Raya al-Hassan takes on Lebanon’s warlords—and the patriarchy

IN A COUNTRY of crusty old warlords, Raya al-Hassan is challenging stereotypes. A decade ago she was appointed Lebanon’s finance minister, the first woman in the Arab world to hold such a post. In January she broke new ground, becoming the first female interior minister in the region. As such, she commands a force of over 40,000 police officers, including the elite counterterrorism brigade known as the Panthers. The ministry’s website features a photo of her leading a pack of female cadets.

Ms Hassan seems intent on weakening the men who fought Lebanon’s civil war of 1975-90 and who have remained in power ever since. She has called on them to remove the roadblocks around their enclaves. She plans to visit Dahiya, Beirut’s Shia-dominated southern suburb, to ensure that Hizbullah, the main Shia party-cum-militia, complies. If Ms Hassan, a Sunni Muslim by upbringing, is concerned about her safety, she doesn’t show it. She has removed many of the walls around her ministry, jettisoned her predecessor’s big motorcade and cut his large security retinue.

Women hail Ms Hassan as a role model for taking on the patriarchy. Parliament has only six female members (out of 128). In the previous government even the women’s affairs minister was a man. The interior ministry only began admitting women into its forces in 2012. But three of...

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