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Mohammad Shaar was ‘not just a number,’ friends and family say
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BEIRUT: Attendants at Mohammad Shaar’s funeral Sunday raised black and yellow placards reading “We are not numbers.” Shaar, a teenager and one of eight killed in Friday’s explosion, was so much more than that, his loved ones said. Shaar died Saturday at the American University of Beirut Medical Center after suffering severe injuries during the car bombing that targeted and killed former Minister Mohammad Shatah Friday morning. His story went viral over the weekend, when a picture circulated on social media of him and three of his friends taken Downtown shortly before the explosion.

Posing for a group selfie, Shaar, along with Omar Bikdash, Rabih Youssef and Ahmad Moghrabi, all secondary students, can be seen meters from the rigged golden Honda CRV that was used in the attack. They were at a park nearby enjoying a sunny Friday morning at the time of the explosion.

More pictures of Shaar were raised high alongside the Lebanese flag at his funeral procession Sunday. Hundreds of young men and women, those who knew him personally and those who didn’t, wept as they converged outside the Khashuqgi Mosque in Beirut’s Qasqas neighborhood amid heavy security and Army deployment.

He wasn’t just a victim, however. This was a young boy whose zest and love of life was snatched from him too soon, his friends and family said.

“Mohammad knew everybody, he loved everyone and he loved life,” said Hassan Jaber, 16, an old friend of Shaar’s. “If someone was feeling down, he would comfort them.”

Friend Ahmad Abboud, teary-eyed and somber, stood nearby and nodded in agreement, muttering, “May God rest his soul.” When asked to describe Shaar, he echoed Jaber’s comments, hardly able to speak.

Shaar’s body was brought to the mosque in an ambulance adorned with mourning wreaths and the young man’s picture on the windows. His coffin was then carried inside, accompanied by loud chants of “God is great” as a few waved the black and white Islamist flag.

Shaar and his three friends were out walking when they were inadvertently caught in the explosion, Jaber said.

“He was very intelligent and very diligent,” Jaber added as he remembered his friend with a smile. “He loved sports and acting.”

Shaar did not deserve to die, he said.

But Jaber’s presence at the funeral was not only out of respect for the young man he knew and loved, but also out of principle. His sentiment seemed to be shared by the many young people who were present but did not know Shaar personally.

“This could have happened to any one of us,” he said, his expression turning serious. “We are paying the price of politics; politicians have wrecked this country.”

Far from the commotion and the crowd, 17-year-old Issam Fattouh preferred to mourn his friend from a distance. Fattouh has known Shaar for well over a year, and was not far from the car bomb himself.

“He was a well-respected person, a very good person,” Fattouh said, calm and reserved. “He helped everyone who needed it.”

Apart from Shaar’s family and friends, a number of activists and young students gathered at the mosque in a show of solidarity with the Muslim Student Association in Beirut, who had asked for large numbers to gather at the funeral through social media sites such as Facebook.

Mohammad Steitieh, president of the association, told The Daily Star they had arranged the “We are not numbers” campaign because “the blood of young men is not cheaper than the blood of the politicians.”

“All martyrs are equal,” he said.

Rasha Shami, clad in black with two friends, offered a similar sentiment. While she did not know Shaar personally, she felt it necessary to be present at the mosque Sunday, regardless of the deteriorating security situation and overall sense of danger, she said.

“I am here in solidarity with Mohammad,” she told The Daily Star as her friend wept next to her.

Her cousin was a good friend of Shaar, she added.

Shaar appeared on many media outlets minutes after the explosion Friday, clad in a red sweatshirt and bleeding on the ground. “I was very moved after I saw him on TV, and I live close by, so I decided to come,” Shami said.

A procession will also be held Monday starting at Hariri High School II at 2 p.m. and ending at the explosion site.

Head of Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya Sheikh Ahmad al-Omari used stirring political rhetoric to incite the crowd with his funeral sermon.

“The Sunni sect’s leaders, symbols and security figures are being targeted by the Baathist regime and Hezbollah,” he said. He told funeral-goers they must be wary of “the party of the devil,” in a blatant reference to Hezbollah. The sheikh is also a staunch supporter of the Syrian opposition.

Also present at the funeral were Mohammad Shatah’s sons, Omar and Rani, Nader Hariri, adviser to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani.

Qabbani was stuck in the mosque for approximately two hours, as many of those present protested his appearance and would not let him leave. A Lebanese Army unit eventually deployed to the area and secured his exit via a tank belonging to the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch.

The relationship between the Future Movement and Grand Mufti Qabbani has been strained since 2011.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri contacted Shaar’s family Saturday and offered his condolences, according to a statement released from his office.

“Hariri believed that the death of Mohammad affected all Lebanese homes and tens of thousands of young men and women who expressed through social networks their solidarity with Mohammad and all the innocent victims who fall every day, killed by the fire of treason and terrorism,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 30, 2013, on page 2.
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