BEIRUT, Lebanon – Weeping and cursing Syria, tens of thousands of Lebanese spilled into the streets of Beirut on Wednesday as a funeral march for publisher and politician Gibran Tueni turned into a livid political protest.
A 48-year-old Christian and prominent newspaper magnate, Tueni was assassinated in a bombing Monday morning as he was being driven to work. A columnist who served up scathing criticisms of Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs back in the days when many Lebanese still tiptoed around the taboo of speaking out against Damascus, Tueni is the fourth anti-Syria figure to be killed this year.
“I call on this occasion not for revenge or hatred but for us to bury with Gibran all our hatreds,” Ghassan Tueni, a journalist and father of the slain lawmaker, told reporters at the Greek Orthodox church where his son was buried. “To call on all Lebanese, Muslims and Christians, to unite in the service of the great Lebanon.”
Gibran Tueni’s death provoked a fresh wave of revulsion and despair in Lebanon, along with a growing sense of helplessness to prevent a steady series of killings and bombings. The February assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri still hasn’t been solved, but many Lebanese insist Syria is to blame for his death. They also accuse Syria of orchestrating more than a dozen bombings, assassinations and near-misses that followed Hariri’s slaying.
Syrian forces entered Lebanon during the country’s 1975-90 civil war and remained in control after the fighting stopped. The Syrian-dominated power structure collapsed when local rage and fierce international ire stirred by Hariri’s death forced Damascus to withdraw its soldiers and at least some of its intelligence agents from Lebanon during the spring.
But despite the disappearance of visible Syrian power, many Lebanese still complain that Damascus has kept a grip on the country through undercover intelligence agents and Lebanese allies.
“The equation is clear,” Lebanese lawmaker Akram Shehayeb said Wednesday during a special session of parliament called to honor Tueni. “He who gives orders is in Damascus. The executioner is here in Beirut.”