Dr. Naji E. Hayek: "The Syrians controlled everything"
Dr. Naji E. Hayek is a former member of the Tigers Militia and an activist for a free, independent Lebanon. He spoke recently with Manuela Paraipan of WSN.
WSN: Dr. Naji, when did you become actively involved in the military and political life of Lebanon?
Dr. Naji E. Hayek During the war I was a member of the National Liberal Party and a member of the Tigers militia. At some point, the Christian militias joined under the banner of the Lebanese Forces. Many things happened in the 80s and I ended my association with the Lebanese Forces.
WSN: What are your memories of the civil war period?
Dr. Naji E. Hayek I remember how the Syrians used to bomb us every night. Then in 1989 when General Aoun launched the war or on liberation, I like many others joined the Lebanese army branch for volunteers. We fought the war on liberation. In 1990, the Syrians attacked us even more brutally and they kicked General Aoun out of the presidential palace. For me, General Aoun is still the constitutional head of the country, even if his government was a transition one.
The Syrians may withdraw now, but they have done a lot of damage. They have stolen our money, our profits, killed and kidnapped many people and killed our presidents. They have harmed us at all possible levels.
WSN: Did the Syrians differentiate between Christians and Muslims?
Dr. Naji E. Hayek At first, they mainly targeted the Christians, but eventually they badly hurt the Muslims as well. For the Christians, the Syrians are as bad as the Israelis. For me, they are even worse. Syria is not a sister country. The Syrians used to bomb Ascrafieh, my neighborhood from 1976 - 1990. If someone does this to me, what am I expected to say or do? If one glances at the book of the Lebanese army's martyrs, 80% were killed not by Israel, but by Syria. Whose friend is Syria, then?
WSN: What about the Syrian role in the civil war? Weren't they the ones who helped the Christian community survive?
Dr. Naji E. Hayek This is the biggest lie of all that has been spread by the Syrians and their puppets. There is a theory that says that because Bashar Assad is a minority - an Allawi in Syria - it is to his advantage to have the Christian minority strong in Lebanon. It is true that we, the Christians had a difficult moment in 1976, but to say that Syria was our savior is far from the truth.
We had Israel on our side, not because they like us, but because it was to their advantage for a while. When it was no longer advantageous for them, they ceased to protect us. But, it's a reality. There is a proverb that says: Whoever is sinking does not care if the hand that picks him up from the water is dirty. This was the case for us back then.
In 1976, the Palestinians arrested and killed people in the streets of Beirut. The war started because of the Palestinians that fought the Lebanese Christians. The Palestinians terrorized everyone in Lebanon, but mostly the Christians. The PLO planned to eradicate the Christians and transform Lebanon into Palestine - well, a second Palestine. However, the Shiias also suffered because of the Palestinians. The Amal militia had a major war with them in the 80s.
WSN: Some people say that the Christians of Lebanon did not treat the Palestinians any better than the Palestinians treated them. What are your comments?
Dr. Naji E. Hayek If you are referring to Sabra and Shatila, then yes you are right. But do you know how many massacres the Palestinians carried out before this? It was bad, horrible what we did, but they conducted around 20 massacres before this. In the war to the south of Beirut, they killed 700 people in one day. They killed the people from the Lebanese villages. Then, the Shiites of Amal encircled the camps and fought them. They probably killed more Palestinians than the Christians killed at Sabra and Shatila.
When the Israelis came in 1978, the people of the South received the Israelis with open arms. You know why they did this? Because they were fed up with the Palestinian violence towards them. It is a well known fact, although some prefer not to mention this episode.
WSN: The pro-Syrian camp would rather go on with the Taef Agreement, because they say it is not an American game and the opposition, or at least some of them would prefer UN Resolution 1559 because it is not a Syrian game as the Taef is. How do you see the situation?
Dr. Naji E. Hayek Taef is an agreement that was signed in Saudi Arabia by some deputies who had already been in office for 17 years at the time they agreed on Taef; therefore, they have lost their legitimacy to speak on behalf of the Lebanese from a democratic standpoint. The Syrians pressed the deputies and the Saudis bribed them, just to make the Christians lose ground in favor of the Muslims. I admit that the Christians have had more than they deserved, but with the Taef Agreement they lose more than they should. It is not fair. General Aoun rejected the accord because it failed to give a clear timetable for Syria's withdrawal. He was right. All the Amal and Hezbollah people who then signed the accord and now sustain it, do not care about Lebanon. They only care about their private interests. The Syrians and their Lebanese puppets put Samir Geagea in jail. He was a militiaman, and like many other militiamen he killed others. However, there is no proof that he killed Dany Chamoun. On the other hand if he did it, than he deserves to stay in jail. Nonetheless, the Syrian National Party assassinated Bashir Gemayel, and I do not see them in jail. Hezbollah was involved in hijacking and killing foreigners and they are heroes. The double standard is something we should no longer permit.
WSN: How did you perceive the Syrian presence in the country?
Dr. Naji E. Hayek The Syrians controlled everything. If the Amal movement wants to be friends with Syria because the Syrians gave them guns and made Nabih Berri speaker of the parliament, let them take all the money and the favors they can. Fine, they can thank them. But for the National Liberal Party, the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb movement and the Free Patriotic Movement, all we got from the Syrians from 1976 - 1990 was the fact that our friends and family members were killed, jailed or beaten by them.
After 1990, they were still putting us in jail and beating us, but at least they did not bomb us anymore. Our leaders are in exile or in jail. They have to change their behavior. The Baath party of Syria is not different than the Baath party of Iraq. Now, we are ready to have civilized, diplomatic relations with them, but things must be clear. We can be like Germany and France who are now part of the EU, but we cannot forget the thousands of people they killed -- killed for nothing. I was in the war, and I have seen my friends killed before me by the Syrians. The Syrians have to pay for this.
WSN: In your opinion, what is Hezbollah's agenda in Lebanon?
Dr. Naji E. Hayek Hezbollah wants an Islamic republic in Lebanon. They say no, but they are funded by Iran. Why is Iran funding them? For nothing? For the moment they keep it low, because there is no way they can implement it at this time; but when they feel the time is right, be sure they will do it. They are powerful, because of the Iranian money. How do I feel about this, as a Christian? What if the Christians come and tell the Sunnis and Shiias that now we want a Catholic republic in Lebanon, and we should go by the Bible? It is not that hard to imagine what their answer would be.
On the other hand, Hezbollah is one of the most well behaved militias. They have a cause, they fought for it, they have martyrs and we respect that. Israel bombed the South, but the Syrians did the very same thing. Should we accept Syria's behavior just because it is an Arab country? According to my principles, this is not a justified reason.
Hezbollah is an important political party and they have a lot of influence, but they cannot win everything. Actually, we are fortunate that none of the 18 recognized confessions would be able to make radical changes in Lebanon on its own.