Controversy unabated in Lebanon over statue of Soleimani
BEIRUT--A statue in Beirut of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, erected on the anniversary of his killing by the United States, has stirred pride among his Lebanese supporters and anger from opponents who see it as a symbol of Iran’s dominance.
The bronze statue at the entrance to Beirut’s mainly Shia southern suburbs is the latest addition to a city where streets, squares and statues honour historic figures from French colonial leaders to victims of Lebanon’s recent conflicts.
“We are used to naming our streets… after the generals of the (French) mandate. Today we are naming our streets after the generals of resistance and victory,” said Hussam Abou Hamdan, a doctor who came to have his picture taken by Soleimani’s statue.
Soleimani, head of an elite overseas unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was killed along with an Iraqi militia leader in a US drone strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport in January 2020.
Washington had accused Soleimani of masterminding attacks by Iranian-aligned militias on US forces in the region.
“The presence of a statue for martyr Qassem Soleimani here gives us pride and glory,” said Esraa Hammoud, who came with her husband to see the new statue.
“He accompanied us in the war and the hardest circumstances,” she added, referring to Iranian support for the Shia militant group Hezbollah in its military campaigns in Syria and against Israeli forces in south Lebanon.
But others took to social media to criticise what they said was a symbol of Iranian hegemony. Lebanon has for years been a stage for regional rivalry between Iran and its allies including Syria on the one hand, and US-allied, Sunni-led Gulf Arab states on the other.
“Enough humiliation and abuse of our dignity and sovereignty!!!” tweeted journalist and former minister May Chidiac, a critic of Syria who was wounded in a 2005 bombing.