Lebanon FM Gebran Bassil’s invite to Davos sparks protests, online campaign

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Social media users are campaigning against the Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil representing Lebanon at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland, the night after anti-government protesters clashed with riot police in Beirut.

Bassil is scheduled to speak during a session titled “The Return of Arab Unrest” at the annual forum that brings together thousands of world leaders to collaborate on activities to shape the global, regional and industry agendas. 

But back home, Bassil has become a deeply divisive figure, with anti-government protesters accusing him of epitomizing the corruption and nepotism of the current system. Bassil, who is the son-in-law of President Michel Aoun and leads the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement party, has refused to step down from politics despite protesters’ demands.

Twitter users flooded the platform on Monday calling on WEF and Davos to disinvite Bassil and replace him with someone who better represents the country and the people.  

“Out of all people, they chose Gebran Bassil,” wrote Twitter user Ramez Dagher. “The politician featured in the flagship chant of the Lebanese revolution against the political class…”  

Another Twitter user Lynn Zovighian called the situation “incredulous” and said it “cannot go unchanged.” 

She added “Speakership roles at @Davos must be vetted for principles and expertise. @Gebran_Bassil has neither the ethical backbone nor the technical elegance of mind to speak [on the panel].” 

One person directly called out Davos, saying it “legitimizes nepotism, cronyism and corruption” by inviting Bassil to speak.  

“[WEF] becomes complicit in the corruption by inviting Gebran Bassil to speak,” wrote Ibrahim Alhusseini on Twitter. “Take a stand and disinvite him immediately and stand with the Lebanese people and not against them.” 

A Carnegie Endowment scholar based in Beirut even questioned the expense of Bassil’s “luxury trip.” 

“At whose expense is he taking this luxury trip while Lebanon faces [economic] collapse?” Kim Ghattas asked on Twitter.  

Meanwhile, in homage to the iconic protest chant heard across the world out of Lebanon, Alexander Rayes said on Twitter, “Hela hela, hela hela ho! @Gebran_Bassil should not go! @Davos @wef.” 

Protests have swept through Lebanon since October 2019 and led to the resignation of then Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his cabinet, which includes Bassil, who remains caretaker foreign minister until a new cabinet is formed.

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