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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Ghazi Aad: A Rare and True Hero


 Ghazi Aad passed away this morning after suffering a heart attack and complications from it.

I knew Ghazi in the late 1970s, early 1980s as a fellow AUB student, and I would tease him by pronouncing his name in the manner of people from the north (A is pronounced as O), itself a relic of our Aramaic past: Ghozi 3od.

Then the war displaced us to far flung corners of the world, and then many years later I saw his name somewhere in the late 1990s or early 2000s as a founder of SOLIDE (Support of Lebanese In Detention and Exile). Together with the France-based sister organization SOLIDA, he raised Lebanon's consciousness about the country's lost, disappeared and imprisoned innocent people who were snatched by the Syrian occupation and its local collaborators and allies, often for no reason at all other than take them to Syria's prisons and use them for years to extort their families for money and bribes. Ghazi (now in a wheelchair following a road accident) and others began the tedious work of recording each disappeared person's circumstances from interviews, witness accounts, and also from those lucky few who made it back from Syria, released by the regime of the butcher Assad in the same vulgar and ordinary way as it kidnapped them. I am proud to have contributed to that process of recording the facts, in the hope that justice will be served one day.



Thanks to Ghazi and his associates, we now know there are 17,000 estimated people who were made to disappear and were never accounted for. Ghazi organized the families to hold a permanent sit-in in front of the UN offices in downtown Beirut because the UN is more interested, for example, in rebuilding the Palestinian camp of Nahr El-Bared than in helping to account for all these people.The UN, the EU, successive Lebanese governments and others have encouraged the Lebanese to engage in amnesia and not look back at the ugly past of their country, for fear that talking about the past might resurrect the ugliness. Somehow the conventional wisdom of talking about the past as a way of healing the present, reconciling, and preventing future wars and barbarity does not apply to Lebanon.

With Ghazi, the saying that no cause dies if someone calls for it has proven true. Even if we only talk about the disappeared, and rarely do anything about it, at least their cause is alive. His fight was peaceful. His cause was Ghandiesque because he fought it from a strictly moral standpoint. He had no militias. He had no political bosses. He had only a just cause on his side. And that is where his greatness is. His journey is a very rare one in a Lebanon that is a hotbed of machismo, violence, and cruelty that the Lebanese seem to enjoy inflicting on one another. In a small but significant way, Ghazi managed to overcome the filth and declare civility as a force to reckon with. Rare indeed.

Thank you, Ghazi. You were a friend of mine, and better yet, you were a hero to many of us.




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