Who Was Michel El-Murr


At 88 years old, Michel El-Murr died on Sunday due to COVID-19 complications, after a month and a half of testing positive and being hospitalized for weeks.

Going on to become Lebanon’s oldest member of Parliament, El-Murr undoubtedly led an interesting career, ranging from business to controversial politics, in addition to surviving an attempted assassination.

Born in Bteghrine in 1932, El-Murr studied at Saint Joseph University in Beirut and then at the Polytechnic in France where he graduated with an Engineering degree.

Michel Murr at the presidential palace in Baabda, in 2014. Photo by: Mahmoud Kheir.

He lived in West Africa during the 1960s where he worked in the construction industry, from which he made a fortune.

He returned to Lebanon late 60s and reportedly became close with Sheikh Pierre Gemayel, founder of the Kataeb Party. In 1968, he was elected member of the Lebanese Parliament, a position he held until 1972.

Fast forward to the mid-1980s, El-Murr and Elie Hobeika, who headed the Lebanese Forces party at the time, became strong supporters of the Syrian regime, which was controlling Lebanon’s political stage as well as militarily on the ground.

Michel Murr (2nd on the left), with ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, on December 27, 1996 in Beirut. 
Photo by: Joseph Barrak.

According to Middle East Intelligence, El-Murr was part of the 1985’s negotiation of the Tripartite Accord, between Syria and Hobeika, Nabih Berri, and Walid Jumblatt to legalize the presence of the Syrian regime and military in Lebanon.

The operation fell apart when Samir Geagea ousted Hobeika as head of the Lebanese Forces. Both Hobeika and El-Murr retreated to Zahle under Syrian protection until the Syrian regime took over Lebanon again early in the 1990s.

El-Murr’s political career boomed then with Syria’s powerful support, favoring an almost absolute control of electoral outcomes, as described by Chantal Rayes in her book “Murr, le rempart de Damas,” (Liberation, 28 August 2000.)

He went on to be reelected member of the Parliament, served in several governments, took several posts, including deputy prime minister, and interior minister, a post he relinquished to his son Elias El-Murr in 2000.

Michel El-Murr pictured voting in Bteghrine next to his son Elias El-Murr. Photo by: NNA

Two years earlier, in 1998, Michel El-Murr was the target of a failed assassination attempt in an elaborate scheme, blamed by the Military Intelligence on a breakaway branch of the Lebanese Forces.

According to the Military Intelligence, a car bomb was to be placed on the side of a road that El-Murr drives daily. The bomb that exploded remotely at the passing of his convoy killed 8 civilians instead, including five in one car that caught fire, and injured 38 people.

Lebanese security forces and civilians gather at the scene of the attempted assassination plan in Beirut. Photo by: AFP

Michel El-Murr had a family network of politicians. He was the father-in-law of the daughter of then-army commander Emile Lahoud, who then became Lebanon’s president (1998-2007) and a close ally to El-Murr.

His daughter Myrna has been heading for three consecutive terms the Federation of Municipalities of the Metn.

Lebanese politician and former editor and publisher of Annahar Gebran Tueni, was married to Myrna for a while. He who was a leader of the Cedar revolution against the Syrian Occupation and was assassinated in 2005.

El-Murr was also the grandfather of Lebanese politician and journalist Nayla Tueni, who became a member of the Lebanese Parliament, serving for almost ten years.

The controversial politician wasn’t just involved in politics. He also ran Group Murr, a major company that deals in construction, maintenance, and real estate development in Lebanon and Africa. The company also owns a private aviation fleet since 1967.

Group Murr was behind the relaunching of the Al-Joumhouria newspaper in 2011 after it was shut down in 1975.

Michel El-Murr died on Sunday, January 31st, from the coronavirus.

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