Elections

Moderate Shia candidate attacked in Lebanon

By Tamer Abu Zaid in Beirut

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A picture taken on March 9th, along a highway in the southern Lebanese coastal city of Tyre shows electoral billboards for the upcoming parliamentary elections for the Amal movement, with flags of Hizbullah flying on street lights. [Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP]

Suspected Hizbullah supporters on Sunday (April 22nd) assaulted a moderate Shia candidate in his southern Lebanon hometown of Shaqra as he and his supporters hung election posters for his campaign.

The attack on Ali al-Amin, a journalist running on the Shbina Haki (Enough with Talking) electoral list who has been a vocal critic of Hizbullah, came as campaigning heats up for Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, set for May 6th.

Al-Amin is running as a Shia candidate for Bint Jbeil in the third southern electoral district. He is among a number of moderate Shia candidates running for election in various parts of the country in opposition to Hizbullah.

Janoubia.com, the website al-Amin runs, has been critical of Hizbullah’s policies, its involvement in the Syrian war and its ties with Iran.

In a video posted online, al-Amin said about 30 suspected Hizbullah supporters assaulted him and his supporters with sticks and sharp tools.

"The attackers destroyed our car and phones, and snatched pictures and posters," he said. '"I suffered bruises, and one of my teeth was broken."

After the assault, al-Amin was transported to Tebnin Public Hospital.

'Disrupting the election'

Al-Amin blamed Hizbullah for the attack, which he said was aimed at disrupting the election and denying any opposing candidate the space or freedom to run.

"I am putting this forward to the commission which oversees the elections, and to [President Michel Aoun] as the protector of the constitution," he said.

Shia civil society activist Mona Fayad condemned the attack on al-Amin.

Hizbullah has long presented itself as "the protector of human rights", she told Al-Mashareq. "Why then are they afraid of the nomination of a journalist who has nothing but words and want to prevent him from running for election?"

"This is the true face of the militias: repression and oppression, which came from Iran with the 'guardianship of the jurist', all the way to the last village in the south [of Lebanon]," she said.

"What happened in Shaqra and the attack on al-Amin is not like the other incidents -- it is a direct assault on a candidate," Interior Minister Nohad al-Machnouq said.

"We condemn this attack," he said. "It is clear that there is a rejectionist mentality that does not accept the other opinion."

Hizbullah under fire

Meanwhile, Hizbullah has come under fire on social media.

"Of course, they fear those who say the truth," wrote social media user Nahla Kanaan. "In the absence of intellectual arguments, they only have the thugs’ arguments to use!"

Nawal Nasr wrote: "We have had enough with the systemic policy of appeasement which is adopted in the south and everywhere. There are some who think that God has created and given them the upper hand."

Journalist Bchara Charbel called the attack on al-Amin a "full-fledged crime".

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah last month threatened he will "personally" go to Baalbek and Hermel on election day to support his party's list.

Shia opposition to Hizbullah in Baalbek-Hermel has been growing fast, with an electoral battle brewing between the Hizbullah-Amal Hope and Loyalty list and the Dignity and Development list, which includes five Shia candidates.

Hizbullah has a history of threatening election candidates.

In 2009, the Iran-backed militia's supporters fomented unrest against Ahmed al-Assaad, son of former Parliament Speaker Kamel al-Assaad, a moderate Shia candidate who headed the Lebanese Option Party.

Al-Assaad's office in Beirut’s Dahieh was attacked, and he was prevented from holding an electoral event in southern Lebanon, with Lebanese security forces called in to provide security for his offices.

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