Leaked video causes tensions in Lebanon

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By Philip Andrew Churm
Amal supporters protest at remarks by Gibran Bassil
Amal supporters protest at remarks by Gibran Bassil

Protests have taken place in Lebanon after the Foreign Minister, Gibran Bassil, was filmed calling Parliamentary Speaker, Nabih Berri, a “thug”.

Supporters of Berri burnt tyres in the streets and carried flags of his Shiite Amal movement.

It is the latest event to highlight tensions between Berri and President Michel Aoun, who is Bassil’s father-in-law.

The foreign minister was recorded saying: “Berri has a problem with the president but why is he involving me or expats. He’s trying to create divisions by asking Shiite’s to boycott any conference by threatening their businesses. This is a thug and not a president of a parliament.”

He was speaking after Aoun issued a decree promoting a number of Lebanese army officers.

Protesters explained why they had taken to the streets. One Amal supporter said: “Bassil is saying words bigger than him. He is not up to the standard of Mr Berri. Mr Berri is one of the pillars of Lebanon. This is not acceptable, we support Speaker Berri.”

Another said: “We went down to the streets, without any orders from Amal movement. The Amal movement is a social phenomenon that anyone can be affected by .. be it a member of Amal movement or not. Nabih Berri is not only the party's leader. Nabih Berri is the speaker of the Lebanese parliament and we are Lebanese citizens.”

Bassil’s remarks were also rejected by Hezbollah who are allies of Aoun but also supporters of Berri’s Amal movement. In a statement the organisation said such comments do not build a state but create more crises and disunity.

Lebanese politics is still dominated by the groups behind the civil war from 1975 to 1990.