Damascus: Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab has just appointed his wife, Nawar Al Mawlawi, as Deputy President of the Lebanese National Women’s Association. The organisation is currently headed by Claudine Aoun, the daughter of President Michel Aoun, and her first deputy is Randa Berri, the wife of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
The distribution of posts among the three politically connected ladies has triggered plenty of criticism on Lebanese social media networks. It comes amidst a storm of angry protests that have ripped through the country since mid-October 2019, as young people demand an overhaul of the entire political system, along with a serious campaign to combat corruption, embezzlement, and nepotism.
Until last month, Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Basil was serving as foreign minister of Lebanon, accused by angry young men of misuse of public office. Ever since he took over control of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in 2015, Basil has been considered Aoun’s successor in Lebanese politics. The Lebanese President has no male heirs, explaining why the husbands of his three daughters yield so much influence. Basil married to Chantal Aoun while Claudine is the wife of former army brigadier General Chamel Rokouz. The third daughter, Mireille, is married to Roy Hashem, president of Aoun’s media arm, OTV.
Like her husband, Nora Al Mawlawi is a newcomer to the political scene, completely unheard of before her husband’s swearing-in last January. Diab briefly served as minister of education but is better known in academic circles, where he taught at the American University of Beirut (AUB) since the mid-1980s. She had taught in the United States and served as coordinator of translation at the Lebanese American University (LAU).
The criticism levied against them prompted Claudine Aoun to tweet that appointing the wives of the three top leaders in the country to the three top posts in the Lebanese Woman’s Association is “an old norm that has been in place for years”. She denied nepotism on behalf of her father or the new prime minister, adding that the job is “voluntary and its holders receive no financial compensation or benefits”.
Not many seemed to agree.
“Citizens have always sensed that there were wayward politicians milking the system,” said Nora Boustani, a former correspondent for The Washington Post who now teaches journalism at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Speaking to Gulf News, she added: “The 2019 October 17 movement has burst the dam of national tolerance for corruption and cronyism. There is a saying in Arabic that goes: The artery of shame has ruptured. The Lebanese people are bleeding profusely, not in the literal, but in the figurative sense.”