesday.
The absence of a large-scale commemoration did not prevent supporters of the family from starting to mobilize on Monday to pay tribute to Rafik Hariri.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the former prime minister and former MPs of the Future Movement paid their respects in front of the mausoleum of the assassinated prime minister in Downtown Beirut.
MPs from the National Moderation parliamentary group — many of them either former members of or individuals close to the Future Movement who distanced themselves from the party to run in parliamentary elections last May following Saad Hariri's instruction for the party to boycott the polls — also paid their respects.
In Saida, South Lebanon, signs with portraits of Rafik Hariri were posted in several parts of the city, according to a L'Orient Today reporter in the area.
'Front of the Arab world'
Several dignitaries and politicians also spoke on the occasion of the Feb. 14 commemoration. Former Prime Minister Tammam Salam praised the "national achievements" of Rafic Hariri and the fact that he "established solid Arab, regional and international relations in the interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese."
The Mufti of the Republic Abdel Latif Derian, for his part, said that Rafik Hariri "remains alive thanks to what he accomplished to restore the foundations and rules of national unity."
He built bridges of cooperation with brotherly Arab countries and friendly countries. He was the face of Lebanon in the Arab world, and the face of the Arab world in the world, both in the East and in the West," he stressed.
The commemoration of Feb. 14, a public holiday in Lebanon, comes as Saad Hariri still appears to be shunned by regional Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which has yet to give him a green light for a political comeback.
Having been pushed off the political stage, particularly following his failure to form a government in July 2021, Hariri left Lebanon to settle in the United Arab Emirates, where he has turned to business.
His party, the Future Movement, has become a political dying breed, devoid of leadership and torn apart by rivalries among members of his inner circle.
His older brother, Bahaa, who founded another political party, was defeated in the May 2022 legislative elections, in which the Future Movement did not participate.
In 2022, after Saad Hariri announced his retirement from politics, supporters gathered in Beirut to pay tribute to the memory of Rafik Hariri, as did several officials and politicians, including Mikati; Walid Joumblatt and his son, MP Taymour Jumblatt; and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Rafik Hariri was killed with 21 others in an explosion in Beirut in 2005.
Explosives equivalent to about 1,000 kilograms of TNT were detonated as his motorcade drove by the St. George Hotel. Among the dead were several of his bodyguards and former Economy Minister Bassel Fleihan. Rafik Hariri had been part of the anti-Syrian opposition in Lebanon.
His assassination sparked the Cedar Revolution, a popular movement that forced Syria to withdraw all its troops from Lebanon in April 2005. The assassination also led the United Nations to set up the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) to investigate the murder. Last year, the STL sentenced two alleged Hezbollah members, in absentia, to several life sentences in the case.
Additional reporting by Muntasser Abdallah
BEIRUT — During a short three-day visit to Lebanon former Prime Minister and leader of the Future Movement Saad Hariri will commemorate the 18th anniversary of the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. This year the commemoration takes place far from the political tumult.وصل مساء الأحد, رئيس الحكومة الأسبق #سعد_الحريري، إلى...