Citizens accuse Lebanon’s Hezbollah of aiding government to ‘rob their livelihoods’

A demonstrator takes part in an anti-government protest in the southern city of Nabatiyeh, Lebanon October 21, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 03 November 2019

Citizens accuse Lebanon’s Hezbollah of aiding government to ‘rob their livelihoods’

  • The Hezbollah movement saw demonstrations criticising the party and revered leader Hasan Nasrallah
  • Citizens accused the party of providing political cover for a corrupt government that they say has robbed people of their livelihoods

BEIRUT: When mass anti-government protests engulfed Lebanon, a taboo was broken as strongholds of the Hezbollah movement saw demonstrations criticising the party and revered leader Hasan Nasrallah.
On live TV and in protest sites, citizens accused the party of providing political cover for a corrupt government that they say has robbed people of their livelihoods.
This shattered the myth of absolute acquiesence among Hezbollah's popular base, baffling even those who hail from the movement's strongholds.
"No one ever expected that in any of these areas in south Lebanon we would hear a single word against Nasrallah," or Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri, said Sara, a 32-year-old activist who participated in protests in the southern city of Nabatiyeh.
"It's unbelievable," the activist added, asking to use a pseudonym due to security concerns.
The Iran-backed movement is a major political player that took 13 seats in the country's May 2018 parliamentary elections and secured three cabinet posts.
It helped its Christian ally Michel Aoun assume the presidency in 2016 and has since backed his government despite popular dissatisfaction that peaked last week following protests over taxes, corruption and dire economic conditions.
South Lebanon - a bastion of the powerful Shiite movement  - was not spared.
Protests have been reported in the cities of Nabatiyeh, Bint Jbeil, and Tyre, where Hezbollah and its political affiliate the Amal Movement hold sway.
With the exception of Tyre, they were not as big as other parts of the country.
But "the novelty here is that some of these protesters are party loyalists," said Sara.
"They support Hezbollah, but they are suffocating."
But anti-government protests that started in Beirut on October 17 and quickly spread across the country left no politician unscathed, not even the Hezbollah leader.
"All of them means all of them, Nasrallah is one of them," protesters chanted in Beirut.
Criticism of Nasrallah even aired on the Hezbollah-run Al-Manar TV, in a scene that was previously unfathomable for watchers of the movement's propaganda arm.
In a live interview from central Beirut, one protester urged Nasrallah to "look after his people in Lebanon" instead of focusing on regional enterprises like Syria, where he has deployed fighters to defend President Bashar Al-Assad's regime.
Nasrallah acknowledged the mounting criticism against him in a speech on Saturday: "Curse me, I don't mind."
 


Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

Updated 2 min 19 sec ago

Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

  • The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new PM unraveled
  • Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29

BEIRUT/PARIS: Lebanon does not expect new aid pledges at conference which France is hosting on Wednesday to press for the quick formation of a new government that can tackle an acute financial crisis.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Lebanon to create a new government swiftly or risk the crisis worsening and threatening the country’s stability.
The economic crisis is the worst since the 1975-90 civil war: a liquidity crunch has led banks to enforce capital controls and the Lebanese pound to slump by one third.
Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29, prompted by protests against the ruling elite, with no agreement on a new government.
Nadim Munla, senior adviser to Hariri, who is running the government as caretaker, told Reuters the Paris meeting would probably signal a readiness to offer support once a government is formed that commits to reforms.
“They will recognize that there is a short-term problem and that if and when a government (is formed) that basically responds to the aspirations of people, most probably the international community will be ready to step in and provide support to Lebanon, or additional support,” he said.
“It is not a pledging conference.”
Lebanon won pledges of over $11 billion at a conference last year conditional on reforms that it has failed to implement. The economic crisis is rooted in years of corruption and waste that have generated one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new prime minister unraveled.
Hariri is now seen as the only candidate for the post.
He has said he would only lead a cabinet of specialist ministers, believing this is the way to address the economic crisis, attract aid, and satisfy protesters who have been in the streets since Oct. 17 seeking the removal of a political class blamed for corruption and misrule.
But Hezbollah and its allies including President Michel Aoun say the government must include politicians.
“Let’s see the coming few days and if there will be an agreement among the political parties on a formation ... otherwise we might take longer,” Munla said. Hariri would be willing to have politicians in cabinet but they should not be “the regular known faces of previous governments.”