Hundreds of Shia protesters riot in Beirut after offensive video goes viral

Hundreds of Shia protesters riot in Beirut after offensive video goes viral
Hundreds of rioters have thrown rocks and fireworks at police in Beirut after a video insulting Shia religious and political figures went viral on social media.
3 min read
17 December, 2019
Shia rioters clashed with police in downtown Beirut [Getty]
Hundreds of outraged Shia rioters have taken to the streets of downtown Beirut after a video appeared on social media insulting Shia political and religious figures.

The video was recorded by a Lebanese man from the Sunni-majority city of Tripoli called Samer Al-Saydawi, who now lives in Greece.

The personalities he targeted included the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, and the leader of the Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah.

The rioters clashed with police and Lebanese army soldiers in central Beirut.

They are reported to be from Al-Khandaq Al-Ghameeq, a poor Shia-majority area in downtown Beirut near Martyrs' Square, which has recently been the site of anti-corruption protests.

Residents of Al-Khandaq Al-Ghameeq have previously clashed with anti-corruption protesters. The rioters tried to reach Martyrs' Square and Riad Al-Solh Square but were stopped by police.

They threw rocks and fireworks at soldiers and police, who used water cannons to disperse them, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Nahar reported.

The Shia movements Hezbollah and Amal, who have also previously attacked anti-corruption protesters, called on the rioters to withdraw but their call was unheeded, according to Al-Nahar.

Read also: Artwork to be removed from iconic Beirut square following ‘Israeli infiltration’ rumours

A local imam called on the rioters to disperse, while a Sunni sheikh from Dar Al-Fatwa, the highest Sunni religious authority in Lebanon, condemned Saydawi’s video.

"We tell our Shia brothers that those who harm … do not represent the Sunni sect, have nothing to do with the sect and do not express the Sunni opinion," Sheikh Hasan Merheb told Lebanese TV station LBCI.

In Saida, a Sunni majority city, Amal supporters burned tents belonging to anti-corruption protesters in response to Saydawi's video.

Saydawi’s family quickly distanced themselves from his video and issued a statement saying that his video "does not reflect our views or beliefs".

Samer's Uncle Sameer called him an "ignorant boy" in a telephone interview with the Lebanese television station Al-Jadeed and said that the Saydawi family has no contact with their nephew.

Samer Saydawi later made another video apologising to Shia-Muslims for his previous video, saying that he medical conditions which made him angry and that his previous statements were only directed at a Shia man who had insulted him and his religion.

He said that he was shocked to see that his video had gone viral and started a riot.

Relations between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Lebanon have been tense in recent years, mirroring other conflicts in the region.

Leaders of the two sects have backed opposite sides in the conflict in neighbouring Syria and Hezbollah and Amal have backed the Lebanese government against anti-corruption protesters.

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