Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hizbullah Commemorates "Day of the Martyr," Recognizes Ahmad Qassir

The Lebanese Shi'i party Hizbullah (Hezbollah) commemorated the "Day of the Martyr" yesterday, specifically singling out Ahmad Qassir, a young man who the party considers to be one of its earliest martyrs. Hizbullah was formed by local like-minded groups in southern Lebanon between 1982 and 1985 in response to the occupation of large swaths of Lebanon by the Israeli military that had begun in June 1982 with the Israeli invasion in its campaign against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). On November 11, 1982 Qassir drove an explosives-laden car up to the Israeli military headquarters in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, killing 75 Israeli soldiers, intelligence agents, and Border police as well as Lebanese prisoners who had been seized by the Israelis. The Israeli headquarters building was heavily damaged.

Hizbullah benefited greatly from financial support and military training provided by the Iranian state after that country's revolution brought Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Ruhollah Khumayni and his allies to power. Some pundits and analysts who are often ideologically driven, as well as Hizbullah's domestic and regional rivals, allege that the party is an "Iranian proxy." It is more accurate to see the party's relationship with Iran as being similar to the way that Saudi Arabia provides financial and political backing for its own allies in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, for example, has made no attempt to hide its patronage and political backing of Sa'd al-Hariri, the current Lebanese prime minister and Sunni faction leader.

Before and after invading Lebanon in 1982, the Israeli government of then-prime minister Menachem Begin provided its Lebanese Christian allies, the Phalange party, with upwards of $100 million. The Phalange, under the leadership of Bashir Gemayel and his family, had been modeled after European fascist parties. Gemayel had ruthlessly sidelined or purged rival Maronite leaders in order to assume command of the party. California State University-Stanislaus professor As'ad AbuKhalil, well known for his heavily satirical and sarcastic blog The Angry Arab News Service, has argued that Hizbullah in its early years used Leninist social mobilization and organizational principles in creating a base of support for itself.

Hizbullah published a biography of Qassir written by his father, Ja'far, on its official web sites. The official English translation is re-published below, with no edits. My comments, if any, are in brackets and bold font. Everything except the "Pictorial Break" and several photographs/posters are from the original online publication.

A short biography written by Qassir's father Jaafar Qassir:

Shahid [martyr] Ahmad Qassir [honorific name or kunya: "Haydar"/"Haidar"] was born in a religious family in Southern Lebanon, in the village of Deir Qanoun Al Nahr. He was raised up in the village.

As a child, Ahmad was very smart. In a precise incident at age of 4, he acted much more mature than supposed. At days when his father heads to gather the crops of their cultivated land, he would go and collect the crops and come back home to give it to his father.

He was caring and supportive to all his friends and family. He helped the poor and the needy. Ahmad always called people to destroy the permits given by the Zionist enemy and never resort to using them as it is an implicit recognition of the enemy. Ahmad was very brave and courageous and participated in a number of operations against the Zionist enemy until the day he became the "prince of Self-sacrifice martyrs" after he operated the first martyrdom operation in the history of the Islamic resistance.

1982: Ten minutes before the clock strikes seven: a martyrs' era is launched

This is a witness of Dr. Hassan Zein who was working at the time at Jabal Amel Hospital, the building adjacent to the-then headquarters of "the ‘Israeli' military governor" in Tyre city.

Dr. Zein describes what he saw at time of the operation as follows: "Back in those particular days, when the "Iron Fist", as described back then, had been intensified by the occupation against our people. It was winter time and the day before the operation heavy rain started a flood that damaged many of the enemy soldiers erected tents in the Buss area, forcing the soldiers to hide in the military governor's building, which was already filled with soldiers at the time."

He added: "At about 6:50 a.m. I was lying down in a room opposite the building, I stood in shock for a few moments not knowing what happened, due to the intensity of the explosion I did not hear the sound at all but saw with my own eyes how the eight story building collapsed one layer upon the next, then the ammunition store caught on fire and began exploding. I felt it was a resistance operation, but I did not know it was a martyrdom operation until one of the local citizens, who had been in his car near the building, came and told me how a white car driving at high speed quickly overtook him and swiftly entered the building.

Enemy leadership in panic and alarm

Dr. Zain said: "Enemy death toll reached more than two hundred. I base my words on the basis that minutes after the start of the rescue operation, which began two hours after the martyrdom operation, I saw about 45 bodies lying on the road, add the number of flooded out soldiers that left their tents and came to shelter in the said building, additionally, the operation occurred at 6:50 a.m. which some 20 minutes after night patrols finish their night shift at 6:30 a.m. and the 7:00 a.m. switch over starts.

This means the night patrols were present with the required daytime switch personnel, hence this opportunity determines the presence of all these soldiers under the building rubble."

He pointed out that "two hours of continuous confusion and constant crying by the soldiers filled the area; the surviving soldiers were so few you could count them on your fingers, they did not know what to do after their leaders and superiors were killed under the destroyed building."

At 9:00 a.m., two hours after the operation, several helicopters came to the scene and about 25 people civilian dressed personnel disembarked, I knew they were enemy intelligence. Upon arriving they started throwing bodies inside the helicopters in a terrible speed so as not to be seen or photographed by anyone."

In the afternoon hours the-then ‘Israeli' War Minister Ariel Sharon attended accompanied by a number of ‘Israeli' officials, of whom I remember Mordechai. Signs of frustration covering their faces they turned our hospital into military barracks for the duration of the rescue operations, which lasted until the following day."

On the third day, the ‘Israelis' gave up any hope of any survivors remaining and began bulldozing operations, killing a wounded ‘Israeli' in the process as I recall."

When asked how he felt on this anniversary, Dr. Zain said: "These are really wonderful moments, every time I remember them I feel a sense of pride and honour for witnessing enemy soldiers crying and wailing, I witnessed the occupation's defeat and the refraction of its muscle."

The martyr's mother only learned of his martyrdom one year later

In Deir Qanoun Annaher town, the birthplace of martyr Ahmad Qassir, the town's entrance welcomes you with a huge statue of the martyr Ahmad only a few meters away from the family home. There you are greeted by the martyr's mother who back then, did not find out about the martyrdom of her son Ahmed until after one year, and she says: "Ahmed went to Beirut to work in his father's shop. As usual I waited for him to return on Friday, but he did not return.

It was Sunday and still no sign of him, I immediately traveled with his father to Beirut and started asking his relatives and friends about him, but none knew anything. We went as far as placing Ahmed's photo in the ‘missing persons' column in the newspaper, without success. I lived the sufferings of the bereaved mother for nearly a year, not leaving a stone unturned searching for Ahmad, but it never occurred to me that he may have fallen martyr in an operation, because if he had I would have been informed naturally. But martyr Ahmad's will prevented me from knowing, since he had left clear instructions in his will, not to have his name mentioned until after the withdrawal of the enemy from the area in order to protect us- his family."
Martyr Ahmad's mother found out about his martyrdom by mistake through one of the sisters who quickly took back her remarks. "So I immediately went to Beirut to martyr Ahmad's brother - who was aware of his martyrdom at the time - and asked him about the fate of his brother Ahmed, but he hid any knowledge of it until I made him swear an oath on the Messenger of God and the blood of Imam Hussein (p), when he then told me the truth."

"The martyr's mother feels that each one of the resistance fighters is Ahmed", she added saying "I am proud of the self-respect and dignity Ahmed and his ilk granted all the Lebanese."


PICTORIAL BREAK (NOT IN THE ORIGINAL): Martyrdom artwork is a very important component of Hizbullah's media and communications strategic output. Some examples of such artwork are below:

'Ali al-Musalmani

Al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Sayyid Ahmad

Ja'far Hasan Ja'far


November 11, a date the Zionists will not forget, the date the age of martyrdom operations was ushered in, other operations quickly followed respectively by martyr Bilal Fahs, Sana Mheidly, Hassan Qassir and many others, who by their blood and the blood of the martyrs and the wounded, the toil of the mujahedeen founded the beginning of the Zionists' defeat in year 2000 and the "Divine Victory" in July 2006, and created a resistance to remain as Lebanon's protective shield.

Martyr's Day embodies the anniversary of Ahmed Qassir, the harbinger of the era of martyrdom operatives.

Al-Sayyid 'Abbas Musawi (center with black turban), one of the founding members of Hizbullah and the party's second secretary-general. He was assassinated along with his wife and young son by an Israeli military helicopter gunship on February 16, 1992 in southern Lebanon.

On the 11th of November, 1982, large parts of Lebanon were living under "Israeli" occupation only a few months after an invasion reached Beirut, the Mount, part of the Bekaa, as well as the entirety of South Lebanon.

On that date, the Islamic Resistance, still operating in secret, directed a painful blow to the enemy, the first of its kind in the enemy's occupation history, where a car packed with explosives targeted the Zionist military governor's headquarters at Jall al-Baher area in Tyre city.

A huge explosion tore through the seven storey building, occupied at the time by the occupation army including and its head the military governor, leaving hundreds of "Israelis" between dead and wounded.

"Israel" announced three days of mourning, admitting to the death of some seventy-five officers and soldiers, but remained unable to unlock the mystery behind this event, after having claimed that what happened was an accidental explosion of gas cylinders!

The price of Martyrs still lives among his people, and is alive inside of each and every resistant fighter and each and every one of us

"Think not of those who are slain in God's way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord"

All work as one in their labor to meet God the Exalted."


Ahmed Saheb said...

I am not sure if you had a chance to visit Lebanon...but if you ever do the influence Hizbullah has in the South is rather interesting given the group's short period of existence.

Definitely take a visit to the south and talk to the people there...only then will you get a true feel for what people think about the party and its efforts. Basically the majority are overwhelmingly in favor of the party's actions and it shows with the banners, posters, stickers, and any other paraphernalia plastered over the southern cities.

إبن الصقلي said...

Thanks, again, Ahmed for taking the time to read and leave a detailed comment.

I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to Lebanon, including the south and the Biqa' Valley, though it was many years ago (in June 2003). I didn't really know any Arabic back then, so I know that a trip now would be even more illuminating. I do remember seeing the martyrdom and other party artwork, and have some great photographs of it, though these are unfortunately not digital.

I hope to conduct field work, perhaps for my dissertation, in the south and/or Biqa', as well as Iraq, should it be feasible when the time comes, and should the Arabic learning train be at a decent place...ever! ;-O ;-)

إبن الصقلي said...

I would strongly recommend the book SHI'ITE LEBANON by Roshanack Shaery-Eisenlohr. I may do a post about it soon.

Also, my soon-to-be advisors at McGill's Institute of Islamic Studies, Rula and Malek Abisaab, have a forthcoming book, THE SHI'ITES OF LEBANON. I'll be posting about it once it's published. She's written a great article about the Marja'iyya debates among Iraqi, Iranian, and particularly Lebanese 'ulama. I posted it awhile back:

Rula J. Abisaab, "Lebanese Shi'ites and the Marja'iyya: Polemic in the Late Twentieth Century

d said...

You're right to mention Shaery-Eisenlohr's book about Shi'ites in Lebanon and their transnational ties with Iran. FYI the PDF-version of this book [and others] can be found via

But that's not the main reason for responding. Apart from Shaery's book, I can wholeheartly recommand the following books about shi'ites in Lebanon, and Hizbullah in particular.

Joseph E. Alagha, The shifts in Hizbullah's ideology: religious ideology, political ideology, and political program, Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press, 2006

Alastair Crooke, Resistance. The Essence of the Islamist Revolution, London, Pluto Press, 2009*

*chapter 6 & 7 mentions Hamas en Hizbullah specifically

Lara Deeb, An enchanted modern: gender and public piety in Shi'i Lebanon, Princeton, N.J. [etc.],
Princeton University Press, 2006

Yitzhak Nakash, ‘Reaching for Power. The Shia in the Modern Arab World’, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 2006

Judith Palmer-Harik, Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London, I.B. Tauris Publishers, 2004

Keep up the good work on your weblog, your focus on internet releases of sunni jihadi organizations is great and fits in nicely in between other blogs such as and 'MEI Editor's blog'.

a fellow student of near eastern history, politics and languages.

PS. Yes, the train of Arabic language learning really seems to follow an endless trail.

إبن الصقلي said...


Thanks very much for your very kind words about my blog, and for reading. A big thank you also for the valuable recommendations. I wholeheartedly agree with the list you have provided. And eventually Arabic will come (hopefully)!