Lebanese Shia Resistance Movement: 1970s and 1980s

  June 10, 2021   Read time 2 min
Lebanese Shia Resistance Movement: 1970s and 1980s
Islamic Revolution inspired many similar movements in the region. This is also why the dictators of Middle East are not interested in Islamic Republic. They are afraid of the possible similar uprisings that would shake their thrones.

The late 1970s and early 1980s were a time of great foment, enthusiasm, and transition among the Shia of Lebanon. Amal enjoyed a resurgence among the Shia of southern Lebanon, particularly following the disappearance of Sayyid Musa al-Sadr in Libya in August 1978 and the example set by the Shia-led Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1978–79. Originally an adjunct militia to the Movement of the Deprived, Amal expanded into a political reform movement as well, and its new leaders were not clerics but members of the lay middle class, typified by the lawyer Nabih Berri, who became leader in 1979. Berri’s father, Mustafa, had been a trader in Sierre Leone, one of thousands of Shia who had left Lebanon to seek opportunities in Africa. (Nabih was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital.)

In the early 1980s Amal embraced many ideological currents and disagreements and had no firm hierarchy. What most adherents of the movement shared was a disdain for the Zuama (political bosses), who traditionally dominated Shia society, and anger toward Palestinian guerrillas and their allies. Although one heard expressions of hatred toward Israel, particularly in the South, these were far less common and less intense than they became a quarter-century later.

Amal officials at the time would speak with admiration of Iranian intellectuals such as Ali Shariati, the Paris-trained Iranian modernist and intellectual who urged Muslims to avoid becoming “humanoids” uncritically emulating the West. Shariati, who died in 1977 and was buried in Damascus, with a eulogy delivered by his friend Musa al-Sadr, exhorted his multitude of readers and listeners to find their identity in Islam, especially in the exemplary courage of the prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein, whose martyrdom in 680 c.e. or 60 a.h. became the model for the Iranian Revolution. Mehdi Bazargan, head of Iran’s Freedom Movement and revolutionary Iran’s first prime minister, was also accorded great respect, as was Mustafa Chamran, a close associate of Imam Musa who earned his engineering Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Each of the three was a noted reformer, but Bazargan was pushed aside in Iran as the revolution grew more radical, and Chamran, who became chair of the Supreme Defense Council in Iran, died under mysterious circumstances in a plane crash on the Iraqi front in the first year of the eight-year Iran-Iraq War (1980–88).

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