More activists lose freedom of movement - this time, in Lebanon
Known as a “cyber-advocacy specialist” and perhaps coined the first Lebanese blogger, Imad Bazzi’s outspoken criticisms of his country’s government has been curtailed, as his right to travel has been revoked by the Lebanese General Security. Bazzi’s famous blog “Trella.org” has been quite vocal on issues such as freedom of expression, and human rights violations, since 1998. For the third time, Bazzi has endured passport troubles—this time, when attempting to renew, the authorities refused to return his passport and summoned him to an investigation. The General Security did not provide a legitimate reason for not renewing and confiscating Bazzi’s passport.
In a recent conversation with Movements.org, Bazzi said “I was supposed to return to Tunisia on Friday or Sunday, now I missed the plane because the General Security is refusing to return my passport.”
Bazzi further told Movements.org that the Lebanese General Security pulled the same thing with another Lebanese activist, Wissam Tarif.
The General Security in Lebanon is a law enforcement agency that primarily deals with passports, visas, and organizing the residency of foreigners in Lebanon. However, the agency, established in 1956, has always played a larger role as an Intelligence Agency, whose primary function is to collect and gather intelligence and inform its country’s government, ensuring national security and public order. The agency continues to enjoy a great deal of power, that some activists consider to be unconstitutional.
During the Syrian occupation in Lebanon, the General Security, helmed by a shiaa officer, with close ties to Hezbollah, has played a major role in tracking and harassing activists and opponents of the Syrian regime in Lebanon. After the murder of Al Hariri, the role of the General security has deteriorated, but recently they’ve gained momentum. Lebanon is a country built on balances between sects, and while the role of the General Security has its limitations, they still have wiggle room to pressure activists like Bazzi. They are also capable of banning some newspapers, and films, like the Iranian movie Persepolis, from entering the country.
While the freedom of movement is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Lebanon voted in favor of when it was adopted in 1948, this move is nothing new for Lebanon or other restrictive regimes around the world. Movements.org has covered the issue many times in the past, as governments from Cuba to Iran to China have tried to silence activists by banning them from traveling abroad. Now Imad Bazzi has joined Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei and many, many other activists in being kept from realizing his full rights, all because of his political speech.