BEIRUT: Allegations of sexual harassment against Beirut’s acting governor surfaced after a covertly filmed video implicating the official was published on YouTube.
In the video released Thursday, former employee Hoda Sankari speaks to a camera, accusing Nassif Qaloush, who is also the governor of North Lebanon, of sexually harassing her.
The video then shows a 10-minute conversation with Qaloush that Sankari secretly filmed on her phone. The two discuss why Sankari’s contract as a laboratory technician in the municipality of Mina had not been renewed.
Throughout the video, Qaloush stands behind his office desk with his hand in his pockets while Sankari stands opposite to him.
When asked why her contract was not being renewed, Qaloush appears evasive, answering, “Because I’m not seeing you,” and “I asked to see you, but you didn’t come.”
He later tells Sankari: “When I like a girl I prefer the easy way ... the easier the better.”
At the end of the video, he asks her to “come close” and a kissing sound is heard, before she exits the office.
In a segment of the video, Sankari speaks directly to the camera and claims she once went to see Qaloush at his office to complain about the delayed payment of her salary. After waiting four hours for him, she said, the official arrived.
“He took me aside to another room in his office, flattered me and asked me if I was married, to which I answered that I was nearly engaged. He gave me his personal phone number and asked to see me in his office after working hours. I realized that it was as if he was brokering a deal, so that I would drop the complaint in return for a relationship,” she said.
She added that she was later called into Qaloush’s office a second time. When she asked if there was an update regarding her complaint, he replied, “No, I wanted to see you for another reason. I missed you, and I want to talk to you about my affection for you.”
“At that point, I grabbed my bag and was about to leave his office when he hugged me from behind and kissed me on the neck. I screamed, which surprised and angered him. I had to contain my anger, and I told him that I am not interested in having relations with him and then I left the room,” she said.
“After that, I decided to go and see him again and record what happened. Even if he harassed me again, I wanted to reveal his actions,” Sankari said.
The Daily Star couldn’t reach Qaloush for comment, as his phone was off. The video was first posted on YouTube Thursday by Ghada Eid, editor-in-chief of the investigative website Al-Taharri.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk was quoted by the National News Agency late Thursday as saying he took all necessary legal procedures over the case.
However, the minister refused to elaborate more “out of keenness to deal with the published information in an objective way and without slander in accordance with the law.”