Around a hundred activists rallied in downtown Beirut on Saturday to protest the killing of prominent Hezbollah critic Luqman Salim and to demand a transparent investigation.
Salim, a Shia publisher in his late fifties, ran a research centre, made documentaries with his wife and led efforts to build an archive on Lebanon’s 1975-1990 sectarian civil war.
He was a vocal critic of what he described as armed group Hezbollah’s intimidation tactics and attempts to monopolise Lebanese politics.
He was shot dead and found in his car on Thursday in south Lebanon – the first killing of a high-profile activist in years.
Salim had gone missing the night before. He had four bullets in his head and one in his back.
On Saturday morning Salim’s wife, Monika Borgmann, tweeted for the first time since his death, sharing a two-word banner with a black background that said “zero fear” in Arabic. The same two words appeared on a banner at the protest where activists blamed the Iranian-backed Shia Hezbollah for the killing.
“If Hezbollah is really innocent of this crime or refuses it and condemns it, then they have to help the security apparatus and Lebanese judicial authorities especially that Luqman Salim was killed in their area of security influence,” said one of the protesters, Youssef Diab.
“If that doesn’t happen then they are still suspects.”
Hezbollah condemned the killing on Thursday, which Lebanese officials, including the president, called an assassination.
“We will not kill him again with our silence,” said one demonstrator who gave her name as Nelly. “My one fear is that people will be scared and remain silent, then Lebanon will be in danger.”
The assassination of Salim comes shortly after the murder of photographer Joseph Bejjani in front of his home in the city of Kahala. No official discoveries have yet been announced by investigators regarding Bejjani’s murder.
Journalists and activists gather to protest against killing of Luqman Salim, a Shia activist who criticised Hezbollah, in Beirut, Lebanon on February 6, 2021 [Wassim Samih Seifeddine / Anadolu Agency]
Salim’s family said that he disappeared overnight, while his wife posted on Twitter that he was not answering his phone. A relative of Salim’s explained that the family first heard about his death on the news, while they were at the police station to report his disappearance.
Rasha Salim announced in a tweet: “My brother Luqman Salim left Niha in the south governorate six hours ago to return to Beirut, but he has not shown up. He is not answering his phone, and we could not find him in any hospital. I will be grateful if anyone who knows anything about him reaches out to me.” She posted again: “We have found my brother’s phone in Niha, near Muhammad Al-Amin’s house, but there is no trace of him or his car,” asking: “Where is Luqman?”
Salim had warned the Lebanese security forces, before and after the 17 October Revolution, that he had been harassed in the Haret Hreik neighbourhood where he lives, and sent a letter asking the security forces for protection.
The letter stated: “For the second time in 48 hours, I have been threatened and terrorised from night to night by the bats of darkness who seek to violate the privacy of my family house in Haret Hreik, knowing that the offices of the UMAM Documentation & Research and Dar Al-Jadeed are also located in the aforementioned area.”
The victim stressed that he was accused of betrayal and verbally abused, adding that threats and accusations of betrayal were written on the fence and entrances to his house.
He expressed in the same letter: “In the case of any verbal or physical assault that may subsequently affect me, my house, my family residence, any member of my family or any inhabitant of the residence, I hold, thereof, with this statement the security forces represented by Mr Hassan Nasrallah and Mr Nabih Berri fully responsible for what has happened in the past, and what may happen in the future, and I entrust the protection of myself, my family and my house to the Lebanese security forces, led by the Lebanese army.”
The National Civil Front earlier confirmed that: “The disappearance of writer and political activist Luqman Salim, in an area known to be under the influence of Hezbollah, and finding his phone in Niha, are very dangerous indications that a decision has been made to attack and silence all voices opposing the seizure of Lebanon’s sovereignty.”