Lebanon appoints first female Arab interior minister

Raya Al Hassan previously served as minister of finance under Saad Hariri in 2009

Lebanon's Minister of Finance Raya Haffar al-Hassan speaks during a news conference at her office in Beirut December 3, 2009. Lebanon may seek to borrow next year to help service existing debt and might also seek to  reschedule some debts due in 2010 to benefit from low interest rates, Hassan said on Thursday. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi (LEBANON BUSINESS POLITICS)
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Lebanese politician Raya Al Hassan made history on Thursday when she became the first female interior minister in the Arab world.

Mrs Al Hassan, 51, becomes the most senior of four women in the 30-minister government formed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri after nine months of political wrangling.

“Proud of Lebanese women, proud of the four female ministers in the government, proud of the first woman interior minister in the Arab world, proud of the future, proud of Lebanon,” Mr Hariri tweeted on Friday.

Mrs Al Hassan made headlines in 2009 when she became the first woman in the region to be appointed as a finance minister.

“To be honest it was a surprise but I am proud too of course,” she said of her latest Cabinet appointment.

“Mr Hariri has trusted me twice by giving me two difficult ministries. It demonstrates his trust in women’s capabilities.”

Women were also appointed to run Lebanon’s energy, administrative development and women’s affairs portfolios. Mr Hariri’s previous Cabinet included only one woman, who was appointed to a junior ministerial position.

A member of Mr Hariri’s Future Movement, Mrs Al Hassan, a banker, has never been elected.

The mother of three worked as an adviser to the prime minister before she was appointed as the country’s minister of finance in 2009.

Most recently, she has worked to attract business to Lebanon’s second-biggest city Tripoli.

"She is an incorruptible woman," Antoine Amatoury, head of Gulftainer, an Emirati company that operates the port in Tripoli, told The National.

“There were many illegal ways to accelerate procedures for the special economic zone and she wouldn’t hear of it. She preferred working slowly but honestly.”

Ahmad Kamareddine, head of the Tripoli Municipality, said: “We look forward to seeing her succeed. She’s an experienced and hard-working woman.”