Lebanon: where is the right of anti-Hezbollah History Professor Makram Rabah to freedom of expression and academic freedom?

Before reading this shocking, yet not surprising, story of intimidation in her birth country, Bambi did not know anything about Assistant Professor Makram Rabah from the History and Archaeology Department at the American University of Beirut (https://shorturl.at/gjSZ4)

While reading media articles from Lebanon, in both English (https://shorturl.at/jozAQ ; https://shorturl.at/jrDY0) and French (https://tinyurl.com/xea3sxma), she discovered a highly courageous scholar who does not seem to be afraid of speaking his mind. She also learned that he is a close friend of the late Mr. Lokman Slim, a brilliant political analyst, notoriously anti-Hezbollah, who was cowardly assassinated in February 2021. Bambi has several posts honouring the memory Mr. Slim. Sadly, his murder remains unpunished.

To come back to Professor Rabah, it seems that he recently gave an interview in which he expressed his objection to Lebanon’s involvement in a potential war with Israel and in which he criticized the Hezbollah. He even joked by making a comparison of its drones with “those used at wedding celebrations” (https://shorturl.at/jozAQ).

Following the above interview, the Lebanese General Security (or judicial police) questioned him from 9 AM until “early afternoon” and took him into custody, imagine. He was finally released on bail. His so-called investigators wanted to confiscate his phone. He categorically refused to hand it to them, especially that he may have not had it on him at the time. Bravo to him him for his spine. What a courageous man, especially given the tragic loss of his friend a few years earlier. Good for him for the legal protection during this unpleasant encounter. Indeed, Professor Rabah arrived to his interrogation session with his lawyer Mr. Lou’ai Ghandour.

Related to the above, Bambi read in an article by journalist Claude Assaf, published first in French in L’Orient Le Jour (https://tinyurl.com/xea3sxma) and then in English in L’Orient Today (https://shorturl.at/jozAQ) the following statement by the lawyer in question: “Taking away a citizen’s phone is an infringement of private property,” his lawyer Lou’ai Ghandour told L’Orient-Le Jour. “Makram Rabah was questioned by the General Security for comments he had made in a political interview. The hearing therefore had no connection with his telephone.”

Like any other citizen, Professor Rabah has all the right to publicly express his opposition to war and to criticize the hegemony of any political or military group on his beloved country, including the Hezbollah or its allies.

Enough of intimidation and censorship, regardless of the topic, the messenger, the group in power, and/or the regional context. Lebanese authorities must re-learn to respect academic freedom and freedom of expression. This value must be collectively protected in times of peace as well as war or even fear of a potentially bigger war. Luckily for Professor Rabah, and especially for the hope for freedom, many citizens showed up to support him (https://shorturl.at/jozAQ).

To conclude this post, and as a reminder of the brighter days of Lebanon, Bambi will end with the famous words of the late Pope John Paul II, as reported in and older 961‘s article (https://shorturl.at/hjxSU), “Lebanon is more than a country; it is a message of freedom and an example of pluralism for East and West”.

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