Lebanon News

Tensions high in Sidon after Hariri posters torn down

A torn banner depicting former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is seen in Sidon, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: Tension ran high in the southern coastal city of Sidon Monday after posters and banners to mark the ninth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination were torn down by unidentified men.

Police have launched an investigation into the overnight incident that angered many of the city’s residents and are searching for the perpetrators.

A senior official of the Future Movement in south Lebanon said the removal of the posters was aimed at fueling tension in Sidon, where the Hariri family enjoys wide support.

As part of preparations to mark the passing of nine years since Hariri’s killing, placards and posters were hung at the Murjan roundabout and the Eliyya intersection in central Sidon, featuring some of the slain leader’s most popular slogans.

Hariri, who hails from Sidon, was killed along with 21 others in a massive suicide truck bombing in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005.

One of the placards read: “In memory of your martyrdom ... Sidon renews its pledge to remain faithful to the Constitution and the Taif Accord.”

“[Former] Prime Minister Rafik Hariri worked for all of Lebanon, for the sake of the nation, and was martyred for the sake of its dignity and independence,” another banner read.

Posters of Hariri’s son, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, his sister, Sidon MP Bahia Hariri, and the Future Movement’s Secretary-General Ahmad Hariri were also on display.

Nasser Hammoud, the Future Movement’s coordinator in south Lebanon, said the tearing down of the posters was designed to stoke tensions in Sidon, adding that the party had filed a lawsuit in absentia against the unidentified perpetrators. He said the posters and banners had been replaced with new ones.

“It is a very important anniversary for us because this year it coincides with the start of the trials at The Hague,” Hammoud told The Daily Star. He was referring to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon trials that began in The Hague last month of four Hezbollah members indicted for Hariri’s assassination.

“It is worth noting that the level of hatred in the hearts of those who committed such heinous acts has reached the point where they can’t even bear seeing pictures of the martyred [former] prime minister who they fear both in life and death,” Hammoud said.

“Our message to those who carried out these acts is that Rafik Hariri means moderation, the unity of the Lebanese and the progress of Lebanon,” he added.

Sidon Mayor Mohammad Saudi also condemned the incident, saying the city’s notables stood united in the face of what he said were attempts to incite strife.

The incident was also condemned by the Nasserite Popular Organization led by Sidon’s former MP Osama Saad, a political rival of the Future Movement. “This incident and other similar ones indicate that some residents are hostile to the freedom of expression,” the group said in a statement.

Sidon’s municipality and the Future Movement are planning to hold a series of cultural, educational and social events to commemorate Hariri’s killing.

The commemoration of his assassination will also coincide with special events to mark the 29th anniversary of Sidon’s liberation from Israeli occupation on Feb. 16, 1985.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 11, 2014, on page 4.




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