Beirut grinds to a standstill in honour of Hariri's memory - Middle East - World - The Independent

Beirut grinds to a standstill in honour of Hariri's memory

Hundreds of thousands protest on fifth anniversary of prime minister's murder

As one Lebanese journalist put it, they had "water in their mouths". Oh yes they did. Much water. Former prime minister Fouad Siniora spoke of the need for good relations with Syria. Saad Hariri, Lebanon's Prime Minister, who in December made his own grim pilgrimage to Damascus to shake the hand of the President whose country he believes (or believed) killed his father, talked about Arab reconciliation. Statesmanship overwhelmed judicial guilt. National unity came first. Five years after Rafiq Hariri, Saad's father, was butchered in Beirut, the people of Lebanon were asked to be responsible (politically, not culpable, mark you). No violence, please. No accusations against Syria. The gathering in central Beirut – perhaps 100,000 – was obedient, submissive and law-abiding.

Some of the crowd chanted "haqiqa" – the truth – but few believe they will ever hear it. A vast UN tribunal costing millions of pounds and loaded with judges and lawyers and policemen has failed to charge a single person. Set up in the former headquarters of the Dutch secret police, its only achievement is to have named some Syrian officials, then censored their names and then withdrawn charges against a witness who turned out to be a fraud. And four top security men have been released after years in jail without trial. "Haqiqa" indeed.

With unconscious irony, Beirut's soldiers roped off a large network of roads with yellow tape marked "crime scene". And that is what, in effect, Beirut has become; a vast crime scene, a place of statues and pictures of political and journalistic martyrs whose deaths and murders have never – not one of them – ever been solved. Yet today, Sister Syria – once so reviled as the principle suspect in Hariri's murder (and hosts of others) – is smiling again, back on Washington's happy list – a new American ambassador is about to be appointed to Damascus – because the US needs President Bashar Assad's help to disentangle it from the mess in Iraq. President Barack Obama telephoned Rafiq Hariri's son last week to assure him that he wanted the UN tribunal to succeed. Some hope.

Hizbollah, armed by Iran, friend of Syria, represented in the Lebanese cabinet, holding a veto over all government decisions, was not present. Hence the absence of the Shias, Lebanon's largest minority. Hence the failure of the body politic of Lebanon. Sister Syria still controls this little country. Even the Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, daily waiting for a call from Damascus to redeem himself, would only appear as a private mourner at the white-lilied grave of Rafiq, clasping his hands beside Saad Hariri. Only five years ago, he was talking about "the terrorist tyrant Basil Assad", but that was then. Lebanon is as forgiving as it is unforgiving. Amin Gemayel (father of Pierre, done to death by a hand unknown in 2006) spoke and so did Samir Geagea, who has blood on his hands.

"You crazy guys from Bcharre and the cedars, welcome!" shouted the cheerful master of ceremonies. "You crazy guys from Tripoli, from Metn, from Kesrwan, from Beirut. " But he did not mention the Shia towns and cities. Because they were not there.

And as Saad Hariri, the Prime Minister, blew kisses to us, a loudspeaker suddenly broadcast his dead father's voice, speaking – in English – of his pride in the UN, the very institution that has so miserably failed to find his murderers.

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week