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Covid in Lebanon: Minister's 'let women cook' in lockdown comment causes uproar

Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi also said women 'too timid' to be prime minister, sparking widespread backlash
Mohammed Fahmi has come under fire for his comments (Reuters)

Social media users in Lebanon have organised a campaign challenging controversial comments made by caretaker Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi regarding women's domestic duties during the country's second coronavirus lockdown. 

In an interview aired on Saturday on LBCI news, Fahmi was asked what people should do on Sundays when, as per lockdown rules, they can't have food delivered to their homes from supermarkets or restaurants.

"Let women cook a little bit,” Fahmi replied - a response many have denounced as offensive and misogynistic.

One Twitter account called “Street”, which describes itself as “a diverse socio-political pressure group and a catalyst for change”, reacted to Fahmi's comments on Saturday.

In a video shared by the account, a man is shown preparing a meal, saying “Mohammed Fahmi doesn’t understand anything.”

The account then called on other men to post pictures of themselves cooking using the Arabic hashtag "Challenge Fahmi" in order to "end this old mindset". “Let us start the change from within our homes, it begins here,” the account added.

Scores of Lebanese social media users have joined the campaign, rejecting the stereotype that domestic chores are women’s responsibility alone by posting photos of men cooking or the dishes they prepared.

Many have praised the campaign and used it to highlight gestures of men supporting women. 

Others reacted to the minister’s comments with sarcasm and humour. 

Some women also started their own hashtag, entitled "On Sunday, I'm not cooking".

Meanwhile, one father posted on Facebook a sarcastic apology to the minister for being a single father and cooking for his sons. 

"I’m sorry if I’m showing my sons that the mother and the father care for their children in the same way,” Walid Abou Hamad wrote. “I’m sorry that I and my fellow Lebanese brothers were silent for 40 years… and that we stayed silent and left you to rule.”

Fahmi doubled down on Sunday when, in another interview, he suggested that women could not be prime ministers because they are "too timid".

The interior minister has yet to respond to the backlash against his sexist comments.

Anger over Fahmi's comments comes as Lebanon's political class has been the target of citizens' ire for over a year. October marked the first anniversary of Lebanon’s mass uprising against the corruption of the country’s ruling class.

A crippling economic crisis, the pandemic, a devastating explosion in the capital Beirut's port in August, and an ongoing stalemate in composing a government have further worsened the situation in the country since.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.