Soleimani bust unveiled in Beirut, sparking online criticism

The unveiling of a large statue in Beirut of an Iranian commander killed by the US last year has sparked indignation among many in Lebanon — the latest manifestation of a growing schism between supporters and opponents of the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah.

The bronze bust of Gen. Qassem Soleimani was erected Tuesday by the Ghobeiry municipality in a Hezbollah stronghold near Beirut’s airport to commemorate the slain general’s supportive role in Lebanon’s wars with Israel. Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s proxy terror groups in the Middle East, was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport a year ago.

Many Lebanese, mostly critics of Hezbollah, take to social media to lambast the celebration of a foreign military leader in Lebanon’s capital. “Occupied Beirut,” tweets one Lebanese, Amin Abou Mansour, who posts it with the hashtag #BeirutFree_IranOut.

A photo taken on January 5, 2021 shows a Lebanese flag hanging on a building under construction behind the newly unveiled statue of Iran’s most revered military commander, Qasem Soleimani, in the predominantly-Shiite Muslim Beirut southern suburb of Ghobeiry. (JOSEPH EID / AFP)

Others lament what they described as the cultural hegemony of Hezbollah and its ally, Iran. Wael Attallah, a Lebanese Canadian, tweets: “This is a cultural aggression being imposed on Lebanon. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese today feel violated and powerless. The Schism is getting wider day by day, little by little.”

One Lebanese media personality says she received death threats after her criticism on social media of the new statue.

The criticism triggers a backlash from supporters, who start a Twitter storm with the hashtag: #Soleimani-is-one-of-us.