Video of a Protester Hit by MP's Supporters Provokes Regional and Religious Tensions in Lebanon

Published February 6th, 2020 - 10:14 GMT
Video of a Protester Hit by MP Supporters Provokes Intense Regional and Religious Tensions in Lebanon
Lebanon has been tackling an acute economic crisis causing thousands of Lebanese to protest and demand a political change. (Twitter)

In Kesrouane district north of Beirut, protesters gathered outside a Lebanese restaurant where MP Ziad Aswad had dinner.

A viral video showed supporters of Aswad attacking protesters outside of the restaurant and hitting at least one of them. The young man was hit once he answered a question about where he was from saying that 'he's from Tripoli,' a northern city where anti-government protests have been growing since last October. The offender punched him on the face saying that he “can't be in Kesrouane if he's from Tripoli."

Translation: "How shameful! Lebanon is for everyone! Such ridiculous logic to speak of regional origins! According to this logic, we should ask why isn't Ziad Aswad in Jezzine?"

The video prompted strong reactions across social media, with many commentators expressing their fear of growing hostility against people from protests-stricken areas around the country, a sentiment led by pro-government and pro-president politicians.

Online commentators also noted that such attacks, in addition to its impact on individuals, can cause greater damage to national unity, as it incites religious and sectarian prejudices, reminding the Lebanese people of 15 years of civil war over deep religious divisions.

Others argued that the Lebanese crisis isn’t created by religious tensions as much as political and economic ones, saying that the fight is now between multi-religious protestors against a multi-religious political regime and that their demands shouldn’t be affected by sectarian affiliations. Many activists also took the chance to call for gatherings by Lebanese from all different regions and sects in order to send a message in rejection of "divisive sentiment."

Translation: "In response to his awful question "What are you doing here if you're from Tripoli?", to protect freedom of speech, and to celebrate Tripoli "the bride of the revolution", how about we gather tomorrow evening in front of Ziad Aswad's house coming from all Lebanese regions, with one slogan "I'm from Lebanon"?"

Translation: "20 June 2019, George Aoun: Muslims shouldn't own houses at Hadath. 16 Oct 2019, Mario Aoun: Why did wildfires only target Christian areas? 5 February 2020, Ziad Aswad's dogs attach protestors from Tripoli: Why are you in Kesrouane? This is what their party is about: religious divisions. This party promotes division and civil war."

Following the viral video, protests in Tripoli stormed an office for the Christian-majority Free Patriotic Movement which MP Aswad represents, setting it on fire. Moreover, the Free Patriotic Movement released an official statement in which it "condemned protestors' attempts to harass politicians in general spaces and expressing total rejection of attacks on people from Tripoli."

Translation: "The Free Patriotic Movement's office in Halba, Akkar is being burned in response to the attack against Tripoli's young men Walid Raa'd in Kesrouane at the hands of Ziad Aswad's thugs. Aoun and his MPs should be held responsible for their bigotry."

Translation: "Protesters try to enter offices of the Free Patriotic Movement in Jemeizat, Tripoli Now"

For the past four months, Lebanon has been tackling an acute economic crisis causing thousands of Lebanese to protest and demand a political change and a government capable of fighting corruption they say is the main reason for their crisis. Last month, the country was finally able to form a new government that excluded many prominent politicians.


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