NAYA | Q&A with Paula Yacoubian: A maverick out to shake up the parliament

In 2018, Yaacoubian ran and won a seat in Lebanese parliamentary elections in the Beirut I constituency.
by Paula Naoufal

13 September 2018 | 13:37

Source: by Annahar

  • by Paula Naoufal
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 13 September 2018 | 13:37

This photo shows Paula Yaacoubian. (HO)

BEIRUT: Annahar recently interviewed MP Paula Yacoubian for an insight into her life in politics and political priorities.

Paula Yacoubian is a Lebanese politician of Armenian ethnic origins. She previously worked as a journalist and a television host, interviewing hundreds of decision makers and politicians.

In August 2017, she received an award "Officier De L'Ordre de la Couronne" from King Philippe I of Belgium, in reward for all her journalism work.

In 2018, Yaacoubian ran and won a seat in Lebanese parliamentary elections in the Beirut I constituency. She’s also the CEO and Executive director of Integrated Communications, a company dedicated to communications strategies, media relations, and public speaking training.

Why did you choose journalism?

It was pure coincidence. I started my work at Independent Communications Network (ICN) where I fell in love with Journalism and the world of politics. I used to cover local and international news. I then moved to LBC, MTV, and ART.

Could you tell us about the George Bush and PM Hariri’s legendary interviews?

I consider them both very important interviews because it wasn’t interviewing political analysts, but decision makers who can change a country’s path. I used to always encourage Bush to speak to the Lebanese people when I was at the White House, and when he decided to, he chose me to interview him.

Concerning my interview with the Prime Minister, I believe I did my professional, moral and humanitarian duty, and I’m proud of the style I used and my standing next to him during this hard time.

What made you run for Member of Parliament?

It all started with the trash crisis. It was one of the most difficult things I went through in my life. From there on, I started investigating the problem, whereby I dissected how we got here and began to think of solutions.

Then, I started getting more convinced that the current political class won’t do anything to fix the problem, although the Lebanese people are giving them their trust by electing them.

We cannot stay in denial and work with the same people that brought this problem on us. Therefore, it made me want to join the opposition group, I looked for them and realized there weren’t any, except for the civil society.

A year ago, people from the civil society and people from political parties reached out to them. I took the decision from day one to run with them.

This parliamentary election had the highest number of women candidates, why do you believe this happened?

There was a lot of work done by different organizations on women empowerment in the political sphere. To add, embassies helped us tremendously, especially the British and Belgian embassies.

Political parties had low women participation, although some of them put women on their list, they didn’t give them the starred vote. In a country filled with quotas, a gender quota must be ensured.

Women in Lebanon are still oppressed, whether in the political life or domestically. The presence of women in the parliament is crucial and essential.

Only six women succeeded in the parliamentary elections, who do you believe is at fault?

I believe the political parties are at fault because even though they put women on the list, they didn’t give her the starred vote, they only did it to look good. They also used fearmongering on the people.

No one can claim to be moderate and not have women in their political parties. Our alliance for the parliamentary election had 33 percent women.

How did you manage to win in Achrafieh, what did you do? Also were there any obstacles you faced?

My votes were dispersed from different ages and genders. It was mainly from the people who were fed up, wanted to change and acknowledged the false promises given by the current political class. These people know that everyone in that current political system is responsible, regardless of what party they belong to.

There’s one true opposition, and that is the one that stemmed from the civil society. We are not trying to be a part of the cabinet, and I believe everyone who is trying to is not truly an opposition group. This is crucial to understand, this how the system works all over the world. You cannot accept a cabinet position and claim you are an opposition group.

I also believed I attained a lot of young people’s votes because they are more rational and are less sectarian, whereas the older generation is more emotional and have a sense of belonging.

A lot of smear campaigning was used against me. Some people tried to edit parts of my old videos to make it look like I said something that I didn’t say, but clearly, that didn’t work because we got one the highest numbers in Achrafieh.

Currently, what are your priorities in the parliament? Also, how is the dynamic in the parliament, and are they cooperating with you?

Actually, they’re trying to contain me and not give me credit for anything I try to do. I don’t need the credit; I just care about the actual change. They are intimidated that someone outside of the typical political parties has breached them and they are afraid of the boule de neige effect.

My main priority is the environment because if you don’t have clean air, the cancer rate will keep increasing. I want to take care of the environment since we are #1 with the highest metastasis due to pollution.

The situation will keep getting worse if we don’t fix it immediately, especially in places like the Bourj Hammoud garbage dump, and if the plan to get incinerators gets executed. People should know that incinerators are very dangerous, and they release dioxin, which is a cause of cancer.

The best solution is to protest and to work with the people of each area on educating them on the importance of recycling. The people at home and the government should recycle. The garbage collectors shouldn’t take any non-recycled waste, and there should be a fine when done otherwise. If you pass a red light and get a fine, you won’t do it again, the same applies to recycling.

Apart from your parliamentary work, is there anything else you are working on?

I am still executing the Dafa campaign, which is a campaign intended to collect donations for people in need across Lebanon. I’m also working on launching the “Medawar Project”. This project aims to rehabilitate and paint the whole Medawar area and to beautify it.

*This last piece of information that Yaacoubian shared is exclusive to Annahar.

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Welcome to “Naya,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations — Naya Editor, Sally Farhat:Sally.farhat17@gmail.com

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