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Lebanon’s interior minister:
Protesters want to be beaten

Nohad Machnouk said demonstrators were arrested Wednesday for insulting ISF members.

Machnouk. (image via Lebanon

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s interior minister has claimed that grassroots activists protesting against the government want to be beaten in demonstrations, a day after security forces responded to a protest with a heavy-handed response.

 

“[Some of the demonstrators] are looking for someone to beat them so they can bleed on the street,” Nohad Machnouk said in a Wednesday night interview on the TV outlet of his political party, the Future Movement.

 

“There are those who want to show that they were beaten up or wounded, they want to be depicted as the victims and the oppressed,” he added.

 

Machnouk’s interview came hours after security forces beat and arrested dozens of protesters in Downtown Beirut after the #YouStink movement attempted to block Lebanese leaders from joining a national dialogue session.

 

Amid heavy security measures in the Downtown district, confrontations erupted between riot police and protesters throughout the morning protest, with a number of pictures, videos as well as television feeds showing clear-cut cases of police brutality.

 

An-Nahar footage of security forces beating detained protesters. 

 

Machnouk vehemently defended the conduct of the security forces, adding that protesters had been arrested for verbally insulting Internal Security Forces (ISF) members.

 

“Their task is not to protect the protesters right to insult the Internal Security Forces by name and with foul language,” the minister said, stressing that Lebanese laws do not allow demonstrators to abuse security.

 

“Consequently, this matter necessitated the application of the law through their arrest. Then the judiciary ordered their release.”

 

“If the demonstrators want to keep their right to expression and protection, and their right to protest, they must [understand] that the people in front of them are humans with feelings, dignity and responsibility.”

 

Machnouk claimed that “even the ISF’s women were subjected to… insults; everyone heard it [live] on air.”

 

Woman ISF.

Female security force personnel arrest a woman protest. (AFP/Anwar Amro)

 

Female ISF officers on Wednesday were tasked with the arrest of women protesters, with live footage and pictures showing the officers using strong force to restrain seemingly peaceful activists.

 

#YouStink announced that 40 demonstrators were arrested Wednesday, while activists reported a number of civil society organizers had been swept up in the heavy-handed security sweep, including a hunger striker who had gone 14-days without food and was released in the late afternoon. 

 

The arrests prompted civil society organizations to call for a sit-in Wednesday evening in Downtown Beirut until the release of the detained protesters.

 

Approximately 2,000 activists gathered at Riad al-Solh Square following the day of violence, dispersing only after authorities released detainees in the night.

 

Machnouk, however, downplayed the strength of the anti-government movement, which attracted tens of thousands of Lebanese for a mass rally on August 29 to protest the country’s worsening trash crisis.

 

“The size of the movement today is severely limited,” he said in the interview.

Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk. (image via Lebanon's NNA)

There are those who want to show that they were beaten up or wounded, they want to be depicted as the victims and the oppressed.