Saudi Arabia on Wednesday declared the Lebanese Qard al-Hasan Association a terrorist entity due to its direct connection with Hezbollah as the terror group’s financial arm.
Al-Qard al-Hasan, whose name in Arabic means “the benevolent loan,” offers interest-free loans up to $5,000 and is considered Lebanon’s largest non-banking financial institution giving microloans.
The association, officially a non-profit charity, is one of the tools by which the Iran-backed Hezbollah entrenches its support among the country’s Shiite population, even as the group has come under enormous criticism over the past year among Lebanese furious at the political elite.
“The association works on managing funds for the terrorist organization (Hezbollah) and its financing, including support for military purposes,” the Saudi Presidency of State Security said in a statement.
Riyadh said it was freezing all of Qard al-Hasan’s assets, prohibiting any entity from conducting direct or indirect dealings with the association, and warned of “strict measures” against those who are confirmed to be connected to the Hezbollah-linked group Wednesday.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will continue to work to combat the terrorist activities of the terrorist organization (Hezbollah), and will coordinate with international partners to target the sources of financial support for the organization, whether they are individuals or entities,” the Saudi statement added.
With poverty rising across Lebanon, Hezbollah provides its community with low-cost schools and hospitals, and distributes heating fuel to the poor. Hezbollah continues to pay its fighters and employees in its institutions in US dollars, while everyone else gets their salaries in Lebanese pounds, which lost about 90 percent of its value in the crisis.
Amid the ongoing economic, political and social crisis in Lebanon, the al-Qard al-Hasan association has seen a significant increase in the number of clients it serves, despite it being under US Treasury sanctions since 2007.
Some 300,000 people were concurrently dealing with the association regarding loans, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said earlier this year. The association says its clients are from Lebanon’s various sects, though the vast majority are believed to be Shiite Muslims.
Saudi Arabia has previously imposed sanctions on Hezbollah, labeled a terrorist group by the United States, Israel, and the Arab League.