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Hanin Ghaddar

Hezbollah vs. #YouStink

When social demands move to the political sphere

Graffiti depicting various political groups and bearing messages against police brutality are seen on concrete blast wall in front of the seat of the Lebanese government in central Beirut in August 2015. (Image via Facbook)

So far, the #YouStink — or the garbage uprising — in Lebanon has focused its goals on four simple demands: that Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk step down, that an eco-friendly waste management plan be established, that those responsible for the heavy-handed suppression of the peaceful protest in August be held accountable, and that parliamentary elections according to a new electoral law be held.

 

In terms of demands, all this sounds straightforward and unchallenging to the Lebanese political scene or status quo. To many observers, this campaign seems more hurtful to March 14 than March 8 because it primarily targets the environment and interior ministers — both of whom are close to March 14 —while ignoring the issues of Hezbollah’s arms and its interference in the war in Syria.

 

The movement decided to focus on the garbage crisis and corruption, so it’s true that Hezbollah is not being directly targeted. But the vibrancy and determination with which the street has criticized everyone in the government and parliament has started to bother the Party of God, and Hezbollah will eventually hit the movement for a number of reasons.

 

 

Hezbollah, #YouStink too

 

First, Hezbollah does not want to disrupt the status quo. The presidential vacuum, the inefficiency of the government and the incompetence of the current parliament make a perfect framework for the party to continue their war in Syria unimpeded. The ineffectiveness of the state empowers Hezbollah and boosts its control over institutions and all decision-making. Changing this would mean that Hezbollah will have to deal with a different and more challenging situation — something they’d rather not address before their role in Syria comes to a happy conclusion.

 

Second, this movement aspires to the concept of citizenship and a citizen’s right to services and free speech. Hezbollah fears the Lebanese citizen because it would mean that Shiites would also become citizens and not followers of its Iranian agenda, and certainly not fodder for its war against the ‘Sunni takfiri.’

 

Citizenship means that the state and its institutions are encouraged to be stronger. A citizen will demand sovereignty and independence of the state. A citizen will eventually disrupt the sectarian system that all political leaders trade on, including Hezbollah. A citizen will question them all and hold everyone accountable. A citizen will demand transparency. Hezbollah doesn’t want that. Hezbollah isn’t just part of the sectarian system; it is the most powerful part of that system.

 

Third, Hezbollah is also corrupt — from espionage rings within its ranks, trafficking counterfeit medication, and manufacture and sale of amphetamines to the infamous billion-dollar scheme by Salah Ezzedine, whose victims were mostly Hezbollah members. These are just examples of the corruption within Hezbollah’s ranks, not to mention the corruption of its allies.

 

Fourth, Hezbollah subjugates free speech. Countless Lebanese journalists, writers and artists have been threatened by Hezbollah for expressing their opinions. Works have been censored and people have been murdered in broad daylight with no one held accountable — all because freedom of speech is dangerous for the Party of God.

 

 

Hezbollah is the authority

 

Hezbollah is an armed militia that controls Lebanon and its state institutions. Any change that does not go through it will not be tolerated. The corrupt establishment is a perfect hideout, where it can blame others for the country’s ailments while its killing machine rampages in Syria.

 

That’s why Hezbollah has started to condemn the movement and why it will eventually try to stop it altogether. It started with a scuffle in Martyrs’ Square last week, when a group of Hezbollah members attacked — on air — a talk show on which Hassan Nasrallah’s photo was included within a collection of pictures of politicians meant to be held accountable. They forced the host to take down the photo and threatened the TV channel and the movement. 

 

The next day they unleashed their ally Michel Aoun against the movement, while their media attacked the organizers of the movement personally in an attempt to undermine their credibility. Of course, none of this actually worked and it kind of backlashed. Many of the party’s supporters joined the protests after that simply because they’re fed up with the garbage, electricity cuts,  water shortages and the lack of other basic services. The Sayyed is not going to provide all this.

 

But Hezbollah did not start the campaign against the movement because of a photo. The problem is beyond the protest — it’s about disrupting the status quo and challenging authority. They would have us remain fearful of everyone: Israel, the takfiris, the Sunnis, the world, and forget about our daily lives and standards of living.

 

That’s how Hezbollah wants us to live. The party wants us to put our citizenship permanently on hold — it’s never the right time for them. When we start acting like citizens, we become a challenge to Hezbollah, which is the decisive authority in Lebanon. Challenging Lebanese authority is — ultimately — challenging Hezbollah.

 

Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of NOW and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council. She tweets @haningdr.

Graffiti depicting various political groups and bearing messages against police brutality are seen on concrete blast wall in front of the seat of the Lebanese government in central Beirut in August 2015. (Image via Facbook)

The problem is beyond the protest — it’s about disrupting the status quo and challenging authority. They would have us remain fearful of everyone: Israel, the takfiris, the Sunnis, the world, and forget about our daily lives and standards of living."

  • WVD

    I was curious about the accusations regarding Hezbollah and drugs so I read the other article. Surprise, at no moment Hezbollah is accused in this article of being involved in drugs business. On the contrary it are jihadists from Afghanistan. Maybe an apology is needed or was it written just to slander this group?

    September 11, 2015

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Bravo. Absolutely true. I fear for the lives of the leaders of the movement. Hezbollah has thrived on lawlessness and corruption, and when needed used assassinations and killings to circumcise the opposition. Take those away and Hezbollah can no longer hide. If Hezbollah manages to convince the dinosaurs in power who have militias (Jumblatt for example) to find a modus vivendi, bury the hatchet, and rally together to face the people's rebellion, Lebanon could be on the verge of a new kind of civil war, not sectarian this time, or a confrontation between the Army and Hezbollah, or both. The bigger unknown is not Hezbollah, because we know what Hezbollah is capable of doing if threatened in its lifeline. The unknown is what will the army do when all the cards are on the table? Will it sit and watch? Will it intervene on the side of the loyalists (dinosaurs + Hezbollah)? Will it intervene on the side of the people's rebellion? Or will it mount a coup and face everyone in an even more catastrophic scenario? My guess is that since nothing really fundamental has changed in the country's ethos since the 1970s, the army will side with the sectarian dinosaurs against the people, just to avoid a new breakup and a major change in power centers. One word from Nasrallah, one word from Jumblatt, one word from Hariri.... and two-thirds of the army will refuse to obey orders. The cozy friendship and business relationships between, for example, Kahwaji and some of the dinosaurs (e.g. Berri) precludes the army saving the day. Lebanon is truly on death row. I hate to break it up to the rebellion, but this is a gargantuan, or better, a Sisyphean battle of major proportions.

    September 10, 2015

  • Berthold

    congratulations Hanin ! a beautiful piece of truth and courage

    September 10, 2015