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Lebanon has been witnessing an unprecedented campaign of arrests targeted against activists and protesters after the state prosecutor, Ghassan Oueidat’s decision of arresting anyone who insults the president’s rule. This decision seems to be far-reaching enough to also encompass anti-Hezbollah critics.
Michel Chamoun, an activist who previously lost his finger by a rubber bullet during a protest, was arrested for a video he posted on social media, in which he address the president. As a response, several protesters took to the streets, closing Jounieh’s highway and demanding Chamoun’s release. This sparked clashes between the protesters and the security forces until the activist was released hours later.
Another activist was arrested with a more controversial story.
Kinda El Khatib, a known anti-Hezbollah activist, was reportedly taken by authorities alongside her brother, Bandar Al Khatib, from their home in Akkar, in north Lebanon, under the auspices of being affiliated with Israel. Bandar, who happens to be a retired soldier, and clarified he was not active on social media, was released two days later.
However, Kinda El Khatib, according to the National News Agency, was charged with “Visiting Israel and dealing with the spies of the Israeli enemy” by government commissioner to the military court, judge Fadi Akiki.
Kinda’s sister, Mariam El Khatib, told “the National” that Kinda and her brother visited Jordan for tourism in early 2020. They took this as a pretext to say that she collaborated with Israel. “Kinda was threatened on Twitter before her arrest. People told her to shut up.” Mariam added.
Subsequently, a Twitter campaign was launched by Hezbollah’s base and bots targeting Kinda El Khatib, calling her “spy” and “agent”. However, many others voiced support for Kinda and skepticism for the way the state is handling this case, claiming they believe that her case is similar to Ziad Itani’s, who was released in 2018 after being cleared of charges of “collaborating with Israel”.
Few days later, on June 25, another anti-Hezbollah activist/journalist, Rabih Tlais, was summoned to Lebanon’s “first bureau” for unspecified reasons.
Tlais posted a statement on his personal account which reads:
“I was contacted by the Public Security Center in Baalbek, ordering me to go & receive a summons to appear at the General Directorate of Public Security in Beirut on Thursday, June 25 2020. They did not explain the reason for the summons. Accordingly, I will attend, but let them take this into account — we promised ourselves we’ll fight against injustice & oppressors wherever these occur in this country. Our covenant of responsibility is our duty, and our will is not broken. Our pen is polished & our actions are echoed by the proverb. We are a group of young men and women who do not & will not wait for a moment in their efforts to regain the homeland. We are children of the rebellious firefly and of the inexhaustible ink.”
On the same day, charges were pressed against anti-Hezbollah preacher Sayed Ali Al amine.
Sayed Ali Al Amin is a prominent preacher who was infamously banished from his position as the Mufti of Tyre for his anti-Hezbollah/anti-political Islam stance in the late 2000’s. Demagogues have since continued to claim that he is “an agent of Hariri & House of Saud.” Unsurprisingly, in 2020, these same ideologues are leveling charges against the Sayed for allegedly “meeting with Israeli officials in Bahrain, attacking the ‘resistance’ and its fighters, ‘incitement between sects and spreading strife,’ and violating the rules of the Ja’afari doctrine.”
It’s important to notice the extremely varied and unrelated nature of these claims. Firstly, no proof was supplied for the (now contested) first claim, next, there is no anti-free speech law in Lebanon preventing criticizing Islamist militants, nor their politics/goals/actions.
The only people who were actively “Inciting other sects and spreading sectarian strife” were those cursing the Cross and Aisha, while attacking others’ neighborhoods and issuing threats on Twitter targeted towards independent Lebanese.
Furthermore, if Al-Amine did violate the Ja’afari doctrine, (and this is currently a baseless claim) is that considered illegal in a non-Islamic state?
Attacking civilians during this crucial time ultimately has two aims:
1. To reinforce the zealotry and sadism of Hezbollah’s base during a demoralizing time
2. To ward off dissent.
Currently, it’s becoming hard to even keep track of all the activists and protesters detained/called in for investigation. “Al Modon” revealed that sixteen activists from Bekaa were summoned for investigation during the recent crackdown.
Between activists and protesters detained without any trial, and levying ample, baseless charges against an anti-Hezbollah sheikh; Lebanon is slowly but surely becoming a police state akin to that of the Syrian occupation and Iraq’s Ba’ath regime. This reinforces foreign agent’s commitment to Islamism, authoritarianism, and holding Lebanon hostage to achieve these aims.
Lebanese may be witnessing not just a phase of economic collapse, but also the destruction of Lebanon’s distinctive culture. That is, it’s traditional role of being a cultural and intellectual entrepôt, and a harbor for freedom.