ATbar Hezbollah and the Global Corona Crisis

Hezbollah and the Global Corona Crisis

14/04/2020 | by Barak, Michael (Dr.)  

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The global Corona crisis provides Hezbollah a unique opportunity to position itself as an actor determined to protect the Lebanese citizens from the pandemic threat. It is evident that its enlistment to this fight expresses its wishes to restore its image that was damaged in the wake of the recent popular uprising against government corruption, the severe financial crisis and the political instability. That said, its plan seems to have been doubted by the public and it has a hard time marketing itself as an entity that holds the public interest paramount. Yet, as a hybrid terror organization it shows high organizational capabilities and leverage them to consolidate its rule as a hybrid terror organization, over Shiite regions in southern Lebanon through the supply of healthcare services.

 

The Lebanese Ministry of Health and the COVID-19 Fiasco

Lebanon a low rate of infections compared to other countries in the world, but it stands to reason that the real number is much higher due to the low number of Corona detection tests. As of April 4th ,2020 the number of sick was 520 and 17 dead[1]. Like other countries Lebanon took several preventive measures. For example, in February and March 2020 it prohibited its residents from travelling to disease-stricken regions such as Italy and Iran,[2] ordered tests for anyone suspected of infection and quarantined those who have positive . On March 15th, 2020 it declared a state of medical emergency.

Despite the above, the government and particularly the Minister of Health, Hamad Hassan, a Hezbollah appointment, suffered harsh criticism claiming incompetence in handling the pandemic. For example, Hadi Murad, a doctor and a prominent Lebanese activist accused Hassan of neglecting the public health and dubbed him the Corona Minister for allowing Irani planes to land in Beirut knowing full well that the came from an infected country and therefore pose an infection threat to the public. Murad wrote on his Facebook account that “The Minister of Health, Hamad Hassan, has primary responsibility and liability for any Corona infection. Yet, since he cannot carry his load and does not heed calls to quarantine all those who came from infected countries… and lets air travelers [considered] ticking time bombs to come on contact with the people[3]. Per him, Hassan played with the Lebanese’ lives and therefore needs to resign. In response Hassan revoked Murad’s medical license which led to wide public protest online and on the street that demanded that Murad’s license be reinstated, and Hassan fired[4].

Other Lebanese citizens accused Hezbollah of spreading the virus in Lebanon. Per them, political interests and the close ties between the Iranian regime and Hezbollah were the motive for the latter’s decision to pressure the government to allow Iranians to enter the country. For example, Sabine Yusuf, a Lebanese media personality, posted a selfie clip where it accused Hezbollah of taking control of the Beirut airport to allow the entry of Corona infected Iranians to Lebanon. Per her, it would be better if Hezbollah sacrificed its own people rather than the Lebanese public[5].

It should be noted, since the formation of the government in January 2019 the Ministry of Health is headed by a Hezbollah appointee. The importance Hezbollah attributes to the Ministry of Health comes from a financial hardship it is in for allocating a fortune take care of its injured, payment of damages to the families of its fighters killed fighting ISIS in Syria and concerns of a reduced Iranian financial aid due to the international sanctions imposed on the latter. In light of the above, Hezbollah sees the large Ministry of Health budget a source of funds to fund the above and even create a scenario wherein the Lebanese state institutions protect Hezbollah from international sanctions[6]. Alongside the above, Hezbollah operates an extensive healthcare system developed over the years which includes five hospitals, hundreds of clinics and medical centers and more.



[1] "Total Coronavirus Cases in Lebanon", Worldometers.  4 Apr 2020. 

[3] @hadi.a.mourad.1, Facebook.com. 1 Mar 2020.

[4] The online protest focused on the following hashtags: no to oppression, free doctor, we are all Hadi Murad, reverse the decision, Corona Minister, independent doctors, fire the criminal minister, .  #لا_للقمع; #طبيب_حر; #كلنا_هادي_مراد; #تراجع_عن_القرار; #وزير_الكورونا; #اطباء_مستقلين; ‫#‏الاستقالة_للوزير_المجرم

[5] @UCKtC2BkSpp5uR7mtWcTq5Ow, Facebook.com. 13 Mar, 2020.

[6] Hanin Ghaddar, "Why Does Hezbollah Want Lebanon’s Health Ministry?", The Washington Institute, 19.10.18.

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