Iran-backed Hezbollah has officially launched a chain of supermarkets in Lebanon named al-Sajjad to provide low-cost products to its supporters as part of plans critics say are aimed to further develop its own parallel economy.
Hezbollah’s supporters celebrated the opening of the al-Sajjad cooperatives, where they shared pictures of the launch of the first branch near the airport, calling for “focusing on the term branch,” referring to the series of supermarkets opening.
Lebanon is experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis caused by decades of corruption and mismanagement due to the instability caused by the country’s sectarian political system. The crisis was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and by a massive explosion at the Port of Beirut last August, leaving 300,000 displaced, over 2,000 injured, and at least 200 dead. The crisis has caused a 10-fold depreciation of the Lebanese currency, placing almost half of the population under the poverty line, according to the World Bank.
Hezbollah’s opponents criticized the supermarket launch by stating that the terrorist group, “should have worked with its parliamentary majority and with Lebanon’s pro-Hezbollah government to set a relief plan for all Lebanese to minimize the aftermath of the economic crisis which they have caused.”
The photos show shelves full of foodstuffs appeared to have been taken during the preparation process to fill the shelves with food cans and other items.
Hezbollah, which distributed the al-Sajjad cards to tens of thousands of people, bring customers to the shopping centers to maintain the flow of cash within its own controlled business environment.
By entering the supermarket business, Hezbollah will attract consumers with no choice but to buy from those stores that receive its own brand of pre-funded cards.
The al-Sajjad card concept is part of a large project financed to secure food for its social environment at low prices, and less than the subsidized commodity prices provided by the Lebanese government. It includes the possibility of buying a limited quantity of foodstuffs and cleaning powder for holders of the card.
Faisal Abdul Sater, a local media professional, said in an interview with a local TV station that the card are used in areas that overlap with Syria, such as the al-Qusair region.
The launch of the al-Sajjad cooperative has been accompanied by an advertisement campaign on billboards in Beirut’s southern suburbs marketing Iranian alternative products to combat the increase in prices of Western-imported products which witnessed a ten-fold price increase because of the depreciation of the Lebanon Lira.