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Hanin Ghaddar

What will the Shia do?

“Hezbollah; I don’t know what they are anymore,” says Soha, a 50-year-old Shia woman who’s lived her whole life in South Lebanon. She survived the Lebanese civil war, every Israeli invasion, and has never ever complained about Hezbollah, despite her disagreement with the party’s ideology. “I saw them grow and develop into the most reliable party in the South. They took the notion of resistance beyond clichés and speeches. They have actually resisted Israel and liberated the South. That’s when their only concern was liberation. Today, they seem distracted with other concerns; they’ve become weak,” she says.

Many other Shia share Soha’s concerns today. They see Hezbollah stuck in a corner and acting defensively, and they don’t like what its leadership is doing on many levels. But they are also scared because they cannot abandon the Party of God, their only political reference. 

Hezbollah has embittered its supporters for three main reasons.

First, Hezbollah still supports the Syrian regime, which is getting weaker and weaker every day. Some of the party’s supporters, especially the Leftists and ex-Communists, cannot tolerate this stance. For them, the Syrians have the right to revolt against their dictator without being called terrorists or thugs. Others are just afraid of Hezbollah’s fate when the Syrian regime falls and think the party should be more pragmatic.

Second, the increasing corruption throughout Hezbollah’s ranks cannot be ignored anymore, especially considering the deteriorating economic situation in Lebanon. While many are losing their jobs or at least struggling with everyday expenses, Hezbollah’s members and their families seem to be flourishing financially without hiding it. This has created grudges among non-Hezbollah members who have to beg for aid, contrary to the many Hezbollah members who seem to have gained considerably from reparations following the 2006 July war.

Third, for the first time, Hezbollah and its allies are in control of the worst government in decades in the opinion of many Lebanese. State services are nonexistent, there’s never been less electricity, unemployment is on the rise, and Syrian forces have been violating the Lebanese borders weekly while the government sticks to its “disassociation policy” regarding the Syrian uprising. Also, crime is on the rise.

No one in Lebanon is happy. But the Shia are both unhappy and afraid. Today, Hezbollah is a beast bleeding from many wounds. Israel said on Friday it would consider military action if needed to ensure Syrian missiles or chemical weapons did not reach Bashar al-Assad’s allies in Lebanon, i.e., Hezbollah. And who’s going to pay the price for such action—again? The Shia. At the same time, countries across the world are pointing the finger at Hezbollah and Iran for involvement the suicide bombing that killed Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last week.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese government, led by Hezbollah, still turns a blind eye to the increasing number of Syrian refugees coming to Lebanon and refuses to offer them the help and aid the Shia were offered when they took refuge in Syria during the 2006 war. While Hezbollah is hiding behind the rhetoric of resistance and willfully forgetting the hospitality of the Syrian people, many of their followers feel guilty and cannot hide it.

“When the war started in 2006, I left with my family to Damascus, where we stayed with another family whom we did not know,” says Imad from Bint Jbeil. “We had common friends who took us in. They were so welcoming and shared their food and house with us. We stayed in touch, and today they contacted me to see if they can come over for a few days until the clashes in Damascus subside. They are Sunnis, and I am not sure if they are going to be safe here in the South, so I told them the truth and put them in touch with my friends in Beirut. I don’t know if they will go, but I feel so bad and ungrateful. Why does it have to be that way?”

This is not about the Resistance anymore. It doesn’t matter whether the Syrian regime actually supports the Resistance or not. The question today for the Shia is: When (not if) the Syrian regime is toppled, what are you going to do?

Are the Shia ready to pay the price of another war? Are they ready to remain the human shield behind which Hezbollah hides? In his last speech, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah called slain Syrian Defense Chief Assef Shawkat “a comrade in arms and resistance.” No Lebanese can deny his crimes in Lebanon or how many Lebanese suffered because of him and his regime. Are the Shia willing to suffer the consequences of the war Hezbollah declared against the Syrian people?

The Shia are already on the edge, and their discontent with Hezbollah is on the rise. How long will it take for them to look behind them and say, “Enough!” A small dose of human interaction can be louder than any political words. They can start by helping the Syrian refugees. They can also ask Nasrallah to speak for himself, but that will probably take some time.

Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of NOW Lebanon. She tweets @haningdr

  • Emile

    no more comments.. i trully believe Bashar will defect before you.. i can not grasp , that a country is called REPUBLIC and you see nothing on the its TV for the first 30 minutes, the same face daily, the same rhetoric .. for 40 years.. majd.. 40 years, one more think, i despise my name, :)).. because sayyi2 zikr was puppy president and disgrace to lebanon..

    August 7, 2012

  • ali daoud

    @emile, simply Emile, the struggle is crystal clear, in one front you have HA, Syria and Iran, on the other you have USA, israel, qatar, saudi and most backward arabs, if you don`t see it then you have a deep problem, a problem called Racist Hate Blindness Syndrome (RHBS), again, we all form one front against israel and its allies, and each party has its job and duty, and Bashar has done his duty very well, but still he has to finish the dirty terrorists inside syria something he is doing excellently, any way, keep dreaming my friend, Bashar is there to stay and rule, and we will never let a bunch of terrorists and traitors allied with USA and israel win over us, they are much weaker and valueless. finally, no, al Kataeb didn`t invite the syrians, i did, and the syrians didn`t save the a s s of al Kataeb, they saved mine!!!get real ya emile, you will not loose your face if you accept some facts.

    August 2, 2012

  • Emile

    @majd.. if you think kataeb invited the syrians, i can conclude you are naive.. never syrians needed an invitation.. in fact they never believed lebanon is a country.. even in their schools they teach and say al qotr loubnani.. syrians pushed ahmad el khatib to defect with most of the arms the army had at that time, so they make an excuse to enter lebanon to save the christians.. . regime in syria will be gone soon , and as we say in lebanon , haydi akhert ta3ris ya bsein el zib..

    August 2, 2012

  • Emile

    @majd.. we undertsand from your article if anyone thinks to bother iran or syria is a traitor, ya akhi if bashar wants israel to bleed in its failing wars, he should do it from his own territory and use his own people, instead of using lebanese land and lebanese people and kill lebanese finest men, starting with kamall jumblat, mufti hassan khaled, bashir, pierre, and finest journlists, salim lawzi, riyad taha, gebran and many many others.. and get off our rear end.. one set back between the failing peace negotiation between israel and syria, is because syria wanted to keep huge amount of arms, isarel objected, syria gave israel assurance those arms will not be used against israel, but against syrians in case of an uprising.. i pity the shia of lebanon for being used as wood logs in this conflict.., from 75 to 82 lived under the boots of the palestinians and later on under the boots of syrians and iranians

    August 2, 2012

  • ali daoud

    @ Alex, well, yes, i always supported Abdel Nasser while your saudi friends always opposed Nasser and Hizbullah, about Arafat, nope, i never supported Arafat but i always supported any Palestinian fighting israel, about Hafez, yes, i love him, but let`s be honest Alex, it is your friends in The Lebanese Front who invited the syrians in to help them in their war against the Sunnis and Palestinians and Jumblatt, so the syrians came in, did the job very well, however, Al Kataeb switched sides and allied with israel forgetting what Assad has made for them, and they later paid the right price. Future movement is doing the same as Kataeb did in the 70's, they benefited the maximum from the syrian presence that helped them control Lebanon and changed our political system so the PM controls everything in the state, however, when they saw syria became weak, they switched sides, and so they will pay later.

    August 1, 2012

  • ali daoud

    @ Emile, if Bashar didn`t fire a missile yet at israel it doesn`t mean he is not an enemy for israel, well, Iran didn`t fire any of its huge missiles at israel yet, isn`t Iran an enemy for israel ya Emile? again, Saddam fired few rockets at israel when he was desperate, does it make him an enemy for israel? oh yeah, he fired few rockets at israel and he waged an 8-year war against Iran, and still some naive people believe he is an enemy for israel because he fired those ill rockets. it is known by now that Bashar was preparing his army for war against israel, he changed all the army philosophy and structure and weaponry to fit for such a war, and he has the right to choose the timing, in the mean time he made sure israel will keep bleeding in its failing wars in Lebanon and Palestine, i see he did very well. about democracy, no friend, i don`t believe in democracy, simply because i look at democracies and i don`t see but money making politicians, wayneye el democracy?!!!!!

    July 31, 2012

  • alex

    majd is belongs to a special breed of activists pretending to be anti-Israeli while in reality they are pathologically anti-Lebanon. In the 50's and 60s they supported Abdel Nasser ahead of Lebanon, in the 1960's and 70's they supported Arafat in undermining the Lebanese state, in the 70s, 80s and 90s they supported Hafez his Pax Syriana. Since 2000 they have been behind Bashar supporting him as he continued with his father's policies. Unfortunately majd all his life, instead of marching behind the Lebanese flag, marched holding up the posters of the flavor of the decade non Lebanese leader.

    July 31, 2012

  • Emile

    @andre.. true what you said.. funny thing is, they call everyone who does not share their believes a traitor, while most spies caught in recent years are within the circle of trust of HA and aounist..

    July 31, 2012

  • Emile

    @majd.. if what you say is true.. why bashar does not fire the missiles from golan heights instead of south lebanon.. why palestinians in lebanon are allowed to have arms and not allowed in syria.. would he accepts the palestinians roaming in damascus the way they do in beirut and all over lebanon.. only if you can answer , why golan heights front has been quiet for 40 years if he needs to fight israel, what is he waiting for.. le deluge?? and if you really believe in democarcy, you would not accept bashar be promoted in one week from being an ophtamologist to general then to president in 2 weeks time, you would also not accept to extend the presidency of Emile sr( sayi2 zikr).. you may praise HA, after all they are lebanese but why Bashar, i say with you long live bashar, khaddam, rifaat in hell where his father is residing now..

    July 31, 2012

  • Word

    Despite a fully-fledged odious media campaign to rehabilitate the Syrian government most Lebanese readers of Now Lebanon, even ones vaguely familiar with the demonic murderous history of the Syrian regime, saw past the ill advised diatribes of ignorant johnny come lately foreigners with an agenda similar to the so called Dr Rehan Nakvisson and chuckled at their constant unyielding attempts to cast the Syrian regime as the victim of some sort of interplanetary sinister conspiracy. What the world is witnessing in Syrian today is not novel nor original, the Syrian government's bombardment of Syrian towns and cities is a carbon copy of something it regularly did to Lebanese town and cities and to Palestinian refugee camps throughout thirty years of occupation and no ripping yarn about a cabal of intrigue can disguise that fact. Everyone can see it's time for Bashar to go exept the blind eye doctor and in my attempt to be helpful I left him a Snellen eye chart.

    July 30, 2012

  • ali daoud

    dear Emile, we always mention israel because israel is the goal and the tool, israel is there whenever and wherever the USA is, about Bashar and Syria`s role against israel, ya habibi, if Bashar is not an enemy for israel then who is? and are all those enemies of syria doing so because the syrian regime is undemocratic?!!! get real ya Emile, i don`t mind you oppose both syria and HA, but let`s talk some reality when we do our analysis. when Imad Moghneye was killed some naive people rushed to claim the syrian regime has killed him (again conspiracy theory), now Asef Chawkat was killed in Damascus, what do you think? did HA kill him? i perfectly know that the syrians used to move the rockets on their shoulders to Lebanon during July war, and bashar has crossed the red line when he supplied HA with all needed weapons to defeat israel back then, you may talk days and nights about your dreams and the syrian soldiers shoes and all that racist talk, but truth is truth, Vive HA and Bashar.

    July 30, 2012

  • Dr Stanley Livingstone

    Dr. Nakvisson or previously HEP NL's Syrian chargé d'affaire I presume.

    July 30, 2012

  • Dr. Nakvisson

    Despite a fully-fledged odious media campaign to demonise the Syrian government and full backing to the rebels by the NATO-US-Saudi-Zionist ''quadroika'', many parameters point to survival of the current Syrian government. A Salafist-led rebellion is not legitimate or strong enough to topple Bashar al-Assad. The quadroika will need to employ other methods than merely a Salafist-led engineered rebellion relying on non-Syrian terrorists in order to make Syria fall. And that may very well happen in the future. But for now, Syria won't fall - not this time! (...)

    July 30, 2012

  • andre

    emile, they accuse whoever disagrees with them of being a traitor so it becomes easier for them to treat them with contempt or even to murder them. For example Hezbollah accused M14 of being traitors them murdered and attempted to murders it's leaders. Hezbollah did the same thing back in the late 80's and early 90's when they murdered leaders of the Lebanese resistance.

    July 30, 2012

  • Emile

    @majd.. why everytime someone expresses his idea about syrian regime, we bring israel in the picture... if we count the spies caught already working for israel, most of them are within the circle of trust of aounist and HA.. i would consider assad is not an enemy for israel.. but a close ally.. still i dont recall once he fired a bullet on golan heights to retrieve it back.. shibaa farms is a fraction of the golan heights area and much less strategic.. assad was blackmailing the arabs big time over the years..he was cashing funds like crazy for 2owat rada3 in lebanon.. we never saw a single soldier with proper shoes.. we never saw army kitchen sending food to those soldiers, they were fed wherever they existed one can of thon from here, one can of sardine from there and some loaves of bread from people passing on the road blocks..what israel wants is we keep fighting each other in lebanon , and i guess we are doing good job for it.

    July 29, 2012

  • Abbas Fawaz

    Democracy is a great thing ya habibi majd AKA Mohammad Fawaz maybe this time Hezballah's "concerned citizens" will let their Shi2a opponents campaign in peace in areas under their militia's controls without being intimidated, harassed, attacked or have their vehicles stoned and their offices vandalized all in the name of believing in democracy of course. BTW will you be coming over from Dearborn Michigan to vote this time or will it be your customary do as I say not as I do?

    July 27, 2012

  • mohammad fawaz

    Let us wait till the next elections.If the Shiaa elect all Hizballah'a candidates,as they did in the last elections,then this is what the Shiaa will do.Here is your answer.But if they do not elect Hizballah's candidates and choose Ahmad Al Asaad's candidate then the Shiaa have decided their fate.You either believe in democracy and respect the Shiaa'a choice or you do not and want to impose your own agenda on them.I find it impossible for anyone ,including you,to impose anything on the Shiaa anymore.

    July 27, 2012

  • ali daoud

    @ Emile, well dear Emile, i bet on Bashar and his allies, i know it will need time and i always said, but i know he will remain intact and his regime will win. second, i like it when we the Lebanese blame everything on others, and i like it more when some Lebanese blame it all on syria and never mention israel, however, when they are asked about israel they reply " israel is an enemy.period. fine, habibi, show me how you translate israel as an enemy? is it by fighting all israel`s enemy? or by allying yourself with israel`s best allies and friends and sponsors? any way, Imam Ali once said " don`t fear the right path for its few passengers", we won if more difficult situations and we will win this time also, in the mean time, you may place your bets on bunch of Lebanese cowards and syrian terrorists and israel and qatar, i place my bets on HA, syria and Iran.

    July 26, 2012

  • Mohamad

    @ annoniem: Go take a toor in Shia areas in Beirut or in the south, and check out all those newly hung pictures of "shuhada2 ... 3ala darby el 7ussein". All young people. Where did they die? Fighting Israel, without anyone knowing? Give us a break. Go check YouTube for videos showing IDs of Shia from Lebanon fighting in Syria, either killed or captured.

    July 26, 2012

  • abu ali

    Are they ready to remain the human shield behind which Hezbollah hides? WOW! FINALLY THE TRUTH COMES OUT

    July 25, 2012

  • Annoniem

    "Are the Shia willing to suffer the consequences of the war Hezbollah declared against the Syrian people? " What a ridiculous statement. What war have they declared on the Syrian people? Are you claiming Hezbollah are fighting in Syria against the opposition? Where's your evidence? And Why should the Shia all suffer? Is every Shia person responsible?

    July 24, 2012

  • hahaha

    @wahaj: Hahahahaha.. Ha! And yes, we ve got all the syrian population supporting Bashar and all the terrorists fighting in Syria are all coming from Mossad s schools. Well, you re quiet a genius, if I may say.... I don t really understand what does resistance really mean anymore??!? Who s resisting who? I think you nor Majd are getting paid enough to support the murderer s regime only by trolling on a website... If you really Adore al Assad, go there on the battle front and fight for him, die for him and I m sure noone is going to regret you... Civil war in Lebanon, sects confrontations in the region, a new civil war in Syria, Irak has lost a dictator and gained a new one full of hatred... Is this the resistance we are looking for? Isn t this what Israel has ever wished... See its neighbors killing each other and watching laughing in their homes using 0 bullets..stop the bullshit about resistance, "khat al raj3a" must be the master words for march 8 supporters... Hahaha once again!

    July 24, 2012

  • LISAN ELHAQ

    how nice of you Hannin.for change i must say now you find your way.its the first time i agree with your article.but?the answer should or get a hint also from you.even though we shout and attack one another with our comments nothing ever will change.whatever been implemented in the name of liberation or resistance or other blood boiling speech from anyone we listen or follow when we don't even have the GUT;S to question him or even give our opinion the people become not only a heard but /?????//in the country another word WE DONT COUNT the only time we exist is when we go to elect those mercenaries.from now on keep calm and don't bother until you find your true identity whether just to exist and be ridden or get rid of the people who are sending the entire nation to HELL..IT'S ABOUT TIME YOU PEOPLE HAVE THE STANCE THAT YOU TRUELY BELIEVE IN MY OPINION FOR THE PEOPLE FUTURE NO MATTER WHAT THEIR BELIEVE'S ARE

    July 24, 2012

  • freelebanese

    the problem is not the shia, it is the 8th of march shia and Christians also who were supporting the massacres in Syria under the cover up of Iran and assad money,hizbolla terror in Lebanon. so many will seek refuge outside since their cover has been blown off and their crimes and lack of nationalistic view to Lebanon has also been proven. so all 8th of march are in deep shit now starting from nasralla to 3oun and nabih berry with rest of Iran slaves in lebanon.

    July 24, 2012

  • yyyyy

    What will Shia do... Or the million dollar question should be what should the Shia be doing now When the senile captain is Steering the ship into an ice berg. It was said that the Titanic Wouldn't sink and it did. Senile sayed is the captain whose crew is mainly Shia. Ha is the titanic,a big overated ship with no Compass,lifeboats or life jackets and heading for that iceberg.

    July 24, 2012

  • cnm

    Some interesting points raised. Despite my anti-Hizbollah and anything affiliated to March 8, I think it is safe to say that HA are going nowhere irrespective of what happens to that awful Syrian regime. HA do not need the Syrian regime, they are sitting very comfortably knowing their existence remains intact. As long as the backing and FUNDING of Iran and the 'khomes' of certain Marja3iyas HA have nothing to worry about. We must think more tactically than emotionally to make progress and gain ground politcally.

    July 24, 2012

  • Emile

    @majd, welcome back.. if you think assad will stay in power, you might be hallucinating my friend.. too late for reconciliation with him.. close to 20,000 already killed and no one knows how long killing will last..russia will sell him once offered a good price for his departure. syrian regime did not spare anyone with their killing machine in lebanon, wthether shia, sunnis, christians, they killed the finest men of lebanon.. eventually they experienced what C4, they have been using on lebanese. whether syrians will feel safe in shia areas.. surely they will not. many were harrassed for the kidnapping of the 11 lebanese, if you think that sayyed hassan has control upon everything, you are mistaken, see how many spies have been caught already within his circle of trust.

    July 24, 2012

  • maz

    Some of these so-called intellectuals are so giddy about the prospect of Asaad falling, that they forget that it is probably going to take much more than a rag-tag group of bearded (...)with assault rifles to bring down a regime that has withstood 40-years of international pressure. Keep your wet-dreams to yourself...

    July 24, 2012

  • Dr. G

    Thank you Ms. Ghaddar for saying it so eloquently. Peace, love, and brotherhood. Come on people it's about time we showed our compassion and made things work between us. That is an awesome article!!! Could not have said it better if I tried.

    July 24, 2012

  • citizen

    You posed the question while you know the answer. Now comes the role of Shias like you Hanin to mend what had been broken and to get to a relation among equals with a dear member of the Lebanese family. I'm sure that you know too that many non-Shias would be behind you in this long awaited step.

    July 23, 2012

  • ali daoud

    Hanin Ghaddar, don`t worry at all Hanin, first Assad will not be toppled as you wish, 2nd, the Shia will never face a dilemma you long for, have some patience Hanin and don`t rush to your usual wishful thinking. 3rd, even those shia who don`t totally agree with HA, the moment HA is under attack by israel or its M14 allies, all Shia will support HA no matter. Hanin, the Shia have fought and sacrificed for the benefit of all Arabs for years, and you are here blaming and assuming and accusing them of not doing their duties regarding the syrian refugees, it`s natural the refugees themselves will choose to go to the Sunni areas, and add that syrian workers are all over the shia areas, did anybody touch them? about Imad, he may run for a seat in the Parliament in case you see he represents the Shia!

    July 23, 2012

  • Mehdi

    What will the Shia do? They will kidnap Syrian opposition activists in Lebanon for possible exchange with abducted Lebanese Shia in Syria.

    July 23, 2012

  • MMM

    Still not sure you can use one Shia person as a source for the way an entire sect is thinking. You raise some interesting points - particularly around Syrian refugees not being able to go south - but the title of the article is "What will the Shia do?" yet you have not once tried to answer that question.

    July 23, 2012

  • wahaj

    This is the worst article i have ever seen. I gives only one side. The majority of syrian people are with assad or are neutral. The opposition syrian national council does not represent opposition and are actually zionist agents having american agenda. They want to break the axis of resistance. If they are true opposition then why are they working within the political framework of syria? Why are they not doing dialogue? There main goal is to create chaos in syria and to sow sedition and bloodshed in syria.

    July 23, 2012

  • andre

    A Hezballat critic? You must either be a salafist, an israeli conspirator, a shia hater, or anti-palestinian! How can anyone speak against Nasrallat? He liberated al-janub in 2000 and "won" against Israel in 2006! He can't do no wrong! Labayka ya Hassan!

    July 23, 2012

  • haninevoidasusual

    3) About Syrian hospitability during the July war: Shias were not the only ones who went to Syria during that war. Your argument is racist and dumb ("the Shia were offered"). Second, there was no governmental programme to support the refugees. There was no refugee crisis per se (unlike the displacement crisis inside Lebanon). Most people were able to pay for their accommodation and food. However, prices of housing, food and transport skyrocketed during that period. It is naive and rather stupid to pretend that Syrians are naturally nice and thus did everything they can to welcome Lebanese while Lebanese are naturally mean and not paying back. Both government and peoples will do whatever they think is best for their own interest. (...)

    July 23, 2012

  • haninevoidasusual

    (...)Few points : 1) "But they are also scared because they cannot abandon the Party of God, their only political reference." REALLY? Hezbollah is definitely not the Shia's only political reference. The Shia community has had a history of political groups and figures who continue to have broad support. The Amal movement is the most prominent. But even other institutions which do not play a direct political role are excellent references. The Shias will definitely not get lost without Hezbollah. You fail to mention that the biggest difference Hezbollah makes is that they have the guns and the ressources. 2) Your second argument is logically invalid. There is no necessarylink between having money and corruption - since you do not have a proof of the corruption claim. I am sure there is corruption among the ranks of Hezb but you do not present the proof.

    July 23, 2012

  • Berke khan

    Very informing article about the Lebanon side of the Syrian revolution. Thank you.

    July 23, 2012

  • Fadlallah

    True all the way. There may also be another dimension to the rightfull questions raised by Lebanese Shia : Why did we loose the sympathy and positive feel among fellow Lebanese, most Syrians, all Arabs etc...during the last years ?

    July 23, 2012

  • Emile

    very nice article and very true, if the shia want true resistance is not by following a regime which has been using the south of lebanon in particular and all of lebanon in general to keep golan heights quiet to guarrantee its continuity and existance true resistance is when the shia mothers give birth to people like hassan kamel sabbah and rammal rammal and many others.. wake up shia and dont lose your headings..

    July 23, 2012

  • Mark

    Great article Hanin , there is more truth in what you say than what comes out from the mouths of all the Lebanese politicians combined. However the sad thing is that like me, people will read and agree with you but nothing will be done.

    July 23, 2012