BEIRUT: Lebanon’s first post-independence Prime Minister Riad al-Solh was commemorated Thursday during the launching of the biographical book “Riad el-Solh and the Struggle for Arab Independence.”
The book was written by British journalist and writer Patrick Seale and was published under the patronage of the Al-Waleed bin Talal Foundation during a celebration at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beirut. The book was published in Arabic, English and French.
“The book celebrates the life of a great man, one of the greatest Lebanon has ever seen. He is the Arab statesman of the first half of the 20th century,” said Seale during the ceremony, referring to Solh.
Seale dedicated the book to Solh’s late daughter Alia al-Solh, whom he met during his studies at Oxford University. In it, he stressed, Solh’s fight against Western imperialism, his love for democracy and freedom of the press, and the importance he gave to the Parliament and to Lebanon’s relations with Syria. “It tackles the period when most Arab countries were born in the Middle East,” he said.
Solh was born in 1894 in the southern coastal city of Sidon and studied law and political science at the Sorbonne University. He was later imprisoned along with Lebanon’s first post-independence president Beshara Khoury at Rashaya Citadel in 1943. Lebanon gained its independence from the French Mandate that year, thanks to the struggle of Solh and his companions.
However, Solh was assassinated in 1951 in Amman during a visit to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah.
During the launch of the book, Seale alluded to the possibility of Arab or British involvement in the assassination of Solh. He noted that he did not have full access to British archives but that the book offered new information. “I tried to be very honest in the book and not turn it into propaganda,” he said.
A memorial statue representing a bust of Solh was revealed during the gathering and was donated by the late prime minister’s friend, Zuheir Osseiran.
Solh’s daughter, former Minister Leila al-Solh Hamade, delivered an address in which she stressed the need to take action to save Lebanon. “This book is not a call to turn the clock back, to remember history or to immortalize heroes – it’s a wake-up call after a long disregard for the cause of what is now a fragile nation,” she said.
Ghassan Shbaro, on behalf of Arab Scientific Publishers, said the book was an opportunity to introduce the younger generation to Solh, the father of independence, and to revive the nation’s memory.