On Friday, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah made a speech in which he asked his supporters to refrain from protesting.
“You want to protest, you need money. How is this protest being funded? Please explain to us how? You ask for transparency, then give it to us. Are you getting paid by certain embassies?” said Nasrallah.
Despite his call, hundreds in the town of Nabatieh, a Shia town considered a stronghold for the Iranian-backed organization and its allies, have taken to the streets on the ninth day of nationwide protesters to express their disdain for his words.
In Nabatieh, protesters took to the streets and continued to chant the slogan “kullun yaani kullun,” or all of them means all of them, in reference to the entire political class.
A 60-year old-mother, who refused to give her name out of fear of reprisal, lamented: “He should be standing with us. I don’t understand this. We have supported him through everything, we have given our blood to him. He is standing with the corrupt.”
“My son has two kids he can barely feed. Get off your lousy seats already! We are with you against Israel but we are against you in this revolution,” she added. Hezbollah had gained popularity among some Lebanese for fighting against Israel in the 2006 war, but has since been criticized for protecting the status quo in Lebanon and fighting in Syria.
Another protester, a 27-year-old man who also chose to remain anonymous, said “what a shame. I am shocked and appalled. He should have been apologizing to us, his thugs beat us. How does he expect us to stand idle and continue to support him?”
Protesters came under attack in Nabatieh on Thursday night and Friday from men reportedly from Hezbollah and the associated Amal party, led by Nabih Berri. In central Beirut, protesters were also attacked on Friday.
A female protester had further criticism for Nasrallah’s speech. “He talks of outside funds, what outside funds? The cookies we are receiving from other fellow protesters, or the water bottles being given away for free? Do not dismiss us. We are part of this country.”
Despite Nasrallah’s calls to stay off the streets, in Nabatieh Hezbollah supporters turned up and attempted to reach the protest zone in a motor convoy. Security forces blocked their path, with a tense standoff between military personnel, security forces, protesters, and Hezbollah supporters.
The pro-Hezbollah crowd chanted Hezbollah and pro-Nasrallah slogans before being directed to a side road to avoid them clashing with the protesters.
Yet anti-government protests in Shia majority areas traditionally loyal to Hezbollah and Amal continued throughout Friday, disregarding Nasrallah’s speech. Back in Nabatieh, a group of elderly ladies sitting by the side of the road watching the protesters chant were dismissive of the Hezbollah leader’s call. “We didn’t even bother listening to him,” they said.