Prostitution scandal puts spotlight on Hezbollah’s criminal dealings

Hezbollah should be judged on a harsher scale than the rest because it has sanctified its leadership and its actions.
Sunday 03/03/2019
A Shia cleric wearing a military uniform stands with Hezbollah members in Ghaziyeh village in southern Lebanon. (Reuters)
Blown cover. A Shia cleric wearing a military uniform stands with Hezbollah members in Ghaziyeh village in southern Lebanon. (Reuters)

The Lebanese law enforcement crackdown on a brothel in eastern Lebanon was not really news until it was discovered that the house of ill repute was owned and operated by a high-ranking Hezbollah official.

The revelation was made more shocking when it was reported that a Lebanese police colonel was implicated in the scandal, allegedly receiving kickbacks in return for protection.

To add insult to injury, Hezbollah refused to surrender the alleged pimp and conducted its own investigation and interrogation, while Lebanese authorities were content to arrest and question the police officer.

Hezbollah diabolically stayed silent in the face of the scandal and the Internal Security Force issued a weak, unconvincing communique unequivocally denying that such a brothel existed or that a member of Hezbollah and a police colonel were involved.

Hezbollah’s prostitution ring story comes at a time the Iran-backed organisation proclaimed itself a crusader for anti-corruption and publicly vowed that it would not rest until corrupt politicians are brought to justice.

The face of Hezbollah’s anti-corruption campaign, MP Hassan Fadlallah, with his firm and honey-tongued rhetoric, took to the parliament pulpit to declare that Hezbollah has conclusive evidence and documentation implicating many government officials, yet refrained from naming any culprit or producing any evidence.

Hezbollah’s crusade excludes its allies, the Christian Free Patriotic Movement and the Shia Amal Movement, which are part and parcel of the successive cabinets and parliaments that are to blame for Lebanon’s $80 billion in public debt.

While some may argue that Hezbollah’s intentions are genuine, its actions only affirm that its anti-corruption talk is merely a tool it wishes to use to further consolidate its grip over what remains of the crumbling Lebanese state.

Contrary to what Hezbollah wishes the public to believe, this fascio-religious outfit is not immune to the supposed corruption of the Lebanese clientelist system.

True that Hezbollah’s access to immense Iranian funds excuses it from partaking in the political racketeering, yet the impunity it established for itself using its weapons has led to the spread of corruption and crime amid the Shia constituency it claims to represent.

With the exodus of the Syrians from Lebanon in 2005 and Hezbollah’s later involvement in Syria, Hezbollah transformed from a self-proclaimed Spartan society to one that is excessively implicated in illicit activities ranging from weapons to drug rings and now prostitution.

Alarmingly, these criminal endeavours have been linked to senior Hezbollah members or their immediate families, suggesting that, despite its self-righteous claims, Hezbollah members are no different from mere hoodlums.

Hezbollah should be judged on a harsher scale than the rest because it has sanctified its leadership and its actions. Acts that placed Lebanon and its economy on a spiral downfall, equally or perhaps more harmful than the corruption Hezbollah is claiming to fight.

Fadlallah is fully entitled to preach morality and to demand that former PM Fouad Siniora be questioned over allegations of mismanagement and waste of public funds but, if the Hezbollah MP is truly convinced, he should equally empower the Lebanese state rather than weaken it as his party has done.

This empowerment should start by allowing the Lebanese state and its agencies to arrest the many pimps and hoodlums who pose as members of Hezbollah. Until Hezbollah and other alleged reformers practise what they preach they will be no different from harlots who preach morality and abstinence — ironic and shameless at best.

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