BEIRUT: On Thursday morning, a prominent Lebanese publisher and outspoken critic of Hezbollah was found dead in his vehicle, a brazen killing that fuelled concerns of a return to political violence in this social and economic upheaval-stricken region.
A long-time Shia political leader and scholar, the body of 58-year-old Lokman Slim was bent over on the passenger seat with several wounds from bullets fired at close range, police and forensic officials said.
Since late Wednesday, according to AP, Slim had been missing for hours and his family shared social media posts looking for him.
To his friends, Slim was a fearless opponent of the influential leaders of Lebanon, of Hezbollah and its allies, Iran and Syria, and of the history of the civil war in Lebanon. His murder sparked concerns that political tensions in Lebanon could turn into a new wave of assassinations.
Lokman Slim spent years working relentlessly to preserve Lebanon’s memory of its 1975-1990 civil war
However, opponents accused Slim, due to his critiques of Hezbollah, of sowing sedition, weakening national unity and becoming a Zionist.
The son of a prominent lawyer and an Egyptian mother, Slim was a leading secular voice in the Shia Muslim community as well as an activist, journalist, publisher and filmmaker.
He supported curbing the presence of Hezbollah, the political party and armed faction pro-Iran and anti-Israel that has millions of supporters in Lebanon, but is labelled by the United States, the European Union and other governments as a terrorist group.
Slim has campaigned tirelessly for years to protect Lebanon’s collective memory of its civil war of 1975-1990 and published renowned studies on issues such as mass graves and transitional justice.
With the goal of creating an unprecedented archive of the civil war, he founded an institution named Umam History and Research, claiming that Lebanon should not move forward until it had resolved its history.
He was noted for his love of books and Arabic language supremacy.
His house, known as Villa Slim, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, was a cultural centre where many languages could still be heard and where film screenings and exhibits were always arranged.