Oh, the city of my childhood and youth, the city of religious monuments, cafés, marketplaces, colleges, cultural and tourism facilities. The city of mosques and churches, a mixture of all religions and cultures. The city of natural landmarks and traditional heritage professions. The renowned city is known since the dawn of history.
I’m referring to Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city after Beirut, which used to be known for its culture, art, and civilisation. From its port, the Phoenician ships loaded with trade and unbiased to other nations used to set off for the rest of the world, teaching peace and coexistence.
A few days ago several city residents drowned in this sea in a boat accident that was intended to transport them from a living hell to prosperity. Unfortunately, the boat sank, killing children and their dreams. Their bodies floated to the surface before being dragged away by the Lebanese army.
Whether the army was wrong in chasing the boat or not, everyone on board was aware that it was heading into the unknown. They knew that Europe, which they aspired to reach, was no longer a welcoming and kind place, and that coastguards in Greece, Italy, and elsewhere would go out to attack any remaining lucky ships that may approach its shores. Even so, they were willing to take their chances.
Following this accident, I called several family members and friends in Tripoli, but they didn’t pay much attention to the matter. The reason is that Tripoli has become a lifeless city, filled with political conflicts and turmoil, in addition to significant levels of poverty.
I realised that the victims were tired of living without dignity and maybe they were searching for release in death. My friends informed me that the situation in Tripoli is the same as it is across Lebanon, a sick and dying country.
The miseries and tragedies that Lebanon is suffering are caused by poverty and hunger. Ali bin Abi Talib, may God bless him, once said, “If poverty were a man, I would murder him.”
However, when the Lebanese were unable to find work and marched in the streets to demand food and dignity, they found no one to protest against, neither the authorities nor the government, because Lebanon is no longer a functioning state.
It will be just like any other catastrophe that strikes Lebanon, everyone will blame everyone else. Discussion and conflict will be sparked, not to find answers or prevent such incidents, but rather to crush opponents and achieve political advantage, even if it means putting people’s lives in danger.
By the way, what is the status of the investigation into the disaster of the explosion that happened in Beirut’s port in August of 2020, killing 218 people, injuring 7,000 others, and causing massive devastation in the city? What about Salim Ayyash, who was eventually sentenced to death by the International Criminal Court for the assassination of martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others? Whatever the crime, Lebanon has already become a country of impunity.
I am distressed by the status of my country, as politicians continue to gamble with people’s lives. Every time I speak with a Lebanese politician, he tells me that there is nothing that can be done. In truth, I don’t hold Prime Minister Najib Mikati responsible. I’ve known the man since we were both students at the International School, and I know how much he loves Lebanon, and I realise that he is making great efforts to preserve the minimum form of the state and its legitimacy.
Lebanon is about to have new parliamentary elections, the results of which cannot be trusted. There is, however, a glimmer of optimism that the radicals’ grip on the House of Representatives may be loosened in exchange for more possibilities for enlightened technocrats striving to repair relationships with brotherly nations, notably Saudi Arabia.
Today’s aim is for a parliament to elect a new, powerful, and courageous president for Lebanon. Someone who would seek to ban illegal weapons while also serving as president of all Lebanese. He should fully recognise that sectarian forces, chaos, and conflicts are not in Lebanon’s best interests. He must set out to restore a free Arabic Lebanon that once radiated culture and civilisation to the rest of the globe.
* Mr Miknas is chairman of the board of directors of Promoseven Group Holdings