Page semi-protected

Gebran Bassil

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Gebran Bassil
جبران باسيل
Gebran Bassil in 2018 (cropped).jpg
Bassil in 2018.
President of the Free Patriotic Movement
Assumed office
27 August 2015
Preceded byMichel Aoun
Member of Parliament
Assumed office
22 May 2018
Preceded byBoutros Harb
ConstituencyBatroun District
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants
In office
15 February 2014 – 21 January 2020
Prime MinisterTammam Salam
Saad Hariri
Preceded byAdnan Mansour
Succeeded byNassif Hitti
Minister of Energy and Water
In office
9 November 2009 – 14 February 2014
Prime MinisterSaad Hariri
Najib Mikati
Preceded byAlain Tabourian
Succeeded byArthur Nazarian
Minister of Telecommunications
In office
11 July 2008 – 8 November 2009
Prime MinisterFouad Siniora
Preceded byMarwan Hamadeh
Succeeded byCharbel Nahas
Personal details
Born (1970-06-21) 21 June 1970 (age 51)
Batroun, Lebanon
NationalityLebanese
Political partyFree Patriotic Movement
Spouse(s)
Chantal Aoun
(m. 1999)
Children3
ResidenceByblos, Lebanon
EducationAmerican University of Beirut
ProfessionCivil engineering

Gebran Gerge Bassil (Arabic: جبران جرجي باسيل‎; born 21 June 1970) is a Lebanese politician who is the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement since 2015. A Maronite Christian, he is the son-in-law of President Michel Aoun, and has been his most senior advisor since 2005.[1]

Born in Batroun, Bassil joined the FPM, becoming a prominent activist in it. He ran in the general election of 2005 and 2009, and was appointed as the Minister of Telecommunications in the First Cabinet of Saad Hariri. In 2011, Bassil and all ministers of the opposition announced their resignation, leading to the collapse of the government.[2]

He subsequently held the position of Minister of Energy and Water between 2011 and 2014, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants from 2014 to 2020. He won a parliamentary seat for Batroun district and the Maronite sect in the general election in 2018. He was highly targeted in the widespread Lebanese protests which began by the end of 2019.

Bassil remains a controversial figure in the country. He is often accused of corruption, racism and nepotism,[3][4] and was labeled the "most hated man in Lebanon".[5][6][7] These claims are denied by Bassil, stating that they are part of a wider character assassination plot. He was sanctioned by the United States under the Magnitsky Act.

Early life

Bassil was born into a Maronite Christian family. He received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in civil engineering from the American University of Beirut in 1992 and 1993 respectively.[8] He was a member of a number of associations: the Lebanese Red Cross and Rotary Club of Batroun, Lebanon.[9]

Political career

Between the years of 1998 and 2005, Bassil was an activist in various positions in the Free Patriotic Movement. In 2005, he became a candidate in the general elections in the district of Batroun but did not succeed in being elected. From 2005 to 2008, Bassil was head of the Free Patriotic Movement.

He served as the Minister of telecommunications in the Lebanese cabinet led by Fouad Siniora from May 2008 to June 2009, and then as the minister of energy in the cabinet headed by Saad Hariri[8] Bassil lost the general elections held in 2009.[clarification needed][10]

Collapse of government in 2011

On 12 January 2011, the government collapsed after Bassil announced that all ten opposition ministers had resigned following months of warnings by Hezbollah that it would not remain inactive should there be indictments against the group. The New York Times suggested the resignations came after the collapse of talks between Syria and Saudi Arabia to ease tensions in Lebanon.

Minister of Energy and Water and Foreign Affairs and Emigrants

He served as the Minister of Energy and Water in the cabinet headed by Najib Mikati since June 2011, and assumed the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants as of February 2014. In the general election of 2018, Bassil was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) for the Batroun-Koura-Zgharta-Bsharri electoral district.[11]

During his tenure as the Minister of Energy and Water, he promised to provide electricity 24-hours a day; hence, he officiated a campaign to explore offshore oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean,[12] and to generate power by floating electricity-generating turbines off the Lebanese coast through Turkish company Karpowership.[13][14] However, the plan did not realize due to the continuous political disagreements in Lebanon.[15]

2017 Lebanon–Saudi Arabia dispute

Lebanon's president Aoun and some Lebanese officials including Bassil believed that the abrupt resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri was made under coercion by Saudis and have claimed that the Saudis have kept him hostage.

This led Bassil to visit multiple European countries and meet with senior EU leaders to rally diplomatic support for Lebanon and its stability. During his European tour, he met with High Representative/Vice-president of the European Union Federica Mogherini in Brussels,[16] Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu,[17] German FM Sigmar Gabriel,[18] Russian FM Sergei Lavrov[19] and French President Emmanuel Macron.[20]

United States sanctions

On 6 November 2020, the United States Trump administration imposed sanctions on Bassil under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act over "systemic corruption" and ties with the Shia movement Hezbollah under Executive Order E.O. 13818.[21] A senior U.S. official said Bassil's support for Hezbollah was "every bit of the motivation" for targeting him for sanctions.[22] The sanctions froze all of his assets in the U.S. as well as his bank accounts in U.S. dollars. Private sector banks and U.S.-based businesses are prohibited to do business with him. He was denied access to the United States and may encounter problems getting a Schengen visa.[23]

After the announcement, Bassil tweeted that he was "neither frightened by the sanctions nor tempted by the promises".[24] President Michel Aoun assigned his foreign minister Charbel Wehbe to contact the United States in order to obtain evidence or necessary to take the necessary legal measures against Bassil.[25]

In a televised speech Bassil slammed the sanctions as unjust and politically motivated, mainly for his refusal to break ties with Hezbollah. He also added that he joined the government as Foreign Minister to take advantage of diplomatic immunity, and congratulated Joe Biden for his win in the 2020 presidential election.[26] Bassil's supporters gathered in front of his house, expressing their solidarity and sympathy for him.[27]

The US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea suggested that Bassil "expressed willingness to break with Hezbollah on certain conditions", and that the sanctions are targeting Bassil and not the Free Patriotic Movement.[28] This was later denied by Bassil.

Personal life

Bassil and his wife Chantal Michel Aoun have three children.[29] His father-in-law is the current Lebanese president, the former leader and founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, Michel Aoun.[30] On 27 September 2020, Bassil's party said he was infected with a "mild" case of COVID-19 as cases surged throughout Lebanon.[31]

Controversies

Comments on Israel

Bassil was criticized by many Lebanese politicians after an interview in December 2017 with Al-Mayadeen in which he stated that Lebanon does not have an ideological problem with Israel.[32]

He also said in that interview that he was not against Israel "living in security".[33]

However, he has been an advocate for the return of Shebaa Farms, Kfarchouba Hills and the northern part of Ghajar, to be under the Lebanese authority.[34]

Dispute with Speaker of Parliament

In January 2018, Bassil was recorded in a private meeting calling the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, a "thug". In the leaked footage, Bassil accused Berri of urging Shiite businessmen to boycott a diaspora conference organized by the Foreign Ministry in Abidjan.[35]

Proposed citizenship changes

In March 2018, Bassil proposed amending Lebanese naturalization laws to allow citizenship to be passed from mothers onto their children. The bill drew criticism for not applying to women in marriages with men from neighbouring countries which activists argue is a violation of their rights.[36]

Lobbying in the United States

In July 2019, a document was published, in which a consultant, Mario LaSala, mentioned that he worked on lobbying meetings between Bassil and American Senators.[37]

Comments on foreign residents

In 2019, many users on social media, including renowned journalists, actors and politicians criticized Bassil for several tweets which targeted the foreign residents and labour force in Lebanon, such as:

We will not be replaced in this land which bore prophets and saints; Not a refugee, nor a displaced (person), nor a corrupt (person).

— [38]

It is normal to defend the Lebanese labour force against any other foreign labour, whether it be Syrian, Palestinian, French, Saudi, Iranian or American, the Lebanese come first!

— [39]

Involvement in the rhetoric of Lebanese protests

In late 2019, Bassil became the subject of a popular Lebanese-language chant in the Lebanese protests. The chant was oppositional in nature, due to Bassil's close association to his father-in-law, Lebanese president Michel Aoun, as well as the public perception that Bassil profited politically by taking advantage of the country's sectarian divisions. The lyrics to the chant, which was sung as a short melody, went as follows:

Hela, Hela, Hela Hela Ho, Gibran Bassil kes emmo

— [40]

These explicit lyrics curse Bassil with a vulgar reference to his mother's genitals. The song was sung in the street and was reproduced and parodied in various forms in popular social media posts and mass-forwarded WhatsApp messages until it was nearly ubiquitously known in Lebanon.[41] Its rapidly spreading popularity led some social media users to dub Bassil "the most cursed politician in the world for the shortest period of time."[40] Bassil has claimed that all these attacks are part of a wider character assassination by his opponents.

World Economic Forum in Davos

In January 2020, he attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, and when asked by Hadley Gamble regarding the trip funding, he responded that it was offered to him. In the same meeting, the Dutch foreign trade minister, Sigrid Kaag, mentioned that in her home country, "we're not allowed to have friends like that."[42]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Who is Lebanon's Gebran Bassil?". Reuters. 6 November 2020.
  2. ^ Mansour, Aiman. "The collapse of Lebanon: Scenarios for the future". JNS.org. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  3. ^ "Gebran Bassil: Lebanon's Favourite Punching Bag". رصيف 22. 25 October 2019. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  4. ^ Becky Anderson challenges former Lebanese FM on country's kleptocracy - CNN Video, retrieved 10 November 2020
  5. ^ "Gebran Bassil doesn't think he's the most hated man in Lebanon". L'Orient Today. 18 December 2020. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  6. ^ "Son of Lebanon's 'most hated' MP bullied". Middle East Monitor. 11 August 2020. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  7. ^ Correspondent, Richard Spencer, Middle East. "Diner shames Gebran Bassil, the 'most hated man' in Lebanon". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Speakers". Economist Conferences. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Gebran Biography". Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  10. ^ "Lebanon finally has a government Sulaiman's man seals the deal". Gulf News. 11 November 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  11. ^ "The Cabinet". Embassy of Lebanon. Archived from the original on 14 April 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  12. ^ "Lebanon says gas, oil reserves may be higher than thought". Reuters. 27 October 2013.
  13. ^ "The Turkish 'power ship' keeping the lights on in Lebanon". The Guardian. 11 April 2013.
  14. ^ "Lebanese foreign minister allegedly receiving Iranian support comes to Washington". The Washington Times. 15 July 2019.
  15. ^ "Gebran Bassil gets roasted in Davos, here are the most iconic moments". stepfeed.com. 24 January 2020.
  16. ^ "High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini met with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil today in Brussels". EEAS - European External Action Service - European Commission. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  17. ^ "Lebanese FM Bassil in Turkey to discuss bilateral ties, developments in the region". DailySabah. 16 November 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  18. ^ Agency, National News. "(Update) Bassil from Germany: Hariri is a moderate Lebanese partner". National News Agency. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  19. ^ "Lebanese foreign minister: some forces trying to oust Lebanon leader - Ifax". Reuters. 17 November 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2019 – via www.reuters.com.
  20. ^ Irish, John (14 November 2017). "Lebanon's Hariri must return home from Saudi to prove he is free: foreign minister". Reuters. Retrieved 25 October 2019 – via www.reuters.com.
  21. ^ "The United States Designates Corrupt Lebanese Political Leader Gibran Bassil". State.gov. 6 November 2020.
  22. ^ "U.S. imposes sanctions on Lebanese president's son-in-law". Reuters. 6 November 2020.
  23. ^ "U.S. Sanctions Lebanese Politician in Effort to Undermine Hezbollah, Rein in Corruption". Wall Street Journal. 6 November 2020.
  24. ^ "US sanctions former Lebanon foreign minister Gebran Bassil". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  25. ^ "Lebanon's president demands US evidence to justify Bassil sanctions". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  26. ^ "باسيل: أمريكا طلبت فك العلاقة مع "حزب الله" لأتجنب العقوبات". عربي21 (in Arabic). 8 November 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  27. ^ "FPM supporters gather outside Bassil's residence in Batroun". MTV Lebanon.
  28. ^ Bassam, Laila (9 November 2020). "U.S. envoy: Lebanon's Bassil was open to breaking ties with Hezbollah". Reuters – via ca.reuters.com.
  29. ^ "Gebran Bassil's Profile, Biography & Heritage". Katagogi. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  30. ^ "Economic Reform Prospects in Lebanon's New Government". Wikileaks. 7 November 2009. Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  31. ^ Reuters Staff (27 September 2020). "Lebanese politician Bassil infected with coronavirus, his party says". Reuters – via uk.reuters.com.
  32. ^ "Lebanon FM slammed for saying 'We are not against Israel living in security'". The Times of Israel. 28 December 2017.
  33. ^ "Lebanese foreign minister denounced over Israel comments". Reuters. 28 December 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2019 – via www.reuters.com.
  34. ^ "Print: Bassil Says Shebaa Farms, Kfarshouba Hills are 'Lebanese Land' — Naharnet". www.naharnet.com.
  35. ^ "Aoun, Berri rift deepens after Bassil calls speaker a 'thug'". annahar.com. 29 January 2018.
  36. ^ "Activists reject Bassil proposal for passing on nationality | News , Lebanon News | THE DAILY STAR". www.dailystar.com.lb. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  37. ^ "Registration Statement: Pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended" (PDF). U.S. Department of Justice. 16 July 2019. p. 3.
  38. ^ "Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil slammed for anti-refugee tweet". trtworld.com. 9 May 2019.
  39. ^ "'Racist' Lebanese foreign minister sparks Twitter storm". gulfnews.com. 10 June 2019.
  40. ^ a b "Is Gebran Bassil Lebanon's most hated politician?". gulfnews.com. 24 October 2019.
  41. ^ "Protests in Lebanon Are Entering Their Sixth Day. See How the Extraordinary Revolt Is Unfolding". time.com. 22 October 2019.
  42. ^ "'We're not allowed to have friends like that': Former Lebanese foreign minister takes heat at Davos for revealing how he funded his trip". Business Insider. 23 January 2020.