Last updated: 16 March, 2012

Lebanon Druze head throws lot in with Syria rebels

Lebanon’s Druze chief Walid Jumblatt openly sided with the anti-regime camp in Syria on Friday as he marked the 35th anniversary of his father’s assassination, which he has blamed on Damascus.

“After 35 years, this is the day to tell the truth, to myself and to others … Long live free Syria!” he said after spreading a “Syrian revolution” flag over the grave of his father, Kamal Jumblatt.

He also hailed the “marytrs of the Syrian revolution” in a speech before dignitaries at Baaklin, in the Shouf mountains southeast of Beirut, after the memorial at the cemetery in nearby Mukhtara.

“The Syrian people will stay but dictators will go,” said Jumblatt.

The Druze leader, who took over after his father was shot dead on March 16, 1977, after Syria’s military intervention during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, was for many years in the pro-Syrian camp of Lebanese politics.

But he accused Damascus of murdering both his father and Rafiq Hariri after Lebanon’s ex-premier was killed in a huge 2005 bomb blast in Beirut, charges denied by Damascus, which was finally forced to withdraw its troops that year.

Despite a reconciliation five years later when he visited Damascus, Jumblatt said: “I forgive, but I do not forget.”