Lebanese vote in first general election in 9 years

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri casts his vote at a polling station during Lebanese general election in Beirut, Lebanon on May 06, 2018 [Houssam Shbaro / Anadolu Agency]

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri casts his vote at a polling station during Lebanese general election in Beirut, Lebanon on May 06, 2018

Voters queued outside polling stations across Lebanon on Sunday for the chance to take part in its first general election in nine years – an event seen as important for economic stability but unlikely to upset the overall balance of power.

Cars and mopeds were decked out with the flags of the main parties, loudspeakers blared songs in support of candidates near their electoral strongholds and young people wore T-shirts bearing the faces of political leaders.

The election is being held under a new proportional system that has confused some voters and made the contest unpredictable in formerly safe seats, but still preserves the country’s sectarian power sharing system.

Whatever the result, another coalition government including most of the major parties, like that which has governed since 2016, is likely to be formed after the election, analysts have said.

Getting the new government in place quickly would reassure investors of Lebanon’s economic stability. It has one of the world’s highest debt-to-GDP ratios and the International Monetary Fund has warned its fiscal trajectory is unsustainable.

“We hope we will open a new era,” said Mahmoud Daouk, voting in Beirut.

But some other voters were sceptical the election signalled an improvement in Lebanon’s political climate.

“The situation is actually worse now, not better… we lost the chance to hold them accountable nine years ago,” said Fatima Kibbi, 33, a pharmacist.

Voting is scheduled to end at 7 p.m. (1600 GMT). Unofficial results are expected to start coming in overnight. Election law makes it illegal on Sunday to publish forecasts of how the parties will perform before polls close.

However, analysts are closely watching the performance of Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s Future Movement party and that of the Iran-backed, Shia Hezbollah group and its allies.

Lebanon has periodically been an arena for the intense regional competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

However, in recent years, Riyadh has pulled back from its previous support for Hariri, backing that helped Future in 2009 when it was part of the ‘March 14’ coalition focused on making Hezbollah give up its massive arsenal.

That issue has been quietly shelved as the main parties have focused on getting the economy back on track and grappling with the Syrian refugee crisis.

Donors pledged $11 billion in soft loans for a capital investment programme last month, in return for fiscal and other reforms, and they hope to hold the first follow-up meeting with the new government in the coming weeks.

Debt ratings agencies had stressed the importance of Lebanon going ahead with the election after parliament had extended its term several times.

(Source / 06.05.2018)

Hamas calls on Lebanon to recognize Palestinian refugees’ civil rights

On the 41st anniversary of the Tel al-Zaatar massacre

Tel al-Zaatar massacre

The Hamas Movement called on Lebanese government to take swift steps to charter the civil and social rights of the Palestinian refugees in the country and rebuild the destroyed Nahr al-Bared camp so as not to repeat the humanitarian tragedy of Tel al-Zaatar camp.

In a statement released on the 41st anniversary of the Tel al-Zaatar massacre, Hamas expressed its solidarity with the families of the victims who had been slaughtered by radical Christian Lebanese militias in August 12, 1976 in the camp.

The Movement said that Tel al-Zaatar camp was like a repository for the Palestinian-Lebanese revolution and popular movement, stressing that “the destruction of the camp and the annihilation of its residents during the Lebanese civil war were carried out by suspicious hands to serve the Israeli occupation state.”

Hamas added in its statement that the blood of the martyrs would never go in vain and that the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon would never abandon their aspiration for returning home.

“The stability of [Palestinian] camps brings stability for Lebanon, and all those massacres that took place will not dissuade the Palestinian people from their basic goal of return and liberation,” Hamas said.

The Movement urged the Lebanese state not only to deal with the Palestinian refugee camps from a security perspective but to work on resolving all issues politically and correct its relationship with their residents through providing them with their rights.

(Source / 12.08.2017)

US Draft-Law Urges Europe to Designate ‘Hezbollah’ as Terrorist Organization


The US Senate

Washington – The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will study on Thursday a draft-law that urges the European Union to designate Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” as a terrorist organization.

During five sessions on the Middle East, three of which will be dedicated to Iran, the Senate will also address Tehran’s human rights violations and oppression of religious minorities.

The draft-law directed to the EU was drafted by Democratic Congressman Theodore Deutch and focuses on “crimes and attacks of the terrorist ‘Hezbollah’.” It acknowledges that the EU designated the party’s military wing as a terrorist entity, but not the organization as a whole.

He stressed that “Hezbollah” is part of the illegal drug and arms trade and money-laundering networks throughout Europe. It is using funds generated from this activity to finance terrorist attacks. The party is also sponsored by Iran and Syria that finance it and provide its members with training and weapons.

According to US Defense Department officials, Tehran provides up to 200 million dollars a year to “Hezbollah” in the form of financial support, arms and training. The party has an arsenal of around 150,000 rockets and its fighters are supporting the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad.

The draft-law calls on the EU to impose sanctions on terrorists associated with “Hezbollah” in line with the sanctions imposed by the US. It is also urged to designate the whole party as terrorist, issue arrest warrants against its members and backers, freeze its assets throughout Europe and ban any fundraising campaigns for the party.

The draft-law underlines the importance of achieving greater cooperation between the US and EU in thwarting “Hezbollah’s” criminal and terrorist activity and increasing the exchange of intelligence to that end.

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will also study a draft-law submitted by Democrats and Republicans that calls on Iran to unconditionally release all American citizens its has imprisoned.

US citizen Robert Levinson traveled to Iran in 2007 and disappeared while visiting the island of Kish. For ten years, Washington has tried to pressure Iran to provide any information about his fate and ensure his safe return to his family. Iranian government officials had pledged to do so.

(Source / 28.06.2017)

Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh remains tense as death toll rises to 3 Palestinians

Ain al-Hilweh vluchtelingenkamp

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — After two Palestinians were killed and at least four others were injured in clashes in Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp between Thursday and Friday, renewed violence Friday evening left another Palestinian dead.

Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) reported that Palestinian refugee Ibrahim Hussein died of wounds he sustained during an armed “personal dispute” in the Jabal-al-Halib area inside the camp.
Members of the Fatah movement later reportedly caught the perpetrator, identified by NNA as Jihad Abdul Mohti, and handed him over to Lebanese army intelligence authorities.
Saturday morning, NNA reported that the security situation Ain al-Hilweh remained tense, and that all social, educational, and medical institutions associated with UNRWA were closed for business, as streets were empty and citizens apprehensive of sniper fire.
Late last month, armed violence in the refugee camp left an 18- and 12-year-old Palestinian dead, while at least eight others were injured — including a pregnant woman.
The violence was strongly condemned by UNICEF and UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing services to some five million Palestinian refugees.
A spike in armed violence between Fatah supporters and Islamist groups in Ain al-Hilweh in December left two dead and at least five injured, with UNRWA suspending its operations in the camp as a result.
The largest and most crowded refugee camp in Lebanon, Ain al-Hilweh is home to some 54,116 registered refugees who fled their villages during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, according to the UN.
However, the population has significantly increased since 2011 as a result of the Syrian war, as Palestinians have been displaced a second time from refugee camps across Syria, with development nonprofit organization Anera estimating the camp’s population to be closer to 120,000.
According to UNRWA, Ain al-Hilweh suffers from high rates of poverty and poor housing conditions, which have been further stressed as a result of overcrowding in recent years.
Palestinians in Lebanon have the highest percentage of their population living in abject poverty from among the other countries the organization serves, according to UNRWA.
Facing discriminatory employment policies, Palestinians in Lebanon are restricted from working in over 20 professions or claiming the same rights as other non-citizens in Lebanon, while all the refugee camps suffer from overcrowding, poor housing conditions, and a lack of infrastructure.
(Source / 25.03.2017)

New Lebanese army chief warns against ‘Israeli schemes’

Brigadier General Joseph Aoun

Joseph Aoun, Lebanon’s newly-appointed military chief, said Friday that the Lebanese army must remain on guard against “Israeli ambitions and schemes” in the region.

Addressing army officers in Beirut, Aoun cited perceived threats to Southern Lebanon.

“I have full confidence that you will… be prepared to protect our southern border from the Israeli enemy’s sabotage,” he asserted.

Aoun also stressed Lebanon’s readiness to cooperate with the international community with a view to applying UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which was adopted following Lebanon’s 2006 conflict with Israel.

Resolution 1701 called on Israel to withdraw its forces from Southern Lebanon to allow the deployment of UN peacekeepers along the border between the two countries.

Aoun also said that the Lebanese military would continue to work for the release of nine Lebanese soldiers captured by the Daesh terrorist group three years ago.

In mid-2014, Daesh militants captured several Lebanese military personnel following clashes in the Lebanese town of Arsal on the Syrian border.

Aoun was made commander of Lebanon’s armed forces on Wednesday after being promoted to the rank of general.

Replacing General Jean Kahwaji at the post, Aoun is known to be close to Lebanese President Michel Aoun, although the two are not related.

Before assuming the post, Aoun had commanded the Lebanese Army’s 9th Brigade, which is deployed on Lebanon’s border with Syria.

(Source / 10.03.2017)

Graphic novel illustrates life of Syrian refugees in Lebanon

A frame from the graphic novel “Meantime,” by artist Diala Brisly. Posted Feb. 10, 2017

“Meantime” is a graphic novel project initiated in March 2016 by French nongovernmental organization (NGO) Solidarites International (SOL). Five French, Syrian and Lebanese artists spent weeks talking with Syrian refugees in Akkar and Tripoli in northern Lebanon to create five graphic stories, which have been available online since Feb. 21 in English, Arabic and French.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Lebanon hosts more than 1 million Syrian refugees; one in every four people in Lebanon is a refugee. Organizations working on the ground to help vulnerable displaced families face many challenges, such as funding for their programs and projects and telling the individual stories of this population to Western audiences.

SOL was established 35 years ago and has been working for the past three years in Akkar and Tripoli, providing cash assistance and access to water and hygiene products to their Syrian refugee beneficiaries as well as fixing their shelters.

“At the end of 2015, I was in charge of working on a communication project to bring awareness to the people in Europe and Lebanon about the living conditions of the refugees,” Pauline Gregoire, who is in charge of communications and reporting at SOL, told Al-Monitor. “I didn’t want to create a photo or video exhibition that would make people cry.”

At that time, French artist Lisa Mandel was featured in the French newspaper Le Monde with her graphic novel about life in the Calais “jungle,” an informal camp for migrants and refugees wishing to reach England from France that was dismantled gradually from February 2016 onward. “I thought the graphic novel format was nice and light,” Gregoire recalled. “Plus, it is really accessible to everyone and there is this trend of the journalistic graphic novel nowadays, so that is really a modern approach.”

She added, “We had the idea of humanizing refugees — give them an identity. They are human beings who lost everything, who arrived at a new place without anything. They are very vulnerable, but also with very different personalities and stories. It is important to make people understand that they could be any of us. Mandel in her blog on Calais used the comparison with a metro car, saying, “All these people in it could also be in a camp. We have to put names on the numbers to create empathy.”

For the project, which was realized in partnership with UNICEF, the European Union and the US State Department, five artists from France, Lebanon and Syria — Diala Brisly, Kamal Hakim, Lena Merhej, Mandel and Nour Hifaoui Fakhoury — were chosen to give a local, regional and international perspective in regard to the refugee crisis in Lebanon.

For Mandel, whom SOL first contacted given her experience in Calais, coming to Lebanon was a logical step after covering Calais. “I wanted to discover Lebanon and discover differences and similarities between the two situations,” Mandel told Al-Monitor. “Of course, the quantities are not the same. In Calais, there were 10,000 people and everyone was living in a terrible situation — in the mud, in the rain, it was really glaucous. In Lebanon, people are not alone, they are with their family, they are mostly sheltered, even though they are the poorest of the poorest and can only wait for the war to be over. The only thing is that in France, anyone can access proper health care, not like here [in Lebanon] where you have to pay huge amounts of money for everything.”

Mandel described her role in the project as an “information giver.”

On the other hand, for Syrian artist Brisly, who used to independently work with refugees in collaboration with different associations and NGOs, especially children through workshops and murals, it was a way to express something that really struck her during her work in the informal settlements: the relationship between families and men. “I concentrated on how men are also traumatized and need psycho-social support,” Brisly told Al-Monitor.

She added, “Everyone is focusing on women and children and thinking men are like rocks, like they don’t need anything. My culture and in general the culture in the region stipulates that men have to financially support and protect the family. Because of the war, men lost this status and feel totally lost. The family balance has been completely changed.”

With more risks of being stopped at checkpoints and often lacking legal documentation, male refugees rely on their wives or children to work in order to survive because women and children have more freedom of movement. “This trauma often reflects on the man’s relationship with his family, and NGOs — by helping mainly women and children — participate in increasing the gap between the family members,” Brisly said. Her fictional story therefore allows the reader to understand each family member’s perspective in a way that highlights the feelings of the men who find themselves in this situation. “Anyone coming back home not being able to fulfill his role would be angry and frustrated, and it affects everyone around him. Men can also be sad and weak,” she added.

Three Lebanese artists participated in the project, including young Fakhoury, who chose to work on the situation of refugees in Tripoli, their daily struggles and survival skills. She had previously worked for her master graduation project on a comic about the point of view of a Lebanese Christian neighborhood on refugees. “I could do the exact opposite and discover how refugees are actually managing to live,” Fakhoury told Al-Monitor. “It was also a chance to do some research and understand people I didn’t really know.”

As a Lebanese, she was glad to discover strong people who are fighting to survive, still having hope and taking care of their family. “I gained a lot in this project — both professionally and personally,” she said. “I want their stories to be heard.”

This graphic novel project contributes to providing another perspective on what millions of people go through while living in exile in countries around world, as well as humanizing the individual displaced person.

(Source / 01.03.2017)

Lebanese police threaten mass demolition of Palestinian refugee homes


The Lebanese police on Saturday ordered dozens of Palestinian families seeking shelter in southern Lebanon to evacuate their homes, pending their demolition.

According to Palestinian sources, the Lebanese authorities issued orders to evacuate 50 homes housing Palestinian refugee families al-Qasimiya community, to the north of the southern Lebanese city of Tyre (Sour).

Established over 50 years ago, following the mass-deportation of the Palestinians on the eve of the 1948 Nakba, the al-Qasimiya community has been a home to 6,000 Palestinian refugees, mostly working in the agricultural field.

Recently, the refugees thwarted an attempt by Lebanon’s al-Abassiya municipality to knock down Palestinian homes to expand the Sidon highway.

Thabet Organization for the Right of Return dubbed the developments signs of “a new humanitarian crisis endured by the Palestinian community in Lebanon.”

Thabet called for an urgent action as regards underway attempts to dislocate al-Shabriha community in favor of the Sidon highway.

The refugees voiced their support for ongoing projects to develop infrastructure in southern Lebanon on condition that they do not result in mass-deportation of the Palestinians.

The refugees urged the Lebanese government to work out the crisis and to build alternative homes to the west of the highway.

They further called on the international human rights institutions, namely UNRWA, and the mass media to take up their responsibilities regarding the affair.

(Source / 05.02.2017)

Lebanon launches census of Palestinian refugees

Ain Al-Hilweh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon [file photo]

Ain Al-Hilweh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon [file photo]

Lebanon launched yesterday a new census prepared by the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, in partnership with the Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in order to properly survey the number of Palestinians in Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, who announced the official launching of the project during a ceremony held at the Grand Serail in downtown Beirut, said Lebanon stresses on the right of return for Palestinian refugees to their country, adding that Lebanon cannot tolerate so many refugees while an additional 1.5 million Syrian refugees are on its territory.

“The whole world should be aware of how much the Palestinians are suffering in Lebanon, and how much the Lebanese are suffering too,” Al-Hariri said, adding “the presence of the Palestinians in Lebanon is welcomed, but this work emphasises their right to return to their country. Israel is usurping the Palestinians territories, and we are witnessing the results.”

“Hopefully when this report is ready, we will have figures that will confirm to the international community and the world the scale of the problems caused by Israel in Palestine and in Lebanon,” Al-Hariri concluded.

The head of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, Hassan Mneimneh, said the census, the first of its kind, will provide the Lebanese state and its institutions with official and comprehensive statistical data on the camps and gatherings inhabited by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which will help develop public policies in the future.

Meanwhile, the head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Ola Awad, said the census project will be finished within 15 months so the Lebanese government and the Palestinian Authority as well as donors can all have access to a reliable census to build any future policies regarding the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

(Source / 03.02.2017)

Hezbollah torn between its local and regional roles

Lebanese Hezbollah supporters carry flags and gesture during a religious procession to mark Ashura in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Lebanon, Oct. 12, 2016

On Jan. 17, the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, Hezbollah’s political wing in the Lebanese parliament, held its regular meeting and said in a statement that the meeting was mostly dedicated to discussing the national draft laws, in particular the electoral law.

However, the most remarkable thing about the bloc’s statement was its position on four regional issues, in addition to the local matter of the draft laws: offering condolences for the death of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; condemning Bahraini authorities for executing three young men and renewing support for the Bahraini Shiite uprising; condemning the silence of international human rights organizations over the rebels in Wadi Barada near Damascus cutting drinking water to millions of Syrians; and condemning the US-Saudi aggression against the Yemeni people.

The bloc’s stances vis-a-vis the regional issues are not something new for Hezbollah since Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has had a say about the Arab and Islamic issues in the past. However, the bloc’s statement raises an old question again: Is Hezbollah a Lebanese group or has it become a regional institution taking political stances regarding every regional and international development? What is its military, logistic, advisory and training role in certain countries, namely Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Yemen? How could the Lebanese party reconcile its political local role of resisting the Israeli occupation and aggression, with its growing regional role, which raises the concerns of Israel, the West and the neighboring Arab countries?

To answer this question, one ought to go back to the beginning of the party’s founding in 1982 as an Islamic resistance movement in the face of Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon. The movement used to be financed by Iran through Syria, believing in the obedience to the Iranian supreme leader at the time, Ruhollah Khomeini, and subsequently his successor, Ali Khamenei.

In this context, a Hezbollah official, who requested not to be named, told Al-Monitor, “Hezbollah originally combines between its Lebanese and regional roles. First, the party adopts the Palestinian cause and the conflict with the Israeli occupation, which is not only a local issue but also a regional cause. Second, it espouses an Islamic ideology with a global dimension, meaning that the party accords attention to the affairs of Muslims all around the world.”

The source added, “The conflict with Israel prompted Hezbollah to forge regional alliances with Syria, Iran, Palestinian resistance movements, political parties and Arab countries that are against occupation and imperialism. The rise of the terrorist and takfiri threat in Syria and Iraq and the danger of its expansion to Lebanon were behind Hezbollah’s intervention in the war raging in Syria, as a preventive and defensive measure to prevent extremist groups — such as the Islamic State [IS], Jabhat al-Nusra and their likes — from entering Lebanon. This is not to mention the need to protect religious shrines and prevent the Syrian state from falling in the hands of such extremist groups.”

The source also quoted Nasrallah as saying on June 17, 2014, “We will be wherever we need to be,” in reference to the party’s involvement in the battles on several Syrian fronts against armed groups, and the participation of some of its units in the training of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), after Mosul and other Iraqi cities and governorates fell into the hands of IS starting summer 2014.

Nasrallah said in the same statement, “Our involvement in Syria was a duty to protect Lebanon. We will not allow the attack on Zeinab twice [in reference to the attacks on the holy shrine of Zeinab in Damascus since the Syrian revolt erupted in 2011].

“In Iraq, we say, it is long gone that we will allow anyone in the world to destroy or defile our religious and holy sites in Najaf, Karbala and Samarra,” Nasrallah said.

Al-Monitor was the first to learn that Hezbollah had sent its cadres as advisers to guide and train the PMUs in Iraq in their battles against IS in June 2014.

On March 6, 2016, Nasrallah revealed that Hezbollah had been interfering in Iraq by sending advisers and trainers to help Iraqis in their fight against IS, and that its fighters were also involved in the Muslim battles in Bosnia against the Serbs in the 1990s.

The Hezbollah official, however, stressed that despite the party’s regional role, it strongly believes in the need for the Lebanese state to restore its power and sovereignty, stressing that should the state assume its responsibility to fight against the Israeli occupation of Lebanese territories, there would not be an urgent need for the rise of resistance in Lebanon.

In the same vein, researcher Bashir Saada, the author of “Hezbollah and the Politics of Remembrance,” told Al-Monitor that it is difficult to predict how Hezbollah would manage its local and regional role. Saada, however, does not see any contradiction between the Lebanonization of the party and its Islamic ideology. He believes that Hezbollah’s Islamic ideology is based on its understanding that it is part of the local environment of Lebanon, and that its regional involvement serves the local interest.

He also added that Hezbollah would not embark on a regional venture, which could undermine its position locally.

Kassem Kassir, a researcher in Islamic movements and the author of “Hezbollah between 1982 and 2016,” told Al-Monitor, “Hezbollah’s regional role has been growing in light of the ongoing conflicts in the region, the current tensions and the previous political vacuum [in Lebanon], not to mention the involvement of some other Lebanese sources — in reference to the Future Movement and jihadi Sunni groups — in such conflicts. However, this role is likely to dwindle once the state regains its prestige and institutions, the local parties’ involvement in regional conflicts declines, and the search for solutions and compromises to the ongoing Arab crises starts.”

Kassir said, “This is what happened earlier following the Taif Agreement in 1989,” when the Lebanese militias were dismantled and they handed over their weapons to the Lebanese army. “Hezbollah will find itself in the future facing many challenges, prompting it to reconsider its position and role. This is especially true, should the regional parties reach a settlement on Syria. Lebanon can no longer tolerate the party’s growing regional role” at the expense of the Lebanese sovereignty, Kassir added.

It is worth noting that the March 14 Alliance has repeatedly accused Hezbollah of undermining the Lebanese state by holding on to its weapons, especially long-range missiles, thus causing potential Israeli threats to Lebanon. The alliance also held claims that Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria and its positions toward the Gulf states have led some of these states (namely Saudi Arabia) to impose economic sanctions on Lebanon.

Nasrallah said on May 21, 2016, that Hezbollah has moved from being a local power to becoming a regional one given its military capabilities on the ground. Sheikh Naim Qassem, Nasrallah’s deputy, said Nov. 16 that the party “has become bigger than a party and smaller than an army.” The party is better armed and trained with well-developed expertise. Qassem described Hezbollah’s military parade in the Syrian city of Qusair on Nov. 13 as “a show of strength and a message to everyone,” in reference to Israel and the regional states that support the rebels in Syria.

In this context, a source close to the Future Movement told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that Hezbollah’s message was addressed to the new Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Hezbollah’s approach to its regional role is based on a national basis, arguing that Lebanon is part of the Arab region and cannot disassociate from the region’s conflicts, especially since Israel is “a hostile and aggressive entity” (according to Nasrallah) and would not hesitate to reoccupy parts of Lebanon whenever it can. As jihadi extremist groups are international movements that extend to where they can, and if Hezbollah did not intervene to confront them on the border with Syria and beyond, they would have entered to the heart of the country. Nasrallah said on Nov. 8, 2013, “If we did not go to Syria, Lebanon would have turned into a second Iraq.”

(Source / 03.02.2017)

Lebanese Women Call for 30 percent Quota in Parliamentary Seats

Lebanon gets its very first ministry for women's affairs [AFP]

Lebanon gets its very first ministry for women’s affairs

Beirut– Lebanese women rallied on Wednesday to call for an increased female representation in any parliamentary electoral law approved by the different political parties.

While women constitute 51 percent of the Lebanese population and 54 percent of university graduates, they are merely represented in Parliament, as they currently occupy 3.1 percent of parliamentary seats.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri have stressed on several occasions their commitment to allocate a certain quota to women to support their active participation in political life.

On Wednesday, dozens of women and activists gathered in downtown Beirut to voice their demands for a women’s quota. State Minister for Women’s Affairs Jean Oghassabian joined the march to express his solidarity with the demonstrators.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Free Patriotic Movement MP Alain Aoun said that the parliamentary administrative and justice committee was currently studying “women’s quota”, in addition to other necessary reforms that should be implemented in the new electoral law.

Aoun added that while the majority of parliamentary blocs support the introduction of a women’s quota in the new law, some other blocs have expressed reservations on the matter.

“Reservations are not on women’s participation but rather on the quota,” the FPM deputy said.

For his part, Oghassabian expressed full support for women’s demands. “It’s a righteous cause; we will work on it until we reach the aspired goals.”

“We believe that women have strong capabilities; we need such energy inside Parliament and the government,” he said.

The minister hoped that Wednesday’s rally would spread across different Lebanese areas to guarantee a women’s quota in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Oghassabian also expressed the prime minister’s support to this endeavor.

“Prime Minister Hariri joins you in these demands and believes in your cause,” the minister said, addressing the demonstrators.

(Source / 02.02.2017)