The journey of searching for Hikmat Alamine…

Note that: the following is not a biography it is just a few episodes of Hikmat Alamine’s life. What is written below is figured out through interviews and investigations about Hikmat as a doctor and a humanitarian; a lot of secrets and stories were discovered but some things are better kept untold1486913_634182619953149_991259223_n

The journey of searching for Hikmat Alamine… through the eyes of those who knew him

The bearded man is looking at us again, I got used to his face and looks; he is over there in his usual place: in a frame and hanging on the wall. His picture is present everywhere I go; in our living room, at my grandparents’ and relatives’ houses, the same exact one of the bearded man with his calm demeanor and steady look. That was my first encounter with my Uncle Dr. Hikmat Alamine. As I grew up, stories were added to this picture; stories I’ve heard basically from my mother, older siblings who were lucky enough to meet him and actually share a memory or two with him, from my family, acquaintances and everyone who knew him. Years passed and I’m still carrying his picture, a bit of the stories, and a lot of questions seeking to know him better, to know the man in the picture, to know Dr. Hikmat Alamine. Out of my curiosity and excitement something from inside pushed me to start a journey, a different kind of journey. -The journey of searching for Hikmat Alamine.

Early Years…

In the early years when Hikmat was just a teenager, he drew the attention of everyone around; especially at the time his family left Lebanon to Kuwait. He lived with his grandma in the southern town of Kafarouman in a house consisting of a ground floor and an upper roof room where he stayed. This room was a daily stop for youth of his age and older who admired Hikmat’s special personality. He was ambitious, responsible, honest, faithful, and true to people around him. He had tendencies toward the communist party but was never a follower; even though he wasn’t mature enough in appearances, he had special political thoughts and beliefs that distinguished him from others. This was an entrusting point for youths around him; as it was the first time he really displayed characteristics of a leader. Ali Alamine, a relative of Hikmat, assured that Hikmat was a responsible person, even though there was no one looking after him; he added that his house was open to everyone, day or night, to an extent that some even stayed and slept at his place. Hikmat prioritized education and would stay up late studying, which raised suspicion among the inhibitors of the village. They began questioning who lived in that house after noticing that the lights stayed on for long hours after midnight. They soon discovered that it was the Alamine household, and Hikmat, the family’s elder son and an excellent student, stayed up studying during those late hours into the morning.

In the year 1964, he joined the Lebanese communist party. After a while, he travelled to the Soviet Union where he studied general medicine and Pediatrics at Patrice Lumumba University. Later, he moved to Geneva, Switzerland and specialized in cardiology. The distinguishing thing about him is that he chose to study in Moscow and Geneva to benefit from both schools, the East and the West, as he explained in private gatherings. While he was either in Moscow or Geneva, he continued his political activities through working in the students sector, trade union action and labor party. Although he followed all the party’s decisions, he had an opposing point of view in many topics. In Geneva, he met the love of his life, Dr. Antoinette who loved him to a great extent; she later followed him to Lebanon where they got married and lived in his parents’ humble house in Kafarouman. They had three kids: Laila, Mouna, and Jamal.

Hikmat the Doctor…

In 1973, he came back to his homeland a doctor. By that time, the Lebanese organizations had many clinics to help people in all the area; one of those clinics took place on the ground floor of Hikmat’s house, which was now bigger than the one he lived in during his school days. The next morning after Hikmat’s arrival, the clinic was open to the public. His uncle and friend, Mohammad-Ali Noureddine, recalls that day: “I was the one responsible of the clinic back then, I remember that the doctor who was supposed to come that day cancelled and we were left without a doctor,” he proceeds. “Hikmat was upstairs with his friends when he overheard me saying that we will be apologizing to patients today as I heard him calling, ‘Uncle leave it for me today’ and he appeared on the stairs in his white coat and the stethoscope around his neck”.

On that day Hikmat started his humanitarian journey as a doctor. His first day was long, as he took specific care of every patient who came in for a check-up. By the end of that day, he volunteered to be one of the clinic’s regular doctors; not only was his name was added to the list for this clinic, but also for the all of the clinics in the area. He would cover hours in different clinics in Habboûch, Kfar Tebnit, Arabsaleem, Dweir and other locations. Noticeably, a wide range of patients came in his presence, with numbers beginning at fifty and eventually reaching one hundred and sometimes more; this was a stark contrast from the fifteen to twenty patients the clinic was previously taking on a daily basis. Hikmat gained people’s trust, as they loved and respected him. His pool of patients did not belong to the same political party as him but it covered a diverse range of people in the community who trusted him as a person and a doctor away from his beliefs. He loved his job to a point that it was part of who he was; his job as a doctor didn’t end when the last patient left. He had a habit of following up with patients at their home, as he would show up without an appointment to check on them;. In doing this, he was not only an individual patient’s doctor, but would eventually become his patients’ family doctor as well. He was real with them, simply doing what he felt was right. “He had no time for himself, his time was for the people and those who needed him,” said his uncle Ibrahim Noureddine adding, “even while he used to spend time at our place, patients used to follow him over here where he examine them inside and sometimes he would leave with them.” His family assured that he was the doctor of the people; he would sleep with the doors open in case a patient came by. In one instance, he arrived back home at 3 AM in the morning as a patient eventually stopped by to see him at 5 AM;, Hikmat’s mother, worried that her son needed rest, told the patient that he wasn’t there. When he woke up, Hikmat burst out at her for not allowing him to see his patient, expressing to her that if something happened to that individual, it would be all her fault.

Hikmat didn’t take money from the poor; he would welcome them at any time, helping them and giving them the money to buy medicine. He had a secret signature that alerted the pharmacist not to take money from the patient; instead, the bill would be kept under Hikmat’s name for later. People loved him and tried to reward him with the simplest things like homemade jam, olive oil, and Lebanese goods; however, even receiving these gifts would not sit well with him because he wasn’t waiting for a reward for his actions. “The people called him Doctor of the poor,” said his friend, Khalil Rihan.

“As simple as that, Hikmat the humanitarian doctor became the key to every house in the area. As long as you’re with Hikmat, you’re welcomed and trusted,” Mohammad Makki, a friend of his, expressed. If there was a cry for aid, he would rush for help without thinking twice about it, he did not caring if it was safe for him to go. “Once, a battle occurred in Khiam and we were informed that there were injures among people and they couldn’t reach a hospital,” said Makki. “Hikmat got ready to go and asked for someone to join, and I did. He drove really fast and along the road from both sides, you would see wreckages of houses and blood everywhere until we reached a closed road. We had to continue the journey on our feet until reaching the village. We shifted from house to house to aid people; Hikmat spent all day long carrying his bag from place to place just for the sake of helping.”

12458827_10153794401713349_612650574_oSimply Hikmat

“Hikmat was sophisticated, quiet, and calm and even though I’m a bitter criticizer, I could never criticize him. He simply didn’t do anything wrong. From the early hours in the morning he would go out to his clinic and would visit patients at home although it was dangerous,” a friend of his, Yousef Hamzi said.  “Many doctors tried to imitate him, but they couldn’t. There is no one like him.”

Among his friends, he was a very humble person. You could discuss any topic with him; he would listen to you and enjoy the conversation because that’s the way he was. When another’s idea was a threat, he respected them and helped no matter what their background was. He was a loving husband and an affectionate father; he adored his kids, despite sometimes not being able to spend much time with them.

The artist Charbel Fares, who sculpted his statue, later on said, “The humanitarian side was prominent in him, he was an idol as a doctor and as a human, pure Hikmat. Even though he was honorable and accomplished, Hikmat held the simplicity, pureness, generosity, kindness, and shyness of a peasant inside of him.

The Biggest Challenge…

By 1976, as the civil war was spreading its ugliness across Lebanon, a battle occurred in
Aaichiye town. Many martyrs passed, and fighters and civilians suffered a wide range of injuries. Hikmat soon came up with the idea of having an Emergency war center in Nabatieh under the Lebanese Al Najdeh Al Chaabiyi’s name. This was a project started by Dr. Mohammad Dakik back then in another area; Hikmat was in contact with Dr. Mohammad Dakik and working at Al Najdeh Al Chaabiyi in the Markaba area. According to Elias Ajaka who was present at The Social Affairs Center in Nabatieh, where Hikmat was a volunteered doctor, this place was going to be closed. This changed when Hikmat suggested his idea, allowing it to be kept; this time it would be under the Lebanese Al Najdeh Al Chaabiyi’s name. “With Hikmat’s wide connections, we started what we called ‘The Lira’s project’ where we took a Lira donation from every house to start Al Najdeh,” said Mohammad Makki.

With the donations and help of the many people working with Hikmat,  his idea of an Emergency Center was now realized. The center was first located in Nabatieh city; however, when the area became unsafe, the center moved to Deir El-Zehrani. Eventually, its final location would be an apartment in a building between Kafarouman and Nabatieh. Soon thereafter, the first Israeli invasion took place around the year 1978, forcing a large number of people to displace and leave their homes. At this critical time, all the doctors in the Nabatieh area left, while Hikmat was the only one who stayed in case any injury occurred in which he could provide aid. “We all left and he insisted on staying here and one day when things calmed down a little bit, we came to Kafarouman to check on the house and we passed by to check on him in Al Najdeh. I remember asking him to join us in Jbaa and rest a bit, because he looked very tired,” said Ibrahim Noureddine. He remembered at that moment that Hikmat then looked at him and said, ‘you’re saying this Uncle, and in these circumstances, and what if something happened and there were injures? Who would take care of them?  I’m not leaving, I’m staying here.

Later, Al Najdeh was settled in a middle school in Nabatieh. What is known as The South Hospital was later offered for rent. Hikmat suggested the idea of renting that location and making Al Najdeh a small hospital by moving it there; eventually his idea became a reality.

The area of Nabatieh lacked the presence of a hospital and there was a need for one. Due to the success of Al Najdeh’s Emergency Center and how many injures and patients it handled at the time, the idea of building a hospital came up among Hikmat and a number of acquaintances from the Lebanese communist party and Al Najdeh. The party’s leaders and decision makers largely opposed this idea, and simply saw it as an impossible dream. This pushed the group to conduct a study aiming to discover what people could do to participate and what they could donate starting from one Lira; they also had to take into consideration that the land where the hospital would be built was owned by the Lebanese communist party in Nabatieh. The study was prepared and handled by the Lebanese communist party, and it took around two years to study and approve it.

When the decision was made, Dr. Hikmat Alamine and Dr. Mohammad Hounaino travelled to Kuwait in an attempt to gather donations to build the hospital. There, they held a music festival to collect donations and, through their connections, were able to reach the Kuwaiti Minster of Health, Abed Al Aziz Khalaf. He helped them reach wealthy religious people who believed in providing alms toward building the hospital. A proof was needed in order for these individuals to be able to donate; to fulfill this requirement, they sent a letter to the acquaintances in Lebanon explaining the situation. The Shiite Supreme Council through Al-Sayed Ali Ibrahim wrote a letter assuring that this money would go to this hospital, and it was then sent to Kuwait. When the Kuwaitis saw how serious and eager the group was to build the hospital, they adopted the idea and paid for the expenses. Not only did Kuwait’s government encourage and aid the group in building the hospital, but a lot of individuals donated and supported the hospital as well; for example, Abu Hatem Alamine bought the first two ambulance cars for the hospital, according to Elias Ajaka.

After Dr. Hikmat Alamine  came back from Kuwait and while working in Al Najdeh, which was now in the South hospital, the building process started. This was after the second Israeli invasion of 1982, and things were getting harder as the situation was worse than before. There were permanent threats to the hospital to the extent that Hikmat was mentioned by name, especially after the Israelis noticed the large number of people who visited it on a daily basis. At the same time, the Israelis started investigating every person who worked on building the hospital, asking them what Hikmat exactly does and how long he would be staying there.

That time was very dangerous; after 10 PM, no one would be seen out, and of course, no doctors would be found as most of them weren’t living in the area at the time. “Hikmat was courageous and was never afraid of anything, he would do what he felt was right and he would be there to help any person at any time, no matter who he is. Even when he would be asked to stay out of sight, if there was a patient in need, he’d be there to help,” recalled Ali Alamine.

Mohammad Makki recalled an incident that once happened with Hikmat: “We were in Beirut for a dinner event; when it was over, we were advised not to leave to Nabatieh at this hour, so we stayed in Mechref. First thing in the morning, Hikmat was ready to move, even though there were nonstop attacks on Nabatieh. We reached Deir Ez Zahrani Bridge and it was battered; the ships were attacking the area, so we had to hide under the wall to be safe. Suddenly, we heard some puppies barking just beside us; at the moment, Hikmat looked at me and said, ‘look, what a refuge with dogs, but it is better than dying like dogs!’”

Al Najdeh was Hikmat’s daily concern; he would benefit from all his connections for the sake of Al Najdeh. He had good relationships with people from different backgrounds. He was well acquainted with nuns in the areas, who supported him, treated him as a brother, and helped with medical aids when needed. He also had strong relationships with notable religious figures such as Al-Sayed Hani Fahes, Al-Sayed Mohammad Hasan Alamine, and others who supported Hikmat’s humanitarian work. Additionally, he worked alongside the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and other international NGOs.

Hikmat had a dream of finding branches for Al Najdeh all across Lebanon. According to Mohammad Makki, Hikmat had visited T’anayel –Bekaa, Tripoli- North, Tyre-South, Sidon-South, Sawfar-Mont Lebanon, and Burj Al Barajenah-Beirut Southern Suburbs to find branches for Al Najdeh through his friends and connections that were ready to start something similar to what they did in Nabatieh.

Hikmat was the head of Al-Najdeh in Nabatieh, and the profits of the hospital were kept in a joint account under Hikmat Alamine’s and Mohammad Makki’s names. This money was given to the Lebanese Communist Party when asked, and it was used to buy properties that were registered under Al Najdeh’s name. In one instance when comrades of the party went to take money without a formal request from the party’s decision makers, Hikmat refused to give them the money according to Makki. The request was then brought and the entire amount was transferred to another joint account for two suggested by the communist party. Hikmat’s membership was then frozen, and a new head for Al Najdeh was assigned; this meant that Hikmat was no longer to be there other than as a regular doctor and no longer to attend the party’s meetings. Hikmat accepted the decision that was made, while his only request was to keep his good reputation as part of this party. Makki added that a strike took place at the hospital when they found out about the incident. Hikmat called Makki, asking him to end it; because he was part of this party and he accepted the decision, the employees, doctors, and nurses should too, despite the decision being right or wrong. Makki said that it was hard on him, but he was his voice at the time. He went to the hospital, telling them that if they love Hikmat, the strike should end. It soon did.

Within the time in which his membership was still frozen, Hikmat stayed up to date with all outside political activities, as he remained at peace with the party’s decision. Eventually, his membership became active again, and he was given charge of the political and social relations in South. Despite his role as a humanitarian, he accepted this political position.

Assassination attempts and deportation…

As previously mentioned, the circumstances at South were dangerous at the time. After 1982, the Facto forces were in charge of the area. These forces had a non-return policy, denying people the freedom they had before 1982; they threatened and attempted to assassinate intellectuals, doctors, and leaders, especially those from the Lebanese Communist Party. Dr. Hikmat was one of those people in danger, but he was never afraid. Being a doctor with a good reputation amid all of the services he was providing to the area, he always thought that as long as he was a doctor with the stethoscope around his neck, they wouldn’t be killing him.

Hikmat was subjected to many attempts of assassination that ranged from burning his car and the warehouse of medical equipment for the hospital, to attempts that also targeted his wife.

His friend, Youssef Hamzi, and his younger brother Anwar recalled one of the many attempts. Due to the extent of danger involved in the situation, fighters from the Lebanese Communist Party were forced to pose undercover. Their job was to keep an eye on the Hospital and to protect Hikmat and other doctors. When one of the undercover guards attended a party among friends, one of his friends became intoxicated, approached him and said, “Tomorrow at 8 PM we’re going to kill Hikmat Alamine.” The guard tried to stay calm and absorb his feelings; he was undercover and shouldn’t show his reactions. The next morning, he ran into Hikmat’s father and he warned him that Hikmat should leave that very day. He later went to Hikmat’s house and told him what happened. By 4:00 PM, Hikmat went undercover to Arebsalyem, a nearby village; he stayed the night at his friend’s, Hikmat Farhat’s house. Later that day, a B-7 was shot near his house. Around 6 AM the next morning, he wore an army jacket and marched down the valley between Kfar Hatta and Kfar Melki. When he reached the main road, a car from the Communist Party was waiting for him to take him to Beirut. They soon found out that he wasn’t safe there either, so he left to Geneva where his family was already located .He stayed there for a while and then went back to Lebanon and proceeded his usual work at South.

Around 1986, the situation in South was getting worse; assassinations took place in addition to the daily threats. Friends and the people who loved him forced Hikmat to leave the area for his own safety. He left Nabatieh first to Sidon, where he stayed at the party’s office. There, he continued his work normally. His patients came constantly, even those of the facto forces, despite them being the reason he left in the first place. He didn’t mind seeing them as he always said that he was a doctor for all the people.

Hikmat had good relationships with the Palestinians and others during his stay at Sidon. Later, assassination attempts reached his wife, a humanitarian doctor who was taking the same path alongside her husband. She and their children then joined him, moving to Rmeileh and living in a humble home beside the Lebanese communist party’s offices located within a convent. Their life took place mainly between Rmeileh and Sidon, where he opened a clinic and pursued his work. Patients didn’t only visit him at the clinic, but they also followed him home.

“The area was somehow a military zone and patients coming to visit Hikmat had to pass the checkpoint and walk through the convent road to reach his house,” said Ziad Saab, a comrade from the Lebanese Communist Party.

Hikmat always argued with the soldiers at the checkpoints for keeping patients from getting in because they believed they might be a threat to the doctor.

At this time, as previously mentioned, Hikmat was in charge of the political and social relations in South. As it was assured by his acquaintances, he was not happy about the position. He was not a political person and he didn’t know how to deal with weapons; this was a concern since he, at one point, was forced to carry a gun. The wider circle around him never sensed his discord toward his position. “You would always see him smiling and casual,” said Hazem Alamine, one of the comrades at the convent at the time who saw him as a happy person. According to Alamine, Hikmat tried to provide people with the care of their parents when they were away from their homes and families at a time when they didn’t know they were missing it.

Anwar Alamine shared that at the time, even though he was deported, he remained the same.  He treated people the only way he knew how, and he also made sure to send foodstuffs to the village. He had a seemingly small clinic within his house and a small pharmacy; he filled medicines that he’d buy with his own expenses, and most of the time, gave them for free.

The End of a Fruitful Journey…

Hikmat was insistent on going back to Nabatieh, he believed people there needed him and told himself, ‘I am a doctor and they won’t kill me.’ He insisted until the party decided that he could go back, despite the location not being safe yet. It was what he wanted. “The delight in his eyes, when he knew, was the same as that when the approval was given to build the hospital,” said Mohammad Ali Noureddine.

A few days later on Dec, 26, 1989, the Lebanese Communist Party did a successful operation on Talet Berghoz, where many martyrs for the party passed and many were killed by the Israeli side. The huge success of the operation would definitely be answered by Israel.

That day, some of the socialist party comrades were meeting with the communist party comrades at the convent. Mohammad Ali Noureddine was there when he received a call from Hikmat; they agreed that Hikmat might stop by to check on them later. According to Mohammad Ali, the scouting airplane flew above the convent during the meeting, so they decided to end it -just in case.

“I made sure that all the comrades left the convent, and assured them that only the ones who have work should stay -the one on the fax, phone, and the one on the radio. Other than that, they should leave,” said Ziad Saab, a commander at the communist party at the time, adding, “I received a phone call and had to leave to get some documents for my daughter to register at school.”

Ziad left the convent after making sure everyone else left; Mohammad Ali and the other comrades left as well. Kassem Badran (Abu Jamal) received a phone call; while in the middle of his conversation, Hikmat arrived at the convent. He was standing on the outside, Abu Jamal inside, when an Israeli air raid occurred. Vacuum bombs were used, and In seconds, it was all down. That was the end. The end of the journey for Hikmat, the doctor, the father, the comrade, the human…the brightness and joy of his eyes vanished as he slept his last sleep.

The Last Journey

Doctor Hikmat Alamine’s death was a shock to everyone from his immediate family, friends, party, and to every person who met him. On the day of the funeral, cars weren’t allowed to enter the village of Kafarouman, because of the Israeli presence as Lhaed forces. He had a rally funeral that started from Beirut, to Rmeileh, then Sidon, reaching Deir Al-Zehrani then, finally, Kafarouman. The cars were in two lines all the way from Al Msaileh to Kafarouman, and people insisted on entering the town as they believed that ‘if doctor Hikmat passed away, we are not more important than him.’ After contacting the Israelis through the Lebanese Red Cross and international Red Cross, the Israelis raised the white flag on Talet Al Tohra, allowing the cortege to enter. The Israeli Forces waited for the funeral to end, and then they attacked the town.

Hikmat’s wish came true and he went back to Kafarouman for his final destination. The hospital he dreamt of was built, but he never had the chance to enter it as a doctor. It held his name and years later, a statue of him was made in the hospital’s yard by artist Charbel Fares. Fares struggled to portray Hikmat between the martyr, the doctor, the father, and the friend he lost.

Hikmat still had many plans, but he left too soon. Some of his plans were to build a school where orphans and children of martyrs would study for free, and to have a nursing school next to the hospital. He also anticipated having a huge center that provides social and health services based on donations. Hikmat received the insignia of Cedar (Wesam Alarz) in the year 1991 for a knight to revive his memory.

“Hikmat Alamine the story of the martyr hero”, “The phenomena of Hikmat didn’t happen again”, “Hikmat became a story”, “Doctor of the poor”, “The hero”, “The Humanitarian Doctor”, and many other names and things were said about you. As for me, I’ve always called you my idol and our hero. Through this journey, I tried to see you in the eyes of those who knew you. I knew you were never looking for titles and you just did what you felt was right. So from now on, deep inside me, I will always call you a hero and you will always be my idol. But out loud, you’re our uncle, our Hikmat, simply Hikmat with all that your name enfolds.

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