BEIRUT: A Lebanese woman hailed as a hero for confronting the widely despised MP Gebran Bassil, has vowed to remain defiant despite claiming her father was forced to apologize for her actions.
On Sunday, a video was widely shared of Yasmine Masri scuffling with bodyguards working for the head of the Free Patriotic Movement [FPM] after she heckled him with a cry of “shame on you.”
The brawl took place at a restaurant in Bassil’s home town of Batroun, northern Lebanon.
Masri said she was assaulted and had her phone broken by his security entourage but she told Arab News she was proud to confront Bassil. However, she said her father had been “coerced into apologizing” for her the bust up.
On Tuesday, a photo of the MP and the 31-year-old woman’s father was published in Lebanese media along with a story saying he met Bassil and apologized for his daughter’s behavior.
Masri was having lunch with friends in a newly-opened restaurant in Batroun when she saw Bassil and his entourage.
Lebanese are furious with the ruling elite and blame them for plunging the country towards economic collapse.
As the son-in-law of Lebanese President Michel Aoun and a strong political ally of Iran-backed Hezbollah, Bassil in particular has come to symbolize the country’s corrupt self-serving politicians.
Last year, the US issued sanctions against him, accusing him of being “notorious for corruption.”
Speaking to Arab News, Masri said Bassil “forced her father in to apologizing under threat, blackmailing and shaming him.” She preferred not to give details of the nature of the blackmail.
“I have received physical threats,” she said. “Just now, shortly before responding to this interview my mother called and asked me to stop; saying she doesn’t want to pick me up injured from a hospital.”
But Masri, who like many young Lebanese is broiling with anger over the country’s plight, vowed not to stop expressing herself.
The food and drink manager was angered that Bassil had the audacity to show up in public as if he had no responsibility for the country’s woes.
Recounting what happened, she felt within her rights to shout “shame on you” in Arabic.
She said Bassil sent his bodyguards over to her and they threatened to beat her.
“I told them go ahead and they started beating me … then I took back my phone and followed them and took a video. Then they beat me again and threw my phone on the floor and broke it,” she added.
Masri said FPM supporters chased her for up to four hours around Batroun after the initial clash and would not let her leave the area.
“Batroun’s pompous blowhards [supporters of FPM and Bassil] were spitting at me, insulting me and threatening me all over the place,” she said.
Masri describes herself as a politically-independent civil society activist, who became active during widespread anti-government protests in October 2019.
When asked if she was going to tone down her criticism for her dad’s safety, she replied: “No, definitely not. I will not play the game as I don’t go with threats … and if they will go violent, they will lose.”
On whether she plans to initiate legal action, Masri said she had consulted a lawyer.
Bassil’s media office said on Sunday that he and his family were about to leave in their car when a woman used foul language against him.
His entourage responded ‘naturally, peacefully and modernly” to stop her from cursing.
The statement said: “The era of leaving swearwords unanswered is over” and urged FPM supporters to “respond accordingly.”
After hearing the news of her father’s apology, Masri posted a statement saying: “I hereby confirm to you that I will never shut up … I will never hide what I think in the face of fear, threats and terrorism … my father was threatened … all he is doing is in order to protect me.”
International Lebanese artist Elissa said on Twitter “every hand that beats a woman should be broken.”