Lebanon's Raya al-Hassan becomes Arab world's first female interior minister

Lebanon's Raya al-Hassan becomes Arab world's first female interior minister
Raya al-Hassan has been appointed as the Arab world's first female minister in charge of security agencies.
2 min read
06 February, 2019
Raya al-Hassan is among four women appointed to the new Lebanese cabinet [AFP]

Raya al-Hassan on Wednesday officially took over as Lebanon's minister of the interior, becoming the first female Arab minister in charge of internal security agencies.

Hassan takes office as part of a new government appointed after a nine-month deadlock.

The minister of the interior is one of four women in the new 30-member cabinet, which is a record high for female political representation in Lebanon.

Violette Safadi was named minister for women's affairs, a post previously held by a man, while May Chidiac was appointed state minister for administrative development, and Nada Bustani was named minister of energy and water.

Lebanon's rival political factions had been unable to agree on forming a new government since the country's parliamentary elections in May.

The deadlock was finally overcome on 31 January when Saad Hariri, in his third term as prime minister, announced the formation of the new cabinet made up of members from various political factions, including those allied both with Hariri and his Hizballah rivals.

Before her appointment, Hassan headed the Tripoli Special Economic Zone, and previously served as finance minister, another first in the region. Earlier in her career, she worked in the ministries of finance and economy and trade, and in programmes for economic development at the UN. She is a member of the March 14 alliance headed by Hariri.

Her first step as minister of the interior has been to remove a number of bulky roadblocks, set up for security purposes, which have long impeded the steady flow of traffic in central Beirut. She has also promised to tackle violence against women, as well as to work on environmental issues and prison and electoral reform.

Although her appointment is a major achievement for female political representation in the region, she has become the head of prisons and the Internal Security Forces, both of which have been dogged by allegations of human rights violations. The ISF also continue to persecute LGBTQ people and has been accused of torture by organisations such as Human Rights Watch.

Yet Hassan claimed on Wednesday that security measures "should not interfere with people’s freedoms and the freedom of expression".

Prime Minister Hariri has promised to prioritise tackling Lebanon's ongoing economic crisis. He called the new cabinet a "reflection of Lebanon’s image in 2019" and Hassan claimed that her appointment to two "difficult" ministries "demonstrates his trust in women’s capabilities".