Interpreting death & giving freedom a bad name
Posted by worriedlebanese on 04/11/2009
I just came back from the screening of Marmoulak (the Lizard) at the Samir Kassir Foundation. I didn’t have the time to sit through the whole film and as the subtitles were hard to decipher (white on white), I let my mind drift around the room and the event.
Why on earth did the Samir Kassir Foundation choose to screen this film? Is it because it was censored? Is it because it is Iranian? Is it because it is critical of the Iranian regime? I think all three reasons are equally true. The Samir Kassir Foundation is quite clear about its political orientation. It is unabashedly March XIV and follows this camp’s political and geopolitical stands and views. So you’re sure to hear more criticism of the Syrian, Hamas and Iranian regime than the Saudi, Fatah or Egyptian regime.
I was sitting in the main room. On my left there was a wall with some 12 pictures of assassinated journalists on it, each “martyr” featured twice: Kamal Mroueh, Michel Seurat, Samir Kassir, Gibran Tueni, Salim al-Lawzé and probably Riad Taha. By putting the word martyr between quotes, I don’t mean to downplay the tragedy of these journalists’ death. My point is to stress that this appellation has political implications and that it indicates a specific interpretation of their deaths.
I’ve never quite understood how the death of some people could be paraded in a country like Lebanon where life has very little value to start with and violent death is not an uncommon occurrence. In 1958, a civil war brought about the death of over 2000 Lebanese citizens, most of them civilians. Between 1975 and 1990, over 200 000 Lebanese perished in the civil war, most of them civilians. In 2006, over a 1000 Lebanese were killed by war acts, most of them civilians. In 2008, over a hundred people were killed in less than 10 days, many of them were civilians.
So what makes the death of a few people significant enough to distinguish them from the lot, to remember their name, to commemorate their death and to give it a personal meaning that elevates them to the rank of role models, heroes? For the innocent civilians that were killed by armies and militias, they are only remembered collectively as victims of the brutality of war. For the journalists that were targeted, their death is interpreted as saying as much about them as it says about their perpetrator.