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Lebanon: Activists Chase Politicians in Restaurants, Events

Lebanon: Activists Chase Politicians in Restaurants, Events

Tuesday, 7 January, 2020 - 11:30
Demonstrators hold flares and Lebanese flags as they protest outside the house of former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in Beirut, Lebanon November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Former and current political officials in Lebanon are now trying to avoid any presence in public areas, whether in a restaurant, a seminar, or an event, for fear of embarrassment of being chased by activists through anti-corruption slogans and hostile chants.

The past few weeks have seen several incidents of this kind.

On Sunday evening in Gemmayzeh street, Beirut, a number of young men and women gathered in front of a restaurant after they spotted Parliament Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli having dinner with two other people.

They started shouting slogans, accusing him of being part of the corrupt political class.

“The one hundred twenty-eight (the number of deputies) are a bunch of thieves,” one of the chants said.

“All of them means all of them; Elie is one of them,” the activists kept repeating, until Ferzli left the restaurant, under the protection of members from the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

A similar incident took place in the city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, where activists forced former MP and Minister Ahmad Fatfat out of a seminar in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry following piercing debates.

In mid-December, a number of protesters ousted former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora from the American University in Beirut, where he was attending a concert.

This new phenomenon has prompted Lebanese officials, whether former or current, to take additional security measures. Those who used to move around without security protection, are now accompanied by security members. Others have increased the number of bodyguards, while the rest have decided to stay in their homes to avoid any embarrassment by activists.

Political activist Lucien Abu Rjeili explained the aim of this move, saying: “Everyone, who was or is still present in the parliament, the government or the presidency bears the responsibility for the collapse of the country.”

“In all countries of the world, officials are held accountable for merely voting in a certain direction… This phenomenon may be new to the Lebanese society, but the Lebanese have to cope with it because it is an important escalation in the sense that the protesters are pouring their anger in the right direction,” he underlined.

A member of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), who preferred not to be named, indicated that he had avoided leaving his home except in cases of necessity, and that he had asked for security protection near his house in order to avoid any harm to his family members.

Another deputy from the independents told Asharq Al-Awsat that he had thought more than once about resigning from Parliament “to join the ranks of the revolution.” But he added that he reconsidered his decision because he “is able to better support the revolution” through his presence in parliament.

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