A Missing Prime Minister May be the Antihero of Beirut’s Marathon

It was rebuilt, controversially, as a good playground for the wealthy, under Rafik Hariri, a good ex – prime minister who symbolized unity for some and corruption to others. The race eventually ends up at Mr. Hariri’s tomb; he was killed in 2005 in a bombing that roughly fifty percent the country blames on the powerful militia and political party Hezbollah, and the other half insists was a setup.


Yet at this year’s races, about Sunday, the vision of unity carried new excess weight. The reason why was a astonishing one: a call for the return of Prime Minister Saad Hariri – Rafik’s boy – from Saudi Arabia. He’s forget about a universally beloved figure than his father was.

But it was the eighth working day since he unexpectedly declared his resignation from the Saudi capital, Riyadh. He remains stranded there, extensively regarded as a captive, practically or figuratively, of his Saudi patrons, a pawn within their initiatives to isolate their regional rival, Iran, and its ally, Hezbollah. (He insisted he was “free” in a televised interview.)

When Lebanese politicians declared the marathon a rally for Mr. Hariri’s come back, I predicted mass rolling of eye. An axiom of marathon working day is that it is a time to set aside politics. However when young men handed out baseball caps studying, “We want our PM back,” various runners put them on.

Billboards showed Mr. Hariri jogging in last year’s competition with the slogans, “We all have been waiting for you” and “Running For You.” People snapped selfies with them. Other indicators displayed an Arabic hashtag, #WeAreAllSaad.

It was not that people had forgotten that Mr. Hariri presides over a weak government and has didn’t gain concessions from Hezbollah through confrontation or compromise. Nor possessed they abandoned the widespread conviction that he and his rivals take up on sectarian divisions to preserve power and wealth concentrated in the hands of a little, largely hereditary political elite.

It was just that enough was more than enough. Generations of international meddling aside, the belief that another country had successfully kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister was the previous straw, and people wanted to see the maneuver backfire. As you commenter wear it Twitter, Lebanon was sick and tired of outside powers acting like it was “not a real place.”

Somehow, a humiliating point in time for Lebanon became a celebration for national unity, even pride.

Lebanon’s most earnest slogans are often their own parodies. An ideal example is the hashtag #LiveLoveLebanon, developed by the Ministry of Tourism.


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Lebanese social media users quickly embraced it to touch upon the country’s beaches (and their scent of sewage), its ski slopes (and mountainside garbage dumps), its wine industry (and hash factories), its swanky (and overcharging) restaurants and its cedar forests (what’s kept of these) dating to the Song of Solomon.

The hashtag can be used in posts about the country’s resilience and diversity when confronted with efforts to divide it from within and without, and also to tag anecdotes about petty corruption and glacial internet speeds.

#WeAreAllSaad is much the same. By classification, politically divided Lebanon is not all Saad.

Even to his largely Sunni constituents, Mr. Hariri has never matched his father’s charisma or effectiveness. One telling picture, a faded poster on a highway in the Bekaa Valley, displays him dwarfed by a translucent likeness of his father, a more imposing figure with a more regal mustache, looming behind him.

It reminds me of Patrick Swayze’s spirit in the film “Ghost,” hovering vaporously behind Demi Moore at her potter’s wheel.

Yet the reality that Mr. Hariri’s current predicament is seen by various Lebanese as somehow pathetic hasn’t stopped him from learning to be a symbol of Lebanese sovereignty. Possibly the flood of fresh jokes at his expenditure usually do not contradict the point.


Anglophone Lebanese cannot stop taking part in on “Saad” and “sad.” Journalists possess drawn half-joking parallels to the disappearance of Moussa Sadr, the Lebanese Shiite innovator who disappeared in Libya, believed kidnapped, in 1976.

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After our race, my personal daughter and I followed most friends, fellow runners, to a cafe at Zaitounay Bay, a seaside development where dozens of gleaming, hardly ever used yachts are anchored. It is merely the kind of glitzy privatization of public space that gets both celebrated and lampooned with the #LiveLoveLebanon hashtag, and an emblem of angst over the elder Hariri’s redevelopment strategy.

Our friend Imad Shehadi, who was raised watching his father function an emergency room in wartime Beirut and is no supporter of politicians, explained over breakfast why the marathon meant more this year.

“It’s a mark of defiance against the forces of evil, against the forces on every aspect that want to hinder Lebanon,” he said.

“If you ask me it’s more resilience,” his wife, Carla, stated. “The resilience of Lebanon and the Lebanese, who just want to live life, regardless of what.”

We strolled home along the boardwalk, their males and my girl stopping to admire a lavish boat christened “Thanx Father 4.” We approved the location where Rafik Hariri’s motorcade was blown up. We implemented the marathon path along the seaside corniche, past snack bars and fishermen and picnicking families, toward where the American Embassy stood before it had been bombed in 1982.

The racecourse went past several civil war massacre sites and refugee camps and the vibrant neighborhoods that cluster at either end of a city no longer physically divided. Waiters at our favorite cafe, exiles from today’s war in Syria, high-fived passing runners. Near the finish brand, a booth presented manicures to a subset of joggers in sequined velour.

The marathon winner set a course record, and a blind man finished the course for the first time. Ultimately, 47,000 people took part. It was another Beirut record.

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