Lebanon’s image and the stamping of Iranian passports

Nadim Koteich
Nadim Koteich
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There have been several political interpretations of the Lebanese general security’s measure not to stamp Iranian passports upon arrival in Beirut and stamp entry cards instead.

The Lebanese general security based its decision on a law issued in 1970, which allows the Director General of the General Security or the interior minister to take those steps in special circumstances. However, the surprising part is that this recent measure expanded the category of these special cases to cover all Iranians entering the country. This couldn’t have been the purpose of those who passed the law!

Imagine the enormity of this catastrophe! There are Iranians who think that visiting Lebanon may give them a bad reputation which better be avoided to ensure that they keep their image unsullied in front of the embassies of other countries!

Nadim Koteich

Lebanon’s reputation

What further escalated the controversy around this issue is that an Iranian news agency broke the news. This directly raised doubts and suspicions. Consequently, Interior Minister Nohad al-Machnouk requested to put this new measure on hold until consultations take place with caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri on the matter.

Some explanations suggest that this step came in the context of facilitating the movement of Iranians going to Syria and protecting their personal information, which appears an exaggerated explanation. Iranians coming to Lebanon, especially to fight in Syria, will not be greatly affected if their passports are stamped since entry and exit data is kept in the general security database and this procedure won’t grant any confidentiality to their movements.

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The second explanation, that I have personally confirmed its accuracy, links the procedure to what is worse for Lebanon and its reputation. According to one of the narratives explaining why this measure was adopted, Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon sent a letter to the Lebanese Foreign Ministry conveying the complaints of some Iranians, including businessmen and tourists, saying that having the Lebanese stamp on their passports complicates the possibility of obtaining visas to other countries, which makes them avoid going to Lebanon!

Imagine the enormity of this catastrophe! There are Iranians who think that visiting Lebanon may give them a bad reputation which better be avoided to ensure that they keep their image unsullied in front of the embassies of other countries! According to those familiar with the complaint, the complaining Iranians said that when Iranians who visited Lebanon travel to other countries or apply for visas, they are being asked innumerable questions about the reasons behind the visit to Lebanon and whether this visit has anything to do with Hezbollah’s activity inside or outside Lebanon.

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Those who made the complaints said these questions are due to suspicions that the only reason an Iranian would visit Lebanon is his supposed security or military activity within Hezbollah! This is what Lebanon’s reputation has come to, as a military base for Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards. Visiting Lebanon, which was a destination for tourism, has become almost a crime, at least for the Iranians whom, by the way, 2.5 million of them visit neighboring Turkey.

Under Iran’s shadow

I frankly do not care about Iranians’ visits to Lebanon even if they are important to open necessary relations between Lebanon and this category of the Iranian society that refrains from visiting Lebanon because of its Western priorities and to protect their visas to Britain, the United States and Europe. This is an interesting Iranian category and its visits to Lebanon may weaken the stereotypical image about the Iranians and the Lebanese and which is mainly formed by the visits of the Revolutionary Guards or the ideological pilgrims.

What concerns me the most is the impression that is being strengthened in the world about Lebanon that it has become a security and military base for Iran, as conveyed by the Iranians’ complaints communicated by Iran’s envoy in Lebanon to the relevant authorities – an impression that Tehran does not hesitate to solidify and affirm.

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Before this storm pertaining to Iranian visitors, Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force was informing the world that Hezbollah had won at least 70 seats in the parliament and concluded that Lebanon had grown from a country that embraces the “Resistance” into a full “Resistance” state. This is another confirmation for those who wish to equate Lebanon with Hezbollah as per Israel’s analysis after the conclusion of the elections.

Correcting the image

However, this is not the case. Only a few days ago, the representatives who were celebrated by Soleimani were publicly insulted and humiliated by the people of Baalbek-Hermel governorate because they believe that Hezbollah has not been successful in improving their lives despite all the sacrifices they made in support of their cause.

There is something about this decline that resembles what’s happening in Iran itself where the Iranians have had enough of the lies related to the ‘Resistance,’ Hezbollah, Gaza and Jerusalem. Consequently, they disposed of donation boxes allocated to Jerusalem on Quds Day and chanted in the street “Not Gaza and not Lebanon.” Khamenei himself had to directly debate them in his recent speeches.

Lebanon is actually in a moment of serious conflict over its image as there is the image which most of the Lebanese people want for their country and the image of the state as an operations room like very few parties want.

This is a fateful moment which nothing expresses best than an Iranian telling us: Visiting Lebanon is a burden on me!

If this is what some Iranians think then what does the rest of the world think of us? Thank you ‘Resistance.’

This article is also available in Arabic.


Nadim Koteich is a leading Arab satirist. His show DNA airs Monday to Friday on Future and Al Hadath channels. He is a columnist with Asharq Alawsat. He tweets @NadimKoteich.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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