Beirut
The assassination of Hariri

On February 14 last year, former prime minister Rafik Hariri died in a massive carbomb explosion just around the corner of the Corniche boulevard, in the wealthy hotel district of Beirut. A self-made billionnaire in construction works, owning among others the company that rebuilt large parts of the historical city centre, Hariri had been prime minister of Lebanon from 1992 to 1998 and from 2000 to 2004. The country was in shock: accusations went out immediately to the Syrian Baath-regime of president Assad, which still controlled the main political decisions in Lebanon, keeping a tight grip on the military and the secret police. Hariri had been warned by Assad to give up his protests against the Syrian-appointed president Lahoud.

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In the Independent, later that year, Robert Fisk recalled the blast: "How many months ago was it - just 10, I think, when I was walking along Beirut's seafront corniche opposite my favourite restaurant, the Spaghetteria, talking on my mobile phone to my old friend Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad, when a white band of light approached at fearsome speed like a giant bandage along the Beirut promenade. The palm trees all dipped towards me as if hit by a tornado and I saw people fall to the ground. A window of the restaurant splintered and disappeared inside and in front of me, perhaps only 400 metres away, dark brown fingers of smoke streaked towards the sky. The blast wave was followed by an explosion so thunderous that it partially deafened me. I could just hear Patrick "Is that here or there?" he asked. "I'm afraid it's here, Patrick," I said. I could have wept. Beirut was my home." A month after the killing, two million people gathered for a mass demonstration in Martyr's Square, the vast wasteland that remained of the wartime demarcation line cutting the city in half. Shouting for democracy and independence, the demonstrations resulted in the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country. Since then, Lebanon has reached a level of sovereignty but still suffers from foreign meddling. The Syrian regime, still under inspection for being accomplice to the Hariri killing, has since been suspected in setting up a series of political assassinations which have kept the city tense and its main politicians confined to their quarters, moving around only under heavy security. On a wooden fence lining one of the many construction sites alongside Martyr's Square, I shot a video of a long series of enlarged photographs of the demonstrations, the waves of Lebanese flags and the portrait of Hariri. Even when just scanning the masses with a camera, almost a year later, the tension and the excitement are palpable.
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