I am being driven on a road in the South. Before I meet the Resistance fighter, an introduction has already been given to me on this road. Every casualty has a human identity. Every dead fighter is not a mere statistic read out once on the news, but a name put to a face, living not just in the memory of those who knew him.
Martyrs, as they are known here and across the Arab World, or modern day heroes in the Western equivalent, are posted on lamp posts lining the South’s many streets. Instead of soft drinks and fashion brands, you see the advertising of the dead to give hope to the living. Peoples’ rights are there for the asking. Actions speak louder than words. The pictures also say that the struggle has not ended, because the belief here and in the wider Arab and Islamic world, is that the reasons for the struggle remain.
There is a sense that South Lebanon, due to its strategic location and the role its people have played throughout history, has yet to witness the end game. With the current world climate, the game may end sooner rather than later.
In a tent under the pouring rain, he sat camouflaged by thick foliage. His klashnikov held close, at ease in the setting, very much at home with fellow fighters guarding the unmarked trail that led us here. The interview had informally begun before we made our way to this place, by car and then foot, and the conversation would continue later that evening, at a casual eatery in downtown Beirut. But for the first twenty minutes, it went exactly like this:
Tell me more about yourself.
I’m from South Lebanon. I had... my childhood was in Lebanon. I went to Anglo American schools, and I had a very nice childhood from a good, a well - a well-off family. I had everything, a normal life, an ordinary one. School, football, going to the swimming pool.
Were you affected by the war?
Well the War? Uh, ya’ani, ofcourse we were afraid, but like any child, but we got used it. It’s something, yaa’ni - it’s weird if it’s not there, I mean the bombing and the…we got used to it and this feeling of fear, it faded away. So life kept on going on. After school I… uh, I went to the university, and I got my degree.
What did you study?
I studied uh… (he laughs…he doesn’t want to say) I studied…uh, economics. And I’m planning to, to continue my education, do a Master’s, in my spare time. And uh….lot of ambitions (laughs) but….
So you have ambitions?
Of course! I have lots of ambitions, and I’m working - I’m planning. I have a plan. And I’m working on achieving the goals, the objectives that I set. I achieved a lot so far…but I still have more.
Tell me, how secret is your life as a ‘Muqawim’? How hard is it to be a normal person and then come and do this….how do you fit the two together?
Well personally, I uh, it’s very natural, it’s very natural - it’s something that I decided by myself and I worked hard to achieve it. And there’s no conflict between my ordinary life as a normal citizen, living an ordinary life, and between what we are doing against the occupiers of our land. So…
Some people would say the Israelis have left now, they’re no longer occupying…
No, they are still, because beside occupying south Lebanon and the Bekaa’ (Valley in Lebanon) they are still now in the Shebaa’ Farms and they are still oppressing Palestinians, muslims and non-Muslims. There are Christian Palestinians, there are Druse, Shi’a, Sunna. And against such oppressors we should stand up firmly, and do our duty - rationally. It’s an inborn thing to refuse what oppressors do.
Some people would say that you are brain-washed. That propaganda has made you believe that you have to fight for a cause that doesn’t really exist. What do you say?
I say, no one can do this. No one can do what those Mujahideen are doing, without knowing the cause mentally with… firm principles and beliefs, religiously and rationally. And everyone knows that.. that Israel came in 1948 and made their Zionist state in the land of Palestine. Yaa’ni they said this land belonged to them 3,000 years ago and this is a dangerous thing to say - then everyone will say - well, we were in Spain, the Muslims will say we were in Spain, and therefore we have the right to make a Muslim state in Spain. And we were in parts of China, and we were close to France, and so on. And it’s the only group of people in the world who say that, who define Judaism the religion as a people - that they should have a state - where you see in the Muslim world or the Christian world, you know they’re all Christians or all Muslims, but everyone has their own state, their own identity, or culture…
But you’re fighting Israelis why? And how?
Why? Because I told you, they came from all over the world, because of economic and political reasons - it’s a revolution, yaa’ni, like colonialism, the French and the British - now it’s a new, more advanced colonialism. They came and they established their people in the land of Palestine, they bought lots of land, and this is they way they started - farms, socialism - everything in that kibbutz is owned by everyone living in it. And they defend themselves with their weapons. So they started to establish everywhere those kibbutz, and all the kibbutz together - bit by bit, bit by bit. Then came the Balfour Declaration and they worked hard for it and they established their land, when the Arabs were at their lowest, very weak ya’ani. The Ottoman Empire collapsed and they were very weak…
Do you think the Arabs are very weak now?
The Arabs? No. We have a lot of points of strength, we have natural resources, we have a great population - educated. We have a lot of resources to capitalise on. And we have Islam and the Christians have their own faith, with many values and principles in both religions are common, which we share in a common base. And this is nothing new - it’s happened before. Across history, they came to the Middle East or to Asia and everywhere in the world they came, the invaders because they wanted to colonise and take the resources, to benefit and then they left because they were wrong. And the people of those countries fight for their rights - and they get it. They get their rights. Vietnam is one and now in Lebanon, we have a very fresh experience yaa’ni, evidence. This is how history is, this is how… uh, this is the normal course of life.
Was there one event that happened in your life that made you join? Was it one thing or.. was it just a belief that grew?
It’s several things. First of all, I told you, I studied in school and university, I read a lot. When you read politics and history, you see how in the 19th and the 20th centuries the colonialism, how in the past the French and the British - their relationship with the Middle East, especially this part of the world which is very strategically valuable - when you study all this and you know about it, and you see how the Zionist movement began and what its ambitions and goals are, and how they implemented their plans and achieved what they did. They came to a land of people and they told the world that it’s a land with no people. They established their Zionist state, they killed or expelled many inhabitants of the land with a lot of financial aid from the West: Britain, France, the States, maybe even Russia. And uh, with the propaganda at their hands, with billions of dollars, new weapons, aircrafts, as in the ‘40s - this and with uh, we can say ‘agents’ in the Arab regimes, like before - Lawrence of Arabia, then Glubb Pasha, the head of the Arab Army that was given the role ‘to liberate’ Palestine (…he laughs…) it’s an irony. So, they established what they did and then, after all this - you can see that the only people, the only movement and the only true people who what they say - they implement, is the uh, is the Islamic Revolution in Iran by the leader, Imam Khomeini. Everything he said, everything he declared - in the ‘50s, in the ‘60s against the Shah, against Israel, the Zionists, against the Americans, everything he said - he implemented. It wasn’t just proverbs, it wasn’t just clichés - only to play on the emotions of the people in order to establish his rule, like all the regimes did before.
So let me understand, you’re a young man, you come from a good background, a good family. You find that politics is hypocritical or that there are many problems in the world. Then you see one model, the model of Iran as being opposite to this. But inside Lebanon, I’m trying to understand, how do you suddenly decide you want to become a soldier in this war? Who finds you… or do you find them?
I find them (he laughs) Because I am the one who is motivated, I am the one who has the will, ya’ani, who decided. I am the one who is attracted to the cause and to those people, the honest Mujahideen and leaders who sacrificed everything, worked hard to achieve what they declare in front of the whole world, their objectives. And they worked hard to achieve them and they are doing so. So I am the one who is attracted, motivated. I worked hard (…he smiles…) in order to, in order to know them and uh, share the work that they do.
How old were you?
I was young (..he doesn’t want to say..) I was young… but aware politically, historically, and religiously. Because it didn’t come just like that. No one in my family did brainwash, or had an effect on me, because they live uh, like all the people do. The life for them [my family] is school, university, work, to establish a family - get children, grandchildren and it’s over (he grins.) It’s a very nice thing but - by itself - with what is going on around in the world, it’s... it’s empty. It’s….dull. Uh….it’s sad (he sighs) ya’ani …..I don’t think that I came to this life only to achieve, uh…only to be.. to be just like that, ya’ani just think about my self-interest, be selfish in everything, my own pocket, my own interest, my own money, my family. So….uh, so my family and all of the background that I belong to was raised like that. But I read, ya’ani I passed through several stages and reading was a very important part of it, reading newspapers - seeing politics, seeing what’s going around. So I.. I said to myself, I reached to a conviction that I should do something. I can not…Okay I know who’s right, who’s wrong. I know what Israel is doing is wrong and we should face it, but I can not just stop at that limit - just words without deeds. When I was aware at this point - I mean not to stop at words - then I decided. And it was the beginning.
Can you tell me how you prepare for an operation, and what your feelings are? Do you let those close to you know anything about your life? Tell me how you hide what you do from your family, if you hide it. And then, how do you prepare for what you do? Are there long periods of training? Do you go away? Aren’t they suspicious - if you go away? You say you’re an ordinary citizen, but what you’re doing is out of the ordinary. How do you make the two compatible?
Living as a normal person, with all what you need in life - to study, to work, I have my family - I care about them, my relatives, my friends. Of course uh, what I’m doing - you defined it as extraordinary, and I see it, it has the utmost importance for me. So this part of my life, I do not share it with anyone. But, deciding not to share it with anyone doesn’t mean to create a sense of mystery around me….to let my mother or father, my family and relatives live tensely, all the time not knowing where I am. This is why I uh, the way I behave, I handle this issue… they know that I graduated. Before graduation, at school, lately at school and after, when I started this uh, what I’m doing, if I wanted to go absent for days or more than days, I tell them I’m going for a trip, for a journey - I’m going travelling, I’m going to a friend in the South or to the Bekaa’ or Tripoli or to the mountains. If in the winter, I’m going for weeks, for this - ya’ani, I do it in a normal way. They know my friends, they have confidence in me. And I call them when I can, to let them feel normal, let them feel…. not afraid. This way I can do what I’m doing, no one will have the need to interfere, I’m not doing anything abnormal to them and.…
Is every operation an operation where you don’t think you are going to get out alive? How do you prepare for that?
In every operation of course, the decision whether to live, about life and death, every one of us took that decision when he decided to join this way of life and this work. Of course at every operation there is a percent - ya’ani, it’s there. And we all long for succeeding in our work. And accomplishing the target of our mission at the very best level, and this is what we think about. About life and death, it’s in the hands of Allah, our God. And if it’s our time, we’ll get it and if not, we’re going on working and working and working. Working, ya’ani, resisting and fighting against the enemy with all our resources.
You faced a much more advanced army, the Israeli army in south Lebanon. They had capabilities, search and destroy capabilities, weapons and aircraft - that you could never match. What - how do you think your strategy was superior?
First of all, I believe that every person, every system, every country, every army has its strengths and points of weakness. And the one who is smart and clever, when he wants to face such enemies, such competitors in a business or in a military life - will find those points of weaknesses and attack there. And we know our strengths and, if there are, our points of weaknesses. And we capitalise on our strengths. The most important thing that we have, which the Zionist enemy doesn’t have, and the United States supporting the enemy doesn’t have, is our faith in God. And our dependence on God and doing what He asks us to do. So this faith that we have is our strongest weapon, that Israel doesn’t have - and no one has - only the believers. And with what we have, we are able to defeat and we did defeat…Before.. if you asked this question before the year 2000 - maybe a lot of people would find it difficult to believe. But now we have a fresh event that happened, which is the liberation of South Lebanon and the Bekaa’ Valley - and in the way it happened. We were able with what we had and we worked as much as we could and in the best way, with what we had, and with the faith of the Mujahideen in God, our Creator, we were able to achieve what a lot of Arabs - the whole world - found it difficult to believe. How could we defeat the army that is undefeatable?
(.........Read the Next Chapter: Ordinary Mujahid........)