Saudi Arabia Silences Criticism of Brutal War on Yemen24 Dec 2021
George Kordahi, a renowned Lebanese TV presenter and former host of the Arabic version of “Who wants to be a millionaire”, experienced an unpredicted attack from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates authorities specifically, which erupted in late October. This was due to comments he made in an Arabic TV show “Barlaman Shaab,” hosted by Al Jazeera, months before he was elected as information Minister.
His critique of the Sauidi-led war against Yemen, where he said: “In my opinion, the ongoing conflict in Yemen is a futile conflict that has to end”, prompted a diplomatic rift between Lebanon and the powerful Gulf states.
After Kordahi’s appointment as Minister of Information, several Gulf countries reacted swiftly to Kordahi’s comments. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain recalled their envoys from Beirut, as did Yemen, and banished Lebanese ambassadors.
Saudi Arabia also banned all Lebanese imports, which used to bring in about $240 million a year.
This included an aggresive economic punishment to Lebanese citizens in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who had work permits cancelled and the renewals off work permit suspended. Furthermore Lebanese citizens had been prevented from sending money back home to support family members who are dependent on the remittances.
The crisis sent shock waves through Lebanon, where many families rely on remittances from relatives working in Gulf States. The country was already suffering through one of the most severe economic contractions in modern history, and many Lebanese feared that calculated punishment from the Gulf countries would make it worse.
After consulting with the Lebanese Prime Minister Najeeb Mikati, Kordahi chose to resign from his position to contain the regional pressure that was put by Arab neighbouring countries on Lebanon.
What’s mind-boggling is that the war on Yemen, according to the UN, is considered to be the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, yet when a Lebanese official makes such a claim, Arab nations choose to cut ties with Lebanon. While the compliance of other Arab states with Saudi Arabia’s atrocious bombardment of Yemen and the killing of innocent Yemenis is a gross betrayal to human rights in the 21st century, Saudi Arabia has set an example for other Arab nations, who are reluctant to face the same fate as that of Lebanon through taking a direct stand against their human rights violations of the Yemeni people.
The fact that he was forced to resign because of a critique he made against the Saudi-led war on Yemen tells us a lot about the power that the Saudi regime has on Lebanon and other Arab countries.
This power has been exploited in many ways in the past and will be exploited in the same way in the future, if it is not challenged. Saudi Arabia have managed to get away with Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, the imprisonment and torture of Saudi protestors, and many other crimes because of their unquestionable power in the region.
For the patriotic Lebanese TV presenter, nothing will stop him from serving his country, and in this regard, he said: “Lebanon is more important than George Kordahi and the interests of the Lebanese people is more important than my position.”