Why was Wassef Al-Harakeh Attacked?

Myriam Sweidan
Lebanese Journalist
July 5, 2020
Attacking Wassef Al-Harakeh was silmuntaneous with Lebanon witnessing a rise in security and judicial raids on freedom of expression and criticism, leading to an increased amount of summons and arrest warrants due to the said expressed opinions or social media posts..

“Down drops the thief’s rule…Wassef Al-Harakeh is a red line.” This was the chant yelled by Rabie Al-Shamaly and the other young men who gathered in front of the “Hotel Dieu” hospital where the assaulted activist and lawyer was being treated.

Rabie, who rushed to the hospital after hearing of the attack on Al-Harakeh by four unidentified assailants, had also been detained in jail a few days ago, with a group of young demonstrators who were also arrested in the last few weeks. He was released after efforts by Al-Harakeh and another group of volunteer lawyers put pressure on those who arrested him.

“Wassef was the first one I saw after being released, even before my mother and sister,” Rabie narrates how Al-Harakeh and other lawyers kept visiting detention centers to defend detainees, and then returning back again to chant and shout outside the centers, condemning and decrying the arrests that had happened.

“Now I’m here, chanting from my heart, because Wassef is like a brother to me, what he has done for us, the Beqaa revolution movement, was comparable to no one else,” Rabie tells Daraj.

The enthusiasm and spirit shown by Rabie and the young men from Beqaa was not only limited to them; many demonstrators had a strong bond with Al-Harakeh and the group of volunteering lawyers who are committed to defending the rights to demonstrate and express opinions, rejecting the policies of custody and the silencing of voices.

Amongst the crowd, Wassef’s wife, Ola Al-Harakeh, stood trying to assure those who showed up concerned, that the attack would never demoralize or demotivate her husband or bring his spirit down, until Al-Harakeh himself came out of the hospital after being treated. It was a passionate moment when he met the demonstrators and friends at the hospital’s gates, and they headed together to Hamra Street where there was another stand in solidarity with Ali Al-Haq who was devastated by the current financial and economic collapse and committed suicide at the same day by shooting a bullet through his head.

In Hamra, Wassef Al-Harakeh reassured his companions that the attack would never cause him to retreat, saying: “message delivered.. if it aimed to stop us, it will show them that we are determined we are and will always be committed until the end.”

What Happened?

“No matter what it takes, even if the price is our lives, we are determined to go on; we are authors of a case concerned with saving the country from the thieving regime, they are criminals and burglars, all of them, no one is excluded.” These words, repeated by Al-Harakeh in a call interview with the “Voice of Lebanon” radio station in Beirut, minutes before he was attacked with sharp objects in broad daylight and in a crowded street, tens of meters from a Lebanese military security center, and hundreds of meters from Internal Security Forces Directorate.

This attack, conducted by four assailants using giant bats, was a quick and clear message from a powerful side, whether it was related to a party or a security agency, and it was definitely a powerful one.

Attacking Wassef Al-Harakeh was silmuntaneous with Lebanon witnessing a rise in security and judicial raids on freedom of expression and criticism, leading to increased amount of summons and arrest warrants due to the said expressed opinions or social media posts.. In fact, Al-Harakeh had received calls and threatening messages a day before he was attacked.

 Why Wassef?

Wassef Al-Harakeh (49) has become a familiar face in the demonstrations taking place in Lebanon during the last few months and previously during the demonstrations of 2015. He is devoted to criticizing the regime and is constantly following up on legal and human rights violations. In general he has been one of the most remarkable opposition symbols along the last five years, an activist and a lawyer licensed from Beirut Arab University. He co-founded the “Badna Nhaseb” (We want Accountability) movement that was activated in the Lebanon protests of 2015.

Al-Harakeh also belongs to ‘the Popular Observatory against corruption’, and has many coordinating relations with many associations concerned with politics, social activities and human rights. He also was a candidate for the Shiite chair in Mount. Lebanon 3 in the “Kulluna Watani” list in 2018 elections.

Al-Harakeh has also participated in exposing corruption in Lebanon; he, with a team of lawyers and in the form of personal action, filed a complaint in 2019 to the discriminatory Public Prosecutor Ghassan Awidat against ministers, employees, municipalities managers, construction observers, contractors, consultants and public property occupants accusing them of default, inattention and violation of laws and regulations- whether deliberately or incidentally- which have resulted in flooding lands in Lebanon and immersing houses and institutions with rain, in addition to blocking the main, international and sub roads and endangering the citizens’ lives.

One of the most heightened confrontations with the authority he had was when “the Democratic Constituency” member Wael abu Faour filed a complaint against the movement under the charge of “libel, slander and defamation” in response to the movement they launched accusing him of sending cancer medication to Swaida in Syria when he was the minister of health, which led to the shortage of these medications for the Lebanese.

Last February, the same incident took place with the journalist Muhammad Zbib in Hamra street, but the attack was in a garage in a later time of the day and away from the people’s sight, unlike the Al-Harakeh incident, which was recorded by surveillance cameras in the daylight.

There is no doubt the attack on Al-Harakeh has been a new chapter of challenge in this critical condition Lebanon is undergoing.

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