Lebanon minister Fahmi mocked over sexist remark

Lebanon’s outgoing interior minister Mohamed Fahmi, seen in this January 2020 picture, is being mocked for sexist remarks suggesting that women should start cooking due to a coronavirus lockdown. (AFP)
Lebanon’s outgoing interior minister Mohamed Fahmi, seen in this January 2020 picture, is being mocked for sexist remarks suggesting that women should start cooking due to a coronavirus lockdown. (AFP)

Lebanese have poked fun at outgoing interior minister Mohamed Fahmi after he suggested the solution to a ban on deliveries during a coronavirus lockdown was for women to start cooking.

Lebanon started a two-week partial lockdown on Saturday to try to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus as cases topped 100,000 and intensive care hospital departments became overwhelmed.

When a journalist asked Fahmi what Lebanese should do on Sunday when a day-long curfew suspended popular food deliveries from restaurants and supermarkets, he quipped: “Let women cook a little.”

Appalled women reacted by lambasting the minister’s sexist comment on social media, and vowing they were #Not_cooking_on_Sunday.

“#Sexism results in deep rooted repression & discrimination against us women, national ‘leaders’ disgracefully support inequalities,” associate professor Carmen Geha responded on Twitter.

“I will cook happily the day they pick up and recycle garbage,” she added, referring to oft-criticized public services.

File photo: Thousands of tons of household waste, cutting a path through the greenery like a natural river of garbage, Beirut, Lebanon

Award-winning journalist Dalal Mawad slammed what she called a “sample of the level of discourse and awareness among this country’s politicians”.

Lebanese men joined in posting images of themselves dicing up vegetables or shaking pans on the stove, as they took on the #Fahmi_challenge — to be a man and cook.

“I apologize, honourable minister, that today I cooked for my sons,” one user, a divorced man raising his sons on his own, wrote beside a picture of him serving a meal on Facebook.

“I apologize because their mother is a doctor like me and the head of a department in France, and I and my children are very proud of her.”

Lebanon is also reeling from a devastating blast at Beirut’s port in August that killed more than 200 people, and a raging economic crisis that sparked mass protests last autumn against entrenched politicians viewed as incompetent and out of touch.

“Gender equality Mr Fahmi, have you ever heard about it? Or too busy ruining our country with your bunch of friends?,” wrote another Lebanese man on Facebook in English.

Another one made a video to the tune of the “Mission: Impossible” soundtrack, encouraging others to follow suit, and finishing with the revelation: “Men… also do the washing up.”

Fahmi admitted last June that he killed two men during the country’s 15-year civil war and claimed he was protected by now President, Michel Aoun, in a TV interview with Hezbollah’s Al Manar  .

“I killed two people, and there was a clash with this party. And even though the party was really strong. [Aoun] called for me to come to his office… [Aoun] said, ‘listen Mohammed, as long as I am breathing no one will even poke you with a fork’. This is Michel Aoun.” He said.

Fahmi described his relationship with Aoun as “spiritual”, raising questions over ties between Hassan Diab’s ostensibly independent technocratic government and remaining officials, including Aoun, who are widely seen as part of the corrupt elite, adding, “as long as I have a breath in me neither I nor my family will forget what he did… he (Aoun) protected me from getting killed”.

Aoun was a brigadier-general in the Lebanese Army in the early years of the civil war, before rising to lead the entire organization in 1984. He  fled the country at the end of the war, as a result of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, only returning in 2005 after Syria withdrew its occupational force from Lebanon following PM Rafic Hariri’s assassination to align himself with Hezbollah and the Syrian regime. He has been president of Lebanon since 2016.

AFP/ France 24/YL