For years, some Lebanese politicians have been bombarding us with the same phrase: we have gotten word from Bashar el Assad, and his father before him, that there are no more Lebanese prisoners in Syrian jails.
Some of those politicians were squarely in Bashar’s camp. Others had defected “recently” and left behind them all their non-existent dignity. But one thing these politicians have in common is that they got fed the lies of Bashar and threw them up on families seeking closure to a tragic chapter of their lives that never seemed to find its way to conclusion.
An estimated 600 Lebanese were kidnapped and thrown in Syrian jail – dead or alive, we had no way of knowing. 600 with families behind them still clinging to every bit of hope they could get of their loved ones returning alive. Boutros Khawad, Elias al Habr, Ali Abdallah… the list goes on and on.
There are no prisoners left, they said. You need to get over it, they said. You need to forget them, they said.
But how can you ask of families to forget their fathers and brothers? Well, that’s exactly what some Lebanese politicians, in their quest to kiss up to the Syrian regime, have been doing for years.
For years, these families had to withstand their sons getting turned into traitors. They had to withstand hearing their fathers bad-mouthed, turned into filth. And they couldn’t do anything about it. With each passing day, they persevered – even as their struggle was ridiculed. Even as they set up protests that were never heard.
Those families did not block roads to bring back their children. They didn’t ask citizens to wreck havoc to a nation. They suffered silently and hoped their calls would some day be answered.
With each passing day, these families lost hope too.
And then there was Yaacoub Shamoun. There was hope for those families again. And all those lies those Lebanese politicians have been spoon-feeding their followers came crumbling down around them.
There are still prisoners left, it seems.
I’m not sure if hope is the best thing for the families of those prisoners. But if there’s any time to feel ever so slightly optimistic that they could see their loved ones again, it is now. And if I could choose one good thing to come out of the Assad regime falling, it would be for these families to get closure.
It’s been a long time coming.