Hariri, Rafik or Rafiq [key], 1944–2005, Lebanese tycoon and political leader, b. Sidon. The son of a poor Sunni Muslim farmer, he moved to Saudi Arabia in 1965. After teaching mathematics there, he formed (1969) his own construction company and amassed a fortune building for public and private clients. Hariri returned (1990) to Lebanon and served (1992–98) as prime minister. He was largely responsible for reconstructing war-ravaged Beirut, which left the nation with significant public debt. Becoming prime minister again in 2000, he promoted economic reform and reduced government bureaucracy, but left office (2004) after opposing Syria's domination of the government. Hariri died in a car bombing in Beirut. Both Syrian and Lebanese officials were initially implicated in his assassination, but prosecutors for a joint UN-Lebanese tribunal on the crime ultimately indicted (2011–13) several members of Hezbollah. The tribunal found (2020) one member of Hezbollah guilty of involvement in the car bombing; it found no direct evidence of the involvement of Hezbollah's leadership or Syria.
His second son, Saad Hariri, 1971–, is also a Lebanese businessman and politician; he was born in Saudi Arabia and raised there. He handled the family's business in Saudi Arabia prior to his father's assassination, after which he took over the Hariri business empire and entered Lebanese politics as the leader of his father's Future Movement party. Following the 2009 elections, Saad Hariri became prime minister, ultimately as the head of a national unity government. In 2011 his government fell after Hezbollah and its allies withdrew over the government's cooperation with the special tribunal investigating Rafik Hariri's murder. In 2016 he became prime minister of a unity government for a second time as part of a deal that ended a 29-month political stalemate. In Nov., 2017, he resigned as prime minister under Saudi pressure while he was detained in Saudi Arabia, but after he returned to Lebanon he rescinded his resignation. After the 2018 elections, he became (Jan., 2019) prime minister of a unity government for a third time, but he resigned in October amid widespread protests against the government, corruption, and the poor economy. He remained as caretaker prime minister until Jan., 2020, and then in October was asked to form a government.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Middle Eastern History: Biographies