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."
 


Haftar agrees to lift Libya oil blockade with conditions

Updated 4 min 35 sec ago

Haftar agrees to lift Libya oil blockade with conditions

  • Pro-Haftar groups supported by the Petroleum Facilities Guard blockaded key oilfields and export terminals on January 17

BENGHAZI: Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar announced Friday a conditional lifting of a months-long blockade on oilfields and ports by his forces.
“We have decided to resume oil production and export on condition of a fair distribution of revenues” and guarantee they “will not be used to support terrorism,” he said on television.
Pro-Haftar groups supported by the Petroleum Facilities Guard blockaded key oilfields and export terminals on January 17 to demand what they called a fair share of hydrocarbon revenues.
The blockade, which has resulted in more than $9.8 billion in lost revenue, according to National Petroleum Company (NOC), has exacerbated electricity and fuel shortages in the country.
Dressed in his military uniform, Haftar said the command of his forces had “put aside all military and political considerations” to respond to the “deterioration of living conditions” in Libya, which has Africa’s largest oil reserves.
The announcement comes after hundreds of Libyans protested last week in the eastern city of Benghazi, one of Haftar’s strongholds, and other cities over corruption, power cuts and shortages in petrol and cash.
Protesting peacefully at first, protesters on Sunday set fire to the headquarters of the parallel eastern government in Benghazi and attacked the police station in Al-Marj.
Police officers fired live ammunition to disperse them in Al-Marj, leaving at least one dead and several wounded, according to witnesses and the UN mission in Libya.
Libya has been in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
The country’s oil revenues are managed by the NOC and the central bank, both based in Tripoli, which is also the seat of Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
Haftar runs a rival administration based in the country’s east.
Haftar— who has the backing of Egypt, the UAE and Russia — launched an offensive against Tripoli in April last year.
After 14 months of fierce fighting, pro-GNA forces backed by Turkey expelled his troops from much of western Libya and pushed them to Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s rich oil fields and export terminals.