The election of the Lebanese Veterinary Association’s chairman on Sunday caused a stir after local press reported that the new chairman, Ali Mazloum, was a Syrian national who falsified documents to acquire Lebanese nationality and subsequently obtain authorization to practice his profession. The allegations shocked his colleagues, particularly since Syrian nationals can’t practice the profession under Lebanese law.
According to MTV, Mazloum obtained “a false civil status extract in Baalbeck, even though he does not appear in the registers.”
“With this document, he acquired a Lebanese identity card and passport, before the Agriculture Ministry granted him a license to practice the profession,” MTV added.
Speaking to L’Orient-Le Jour, the outgoing chairman, Ihab Shaaban, said that he had supervised the electoral process on Sunday, but was not aware of “any irregularity” in the documents submitted by Mazloum in his application. “It is not our job to check the authenticity of the documents,” he said, adding that Mazloum “has been a member of the association since 2006.”
“Now that doubts about his Lebanese nationality have been raised, it is up to the courts to deal with the matter, or for the unsuccessful candidates to lodge a complaint,” added Shaaban.
Mazloum was elected for a two-year term by 122 of the 216 vets who took part in the vote. The association has more than 300 paying members, who are therefore entitled to take part in the vote. Following the withdrawal of two candidates from the elections, Mazloum competed against Alaa Jalloul, who received just 93 votes. Fourteen veterinarians also ran for the six board seats.
One unsuccessful candidate stated, on condition of anonymity, that the doubt around Mazloum’s nationality “has been surprising” in the ranks of the order. He also wondered “how this had not been discovered before, when Ali Mazloum has been a member of the association for 17 years.” Asked whether he and his colleagues would be filing a complaint before the courts, he replied that “the public prosecutor’s office is supposed to take charge of the case on its own initiative, especially as the evidence put forward by MTV constitutes grounds for the opening of a judicial investigation.” However, the source did not rule out “the possibility of lodging a challenge.”
“In any event, if the investigations prove that the newly elected [chairman] is not Lebanese, we will call for the election held last Sunday to be annulled and for a new veterinary council to be elected,” he said.
Before obtaining authorization to practice his profession in 2006, Mazloum had to go through the Education Ministry, which validated the equivalence of his diploma obtained at a Syrian university. He confirmed this piece of information, stating that he obtained his diploma in 1989. “I studied at al-Baas University in Homs [Syria], knowing that veterinary studies were not yet available in Lebanon,” he said.
Mazloum said that spreading “rumors” about him not being Lebanese is “neither clean nor healthy.” Moreover, he wondered whether “one of the candidates who was upset by their defeat might be behind such rumors.” In the same vein, one of his colleagues wondered “why the question of an irregularity has only now come to light.”
Mazloum told L’Orient-Le Jour that the confusion stemmed from “errors in the Baalbeck civil registers.”
“When my grandfather lived there, the registers were burned in a fire,” said the 57-year-old, assuring that steps have since been taken with the government and the judicial authorities to replace the missing documents. “Thanks to DNA tests carried out as part of investigations, we have already obtained a ruling confirming that I am the son of Hassan Mazloum, son of Mohammad Mazloum,” he said, adding that he is not the only one to suffer the result of administrative failings. “There are around 1,500 errors concerning people from Baalbeck,” he said.
In the evening, the new chairman refuted the information broadcast by MTV in a statement. “I am Lebanese from father to son. What happened with my family at the Baalbeck registry is similar to what happened with many people, including former MPs and civil servants, who are Lebanese from father to son,” he said. “This is due to the fact that the Baalbeck civil registers was burned more than once,” he continued, stressing that he would take the necessary legal steps to protect his reputation.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.