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Conflict Incident Report

French far-right's Le Pen sparks dissent on Lebanon tour

Date of incident: 
February 21, 2017
Death toll: 
Number of Injured: 
Actors/Parties Involved: 
Lebanese Civilians

BEIRUT: French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was met with criticism and protest as she continued her tour with Lebanese officials as part of a two-day visit to Beirut. Le Pen kicked off the tour by meeting with spiritual leaders in Lebanon. However, she had a rocky start when her meeting with Grand Mufti Abdel-Latif Derian was cancelled following her refusal to wear a headscarf. Le Pen later headed to Bkirki, the Maronite Church's seat, to meet with the Patriarch Beshara Rai. She highlighted during the meeting "the close ties between Lebanon and France," stressing "Lebanon's significant role that represents the culture of peace." Le Pen later headed to Maarab, north of Beirut, to meet with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. Le Pen told reporters that talks with Geagea had focused on the geopolitical activities and the situation in the neighboring country Syria. Geagea, for his part, said he had clarified to Le Pen that "terrorism has no religion," stressing that Syrian President Bashar "Assad was one of the most prominent terrorists in Syria and the region." The French leader had said Monday that Syrian President Bashar Assad “is obviously today a much more reassuring solution for France than the Islamic State,” referring to Daesh (ISIS), in a major break from official French policy. A leading candidate in the French polls for the first round of the presidential election on April 23, Le Pen is running on the basis of her National Front party’s anti-immigration and anti-EU platform, which critics say is a cover for anti-Islamic and xenophobic views. Meanwhile, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt blasted Le Pen’s comments on the future of Syria. "Le Pen's remarks are an insult to the Lebanese and Syrian people," Jumblatt said in a tweet. Le Pen had also called for international collaboration “to fight Islamic fundamentalism and Daesh,” which she said are “gaining importance and support in France.” France has suffered several attacks linked to radical Islamist militants, with Paris being rocked by a terrorist attack that left at least 130 people dead in November 2015. - 'Fascists' not welcome - Le Pen was scheduled to round off her two-day trip with a news conference in Zaitunay Bay in central Beirut before returning to France. However, organizers were compelled to change the venue after protesters gathered in the area to demonstrate against her. The protesters, mainly supporters of leftist militant prisoner Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, brandished banners reading: "Fascists out," and "You're not welcome." Some draped themselves with Palestinian flags. "No platform should be allowed to racists, sectarians, fascists, Islamophobic and homophobic," another banner read. A protester said that Lebanese politicians' "manner in welcoming Le Pen was a disgrace." "All that she represents is not welcomed in Lebanon." "It's a shame that they [politicians] are receiving her, when she's a far right fascist that hates Lebanon." Another demonstrator called for the swift release of Abdallah. Abdallah was arrested in Lyon in October 1984 and condemned three years later to life in prison for his alleged involvement in the killing of an Israeli diplomat and an American military attaché in Paris in 1982. Abdallah, who has maintained his innocence, should have been freed in 1999 by virtue of France's penal code, but Paris has rejected nine appeals for his release.

Primary category: 
Collective Action [inc. protests, solidarity movements...]
Classification of conflict (primary): 
Policy conflicts
Conflicts associated with political decisions, government or state policies regarding matters of public concern, such as debates concerning law reforms, electoral laws, and protests of the government’s political decisions, among others.