quotes The weapon of political assassination in the Middle East

11 July 2021
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Updated 11 July 2021

The weapon of political assassination in the Middle East

I was heading from my house in Dubai toward Tilal when I called my friend, Iraqi researcher Hisham Al-Hashimi, to chat and laugh as usual. He told me he had an appointment and that he would call me back after he finished his work.
As soon as I arrived at the cafe and took out my laptop to start writing, I received a WhatsApp message informing me of the death of my friend Al-Hashimi by a group of gunmen in front of his house on July 6, 2020. I was in shock, and I would be for a long time. How dared these killers shoot a national figure known for his reasoning, dialogue and good relations with people from various religious sects and schools of thought, a Sufi spiritual man who believed in God’s mercy?
In February 2021, another close friend of mine was assassinated by a group of gunmen while he on his way back from a friend’s house in southern Lebanon. My relationship with Lebanese writer and publisher Luqman Salim went as far back as 2004. I visited him regularly in his home in the southern suburbs of Beirut, and he would often receive groups of intellectuals and activists who freely discussed various political and religious ideas.
In 2017, gunmen shot also engineer Nabih Al-Ibrahim in Qatif, in the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia, after his family home in Al-Awamiya was attacked more than once.
Fortunately for Al-Ibrahim, he survived the assassination and was taken to the hospital where he was treated. He then went to the US to complete his treatment and was appointed to the Saudi Shoura Council in 2020.
Al-Ibrahim is also a friend of mine. We always got together on public occasions and in the council of my uncle Hassan Al-Awami, who was one of the national figures of Qatif, when Al-Ibrahim used to visit him to chat about public affairs.

The judiciary is influenced by parties, sectarian quotas, financial and administrative corruption and the presence of armed militias — all factors that prevent justice from being carried out in Iraq and Lebanon and that only encourage armed groups to continue using assassination as a weapon to scare their opponents.

Hassan Al-Mustafa

Three friends of mine were thus subject to terrorist acts — two of them died, and the perpetrators have still not been arrested.
Al-Ibrahim, who survived the attack, was fortunate to be living in a country whose security apparatus monitors and tracks outlaws and whose political leadership appreciates national figures who work toward stability and development. Al-Ibrahim’s appointment to the Shoura Council came mainly as a tribute to him, as a message to the terrorists that intimidating national voices will not work and that the state will protect its citizens and prosecute the perpetrators. That is where the advantage of the Kingdom’s regime lies: It is stable and strong, and it works to reform its structure on an ongoing basis, protecting brave voices and deterring fundamentalists.
There is no strong central authority in Iraq and Lebanon, where my two friends Al-Hashimi and Salim were assassinated, and their security forces often lack the ability to track down and prosecute killers. Their systems are often breached by individuals with fleeting loyalties, who in reality consider the state to be just a device from which they can benefit financially and politically while taking orders from their partisan or sectarian leaders.
The judiciary is influenced by parties, sectarian quotas, financial and administrative corruption and the presence of armed militias — all factors that prevent justice from being carried out in Iraq and Lebanon and that only encourage armed groups to continue using assassination as a weapon to scare their opponents.
According to information I gathered from Iraqi sources who are following up on the assassination of Al-Hashimi, Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is keen on finding the killers, especially since Al-Hashimi was his adviser, a close friend, and one of the few individuals who worked with him openly and directly. Al-Kadhimi also knows that Al-Hashimi was assassinated because he was close to him and that the operation was directed primarily at Al-Kadhimi to stop his efforts to suppress armed militias.
Justice will be difficult to achieve as, according to the information I received, the killers have fled Iraq and are most likely in one of three countries: Iran, Syria, or Lebanon. Bringing them back would require a strong diplomatic and intelligence effort. However, if Al-Kadhimi wants the Iraqi state to be respected, he must fulfill his promises and arrest the groups that assassinate journalists and activists, and their trials should be open and transparent.

• Hassan Al-Mustafa is a Saudi writer and researcher interested in Islamic movements, the development of religious discourse, and the relationship between the Gulf Cooperation Council states and Iran. Twitter: @Halmustafa