Syria & Lebanon

Lebanese erupt on social media over foreign minister’s Davos participation

Lebanese have erupted in anger after the country’s caretaker foreign minister was announced as a participant at the World Economic Forum conference in Davos.

Activists have started an online petition called “No to Gebran Bassil at WEF”.

“It’s a shame that the international community fails to see Gebran Bassil amongst the pool of failed politicians who have lead to the crisis Lebanon witnesses today,” Chermine Haidar, a Lebanese student at SOAS University in London, told Arab News.

“He has for years incited sectarian violence in Lebanon, and today he is turning a blind eye to the devastating violence against civilians we’re witnessing,” she added.

Bassil, who has been one of the protesters’ main targets, is set to speak in a panel session called “The Return of Arab Unrest” along with Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Dubai-based developer Damac Properties, Rached Ghannouchi, speaker of the Tunisian assembly and the Dutch trade minister Sigrid Kaag.

The panel, moderated by CNBC anchor Hadley Gamble, will discuss the rise of popular protests across the Middle East and how they can “be translated into a practical roadmap for positive change,” according to the session description.

“What positive change will Gebran Bassil be talking about?” asked George Azzi on Twitter.

“How to ignore protesters and oppress them?

“There is a revolution against him in Beirut and he is invited to speak about a ‘practical roadmap to avoid past pitfalls?’ This panel is shameful!”

Another Lebanese expat, Catherine Warde, also reacted with disbelief at Bassil’s appearance.

“How can someone who is so hated by their own people go and speak at the World Economic Forum when the people that they should be representing are being shot and tear gassed because of orders they gave out?” she said.

The Lebanese protests erupted at the weekend into the worst violence since the demonstrations began in October. Hundreds of people were injured during clashes with riot police and the army.

The online petition, which has reached more than 5,000 signatures, says: “We the People urge the World Economic Forum to rethink Mr Bassil’s invite and listen to the People of Lebanon, listen to their voice, the voice of truth, the voice of justice.”

“He should not be present at a prestigious international forum such as Davos in our name. He should not be given a legitimate platform to cement his power and to speak on behalf of a nation that has rejected him and accuses him of flagrant corruption.”

One Lebanese twitter user, Rula El-Halabi, tweeted a poll that asked Lebanese citizens whether they agree with Bassil representing Lebanon at the forum.

Some 76 percent out of the 17,551 who responded voted “No.”

A few, however, have defended the caretaker foreign minister on social media.

One user, Hyam Saliba, tweeted: “As a Lebanese citizen, I would like to say that Gebran Bassil is the most honorable politician in Lebanon and he truly represents me.

“He is one of a kind man that can change the world to make it a better place.

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