Comedy sketch mocking Hizballah leader sparks Beirut riots

Comedy sketch mocking Hizballah leader sparks Beirut riots
A sketch made by a Saudi impersonator poking fun at Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah for his loyalty to Iran has enraged his supporters, prompting two days of riots across Lebanon.
2 min read
29 February, 2016
Nasrallah is revered as a religious, political leader making him above criticism for supporters [AFP]
Supporters of Lebanese Shia militant group Hizballah took to Beirut's streets to protest about a comedy sketch deemed insulting to their leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Hizballah supporters blocked roads in some areas of the capital and set tires on fire across the country on Saturday and Sunday.

They were angered over a short skit carried by Saudi-owned MBC channel poking fun at Nasrallah, the Hizballah secretary general.

The sketch features Khaled al-Farraj, a Saudi comedian, impersonating Nasrallah. Farraj, in character, kisses the hand of what appears to be of Iran's leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This is a reference to Hizballah's close affiliation to the Iranian regime.

On Saturday evening, supporters of the party gathered in the southern Beirut suburb of Ghobeiri to demonstrate against the two-and-a-half-minute sketch on MBC's WiFi comedy programme.

The protests quickly spread to other areas around Beirut, where roads were also blocked with burning tires but were reopened shortly after by authorities.

Protesters shouted slogans calling for the death of the Saudi royal family and expressing loyalty to Nasrallah.

The army said in a statement that it had deployed personnel to several areas around the capital and its suburbs and set up checkpoints to contain the protests.

No violence or damage to property was reported according to the army, and all roads around the capital were later reopened.

Supporters of Hizballah have in the past resorted to cutting off roads following similar impersonations of Nasrallah on comedy programmes.

The incident comes amid sharp tensions between Hizballah and Saudi Arabia.

Hizballah's Secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has taken part in a war of words with Saudi Arabia in recent months, accusing the kingdom of standing with Israel and funding extremist groups in the region.

Saudi Arabia and several Gulf nations last week issued bans on travel to Lebanon in a move aimed at punishing Beirut for what Riyadh says is its increasingly pro-Iranian posture at Hizballah's behest.