The Amal Movement (or Hope Movement in English, Arabic language: حركة أمل Ḥarakat ʾAmal) is a Lebanese political party associated with Lebanon's Shia community. It was founded as the "Movement of the Dispossessed" in 1974. The Amal Movement is, by a small margin, the largest Shia party in parliament, having thirteen representatives to Hezbollah's twelve. Amal is currently in an alliance which includes the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, and the Progressive Socialist Party.
The movement's current name was originally used by the Movement of the Dispossessed militia, the "Lebanese Resistance Regiments", Arabic language: أفواج المقاومة اللبنانية. This name, when abbreviated, created the acronym "Amal", which means "Hope" in Arabic.
- 1 Origins
- 2 Military structure and organization
- 3 Administrative organization and activities
- 4 Islamic Amal
- 5 The Lebanese War
- 6 Amal after the war
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 External links
Harakat al-Mahrumin / Movement of the Deprived
Harakat al-Mahrumin (Arabic language: حركة المحرومين meaning The Movement of the Deprived or the The Movement of the Dispossessed or The Movement of the Disinherited) was established by Imam Musa al-Sadr and member of parliament Hussein el-Husseini in 1974, as an attempt to reform the Lebanese system, although the beginnings can be traced to 1969 in declarations by the Imam al-Sadr calling upon peace and equality between all Lebanese confessions and religions, so that no one confession would remain "deprived" in any region in Lebanon, noting that the Shia community in Lebanon remained the poorest and most neglected by the Lebanese government.
While acknowledging its support base to be the “traditionally under-represented politically and economically disadvantaged” Shi'a community, it aimed, according to Palmer-Harik, to seek social justice for all deprived Lebanese. Although influenced by Islamic ideas, it was a secular movement trying to unite people along communal rather than religious or ideological lines. The Movement had support from many confessions, but membership remained mainly within the Shia confession and was considered as a definitive Shia force against the traditional Shia families hegemony at the time. The Greek Catholic Archbishop of Beirut, Mgr. Grégoire Haddad, was among the founders of the Movement.
The movement was absorbed in 1975 into what is now called Amal movement.
Lebanese Resistance Detachments
On January 20, 1975, the Lebanese Resistance Detachments (in Arabic أفواج المقاومة اللبنانية - also referred to in English as 'The Battalions of the Lebanese Resistance') were formed as a military wing of Harakat al-Mahrumin under the leadership of al-Sadr, and came to be popularly known as Amal (in Arabic أمل) from the acronym Afwaj al-Mouqawma Al-Lubnaniyya).
Amal became one of the most important Shi'a Muslim militias during the Lebanese Civil War. It grew strong with the support of, and through its ties with, Syria and the 300,000 Shi'a internal refugees from southern Lebanon after the Israeli bombings in the early 1980s. Amal's practical objectives were to gain greater respect for Lebanon's Shi'ite population and the allocation of a larger share of governmental resources for the Shi'ite-dominated southern part of the country.
At its zenith, the militia had 14,000 troops. Amal fought a long campaign against Palestinian refugees during the Lebanese Civil War (called the War of the Camps). After the War of the Camps, Amal fought a bloody battle against rival Shi'a group Hezbollah for control of Beirut, which provoked Syrian military intervention. Hezbollah itself was formed by religious members of Amal who had left after Nabih Berri's assumption of full control and the subsequent resignation of most of Amal's earliest members.
On January 20, 1975 The Lebanese Resistance Detachments (also referred to in English as 'The Battalions of the Lebanese Resistance') is formed as a military wing of The Movement of the Disinherited under the leadership of al-Sadr. In 1978 the founder Al-Sadr disappears in mysterious circumstances while visiting Libya. He was succeeded by Hussein el-Husseini as leader of Amal.
In 1979 Palestinian guerrillas attempt to assassinate then-Secretary General Hussein el-Husseini by launching missiles into his home, outside Beirut. In 1980 Hussein el-Husseini resigned from Amal leadership after refusing to "drench Amal in blood" and fight alongside the PLO or any other faction.
In 1980 Nabih Berri became one of the leaders of Amal, marking the entry of Amal in the Lebanese Civil War. In summer 1982 Husayn Al-Musawi, deputy head and official spokesman of Amal, broke away to form the Islamist Islamic Amal Movement. In May 1985, heavy fighting erupted between Amal and Palestinian camp militias for the control of the Sabra, Shatila and Burj el-Barajneh camps in Beirut, sparking the so-called "War of the Camps" which lasted until 1987.
In December 1985 Nabih Berri of Amal, Walid Jumblatt of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party, and Elie Hobeika of the Lebanese Forces signed the Tripartite Accord in Damascus which is supposed to give strong influence to Damascus regarding Lebanese matters. The agreement never came into effect due to Hobeika's ousting.
Heavy fighting erupted between Hezbollah and Amal in the wake of the "War of Camps" to which Hezbollah was opposed. Syrian forces entered the area to help Amal against Hezbollah, Syrian troops killed dozens of Hezbollah members in which they claimed the members attacked them while Hezbollah claimed they were killed in cold blood. Fighting between the two factions lasted until 1989.
On February 22, 1987 in what became known as the “War of the Flag”, a brutal militia battle spread throughout western Beirut between the Druze PSP and Amal. The fighting had started when a PSP member had walked to the Channel 7 station and replaced the Lebanese flag with a PSP flag, in what was a deliberate act of provocation. The battle ended with the Amal movement winning the battle and restoring the Lebanese Flag.
On February 17, 1988 the American Chief of the UN Truce and Supervision Organisation's observer group in Lebanon (UNTSO), Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, was abducted and later killed after meeting with Amal's political leader of southern Lebanon. Amal responded by launching a campaign against Hezbollah in the south, It was believed that Hezbollah abducted him; Though the party to this day denies it and insists that it was done to create problems between them and the Amal movement. In April 1988 Amal launched an all-out assault on Hezbollah positions in south Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut. Early in May 1988 Hezbollah gained control of 80% of the Shi'ite suburbs of Beirut through well-timed assaults.
In 1989 Amal accepted the Taif agreement (mainly authored by el-Husseini) in order to end the civil war.
In September 1991, with background in the Syrian controlled end of the Lebanese Civil War in October 1990, 2,800 Amal troops joined the Lebanese army.
Military structure and organization
The movement’s militia, also designated Battalions de la Resistance Libanaise (BRL) in French, but simply known by its Arabic acronym ‘Amal’, was secretly established with the help of the Palestinian Fatah, who provided weapons and training at their Beqaa facilities. The formation of BLR/Amal was revealed in July 1975 when an accidental explosion of a landmine at one of the ‘Fatahland’ camps near Baalbek killed over than 60 Shia trainees, which caused considerable embarrassment to Fatah and forced Al-Sadr to admit publicly the militia’s existence. When the civil war finally broke out in April 1975, Amal’s strength standed at about 1,500-3,000 armed militants, backed by a motor force of armed jeeps and gun-trucks (Land Rovers, Ford, GMC and Chevrolet pickups, Pinzgauer 710 light all-terrain vehicles, and US M35A2 2-1/2 ton cargo trucks) fitted with heavy machine guns, recoilless rifles and some anti-aircraft autocannons.
By the mid-1980s however, the movement totalled 14,000-16,000 militiamen trained and armed by Syria, of which 10,000 alone were part-time male and female irregulars. The bulk of Amal’s regular forces was made of 6,000 ex-Lebanese Army regular soldiers from the Sixth Brigade, a predominantly Shia Muslim formation that went over to their co-religionists following the collapse of the government forces in February 1984. Commanded by the Shiite Major-General Abd al-Halim Kanj, and headquartered at the Henri Shihab Barracks in the south-western suburbs of Beirut, this formation was subsequently enlarged by absorbing Shia deserters from other Army units. The brigade aligned an armoured battalion fielding Panhard AML-90 armoured cars, AMX-13 light tanks and 30 Syrian-loaned T-54/55 MBTs, three to four mechanized infantry battalions on M113, Alvis Saracen and VAB (4x4) armoured personnel carriers, and an artillery battalion equipped with Soviet 122 mm howitzer 2A18 (D-30) pieces. In addition, the well-equipped Beirut-based Amal forces also operated three ex-PLO ZSU-23-4 ‘Shilka’ SPAAG tracked vehicles captured from the Al-Murabitoun in April 1985, whereas their guerrilla units fighting in the south of the country were able to add a few M113 ZELDA and M3/M9 ZAHLAM half-tracks captured from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and their South Lebanon Army (SLA) proxies. Upon the end of the war in October 1990, Amal militia forces operating in the Capital and the Beqaa were ordered to disband. The 6th Brigade was re-integrated into the structure of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) whilst an additional 2,800 ex-Amal militiamen joined the re-formed Lebanese Army in September of the following year. Despite the order to disarm, Amal guerilla units in the south were to remain in place throughout the 1990s until the final Israeli pull-out of May 2000 and the subsequent collapse of the SLA.
Administrative organization and activities
Amal’s main sphere of influence encompassed the Shia-populated slum districts located at south-western Beirut of Shiyah, Bir Abed, Bir Hassan, Ouzai, and Khalde, with the latter including the neighbouring International Airport, which they brought under their control in March 1984. Outside the Capital, they also operated at Baalbek and Hermel in the Beqaa, and in the southern Jabal Amel region, notably around the port cities of Tyre and Sidon down to the UNIFIL zone. In addition to Syrian backing, Amal received some financial support from Libya and Iran – first by the Shah in 1975-78, replaced after 1979 by the new Islamic regime – and from the Lebanese Shi’ite immigrant community in West Africa; additional revenues were levied in illegal ports such as Ouzai in Beirut, along with Zahrani, whose harbour and the adjacent Tapline oil refinery were employed in the contraband of fuel, and Sarafand (used for smuggling imported cars and other goods), both located south of Sidon. The Movement had its own civil administration and assistance networks, gathered since the mid-1980s under the authority of the so-called ‘Council of the South’ (Arabic: Majliss al-Orkoub). Headed by Amal’s vice-president Muhammad Baydoun and based at the Christian town of Maghdouché near Sidon, it was responsible for running schools, hospitals, and conducting public works on Shia areas. Amal also run from its headquarters at Rue Hamra, in association with Zahir al-Khatib’s Workers League a joint television service (Arabic: Al-Machriq).
In the summer of 1982, Husayn Al-Musawi, deputy head and official spokesman of Amal, broke with Berri over the latter's willingness to go along with U.S. mediation in Lebanon rather than attack Israeli troops, his membership in the National Salvation Council alongside the Christians, and his opposition to pledging allegiance to Ayatollah Khomeini.
Musawi formed the Islamist Islamic Amal Movement, based in Baalbeck. It was aided by the Islamic Republic of Iran which, in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, strove not only to help Lebanon's Shi'a, but to export the PanIslamic revolution to the rest of the Muslim world, something Musawi strongly supported, saying, "We are her [i.e. the Islamic Republic's] children."
We are seeking to formulate an Islamic society which in the final analysis will produce an Islamic state. ... The Islamic revolution will march to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem, and the Islamic state will then spread its authority over the region of which Lebanon is only a part.`
About 1500 members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard or Pasdaran, arrived in Beqaa Valley that same time and "directly contributed to ensure the survival and growth of al-Musawi's newly-created small militia," providing training, indoctrination and funding. Iran was in many ways a natural ally of Shia in Lebanon as it was far larger than Lebanon, oil-rich, and both Shi'a-majority and Shi'a-ruled. And of course, founder Musa al-Sadr had come from Iran. Iran's generous funding meant generous pay for the militias recruits - $150–200 per month plus cost-free education and medical treatment for themselves and their families - that "far exceeded what other [Lebanese] militias were able to offer." This was a major incentive among the impoverished Shi'a community, and induced "a sizable number of Amal fighters [to] defected regularly to the ranks" of Islamic Amal, and later Hizb'Allah. But while siding with Syria rather the Islamic Republic of Iran seriously weakened Amal, Berri and others in Amal were reluctant to follow Iran's lead. Their reasons reportedly include:
- doubt that the policies of revolutionary Iran could solve Lebanon's sectarian problems
- the belief that the Islamic Republic had done little to help solve the 1979 disappearance of Imam Musa al-Sadr
- that Iranian Islamic revolutionaries in power had done little to return the favor of Amal's extensive support for Iranian opposition activity against the Shah's regime, such as military training of senior Iranian revolutionaries in Lebanon in camps under Amal's auspices
- alarm that several of "Amal's most loyal friends within Iran's clerical establishment either disappeared or were killed or ousted by Ayatollah Khomeini in the period between 1980-81"
- disapproval of the support and encouragement given to the PLO by Islamic revolutionaries in Iran as a natural spearhead in the holy war against Israel, despite the fact that "PLO activity brought considerable trouble and hardship to the south Lebanese Shi'ites."
Islamic Amal went on to be particularly active in fighting Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon. By August 1983, Islamic Amal and Hezbollah were "effectively becoming one under the Hezbollah label," and by late 1984, Islamic Amal, along with "all the known major groups" in Lebanon, had been absorbed into Hezbollah.
The Lebanese War
The War of the Camps
The War of the Camps was a series of battles in the mid-1980s between Amal and Palestinian groups. The Druze-oriented Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and Hezbollah supported the Palestinians while Syria backed Amal.
- First battle (May 1985)
Although most of the Palestinian guerrillas were expelled during the 1982 Israeli invasion, Palestinian militias began to regain their footing after the Israeli withdrawal from first Beirut, then Sidon and Tyre. Syria viewed this revival with some anxiety: though in the same ideological camp, Damascus had little control over most Palestinians organizations and was afraid that the build-up of Palestinian forces could lead to a new Israeli invasion. Moreover, Syria's minority Alawite regime was never comfortable with Sunni militias in Lebanon[citation required]. In Lebanon, Shia-Palestinians relations had been very tense since the late 1960s. After the multinational force withdrew from Beirut in February 1984, Amal and the PSP took control of west Beirut and Amal built a number of outposts around the camps (in Beirut but also in the south). On April 15, 1985, Amal and the PSP attacked Al-Murabitun, the main Lebanese Sunni militia and the closest ally of the PLO in Lebanon. Al-Murabitun were vanquished and their leader, Ibrahim Kulaylat was sent into exile. On May 19, 1985, heavy fighting erupted between Amal and the Palestinians for the control of the Sabra, Shatila and Burj el-Barajneh camps (all in Beirut). Despite its efforts, Amal could not take the control of the camps. The death toll remains unknown, with estimates ranging from a few hundreds to a few thousands. This and heavy Arab pressure led to a cease-fire on June 17.
- Second battle (May 1986)
The situation remained tense and fights occurred again in September 1985 and March 1986. On May 19, 1986, heavy fighting erupted again. Despite new armaments provided by Syria, Amal could not take control of the camps. Many cease-fires were announced, but most of them did not last more than a few days. The situation began to cool after Syria deployed some troops on June 24, 1986.
- Third battle (September 1986)
There was tension in the south, an area where Shi'as and Palestinians were both present. This unavoidably led to frequent clashes. On September 29, 1986, fighting erupted at the Rashidiyye camp (Tyre). The conflict immediately spread to Sidon and Beirut. Palestinian forces managed to occupy the Amal-controlled town of Maghdouché on the eastern hills of Sidon to open the road to Rashidiyye. Syrian forces helped Amal and Israel launched air strikes against PLO position around Maghdouche. A cease-fire was negotiated between Amal and pro-Syrian Palestinian groups on December 15, 1986, but it was rejected by Yasser Arafat's Fatah. Fatah tried to appease the situation by giving some of its positions to Hezbollah and to the Murabitun. The situation became relatively calm for a while, but the bombing against the camps continued. In Beirut, a blockade of the camps led to a dramatic lack of food and medications inside the camps. In early 1987, the fighting spread to Hezbollah and the PSP who supported the Palestinians. The PSP, having won numerous battles, quickly seized large portions of west Beirut. Consequently, Syria occupied west Beirut beginning February 21, 1987. On April 7, 1987, Amal finally lifted the siege and handed its positions around the camps to the Syrian army. According to the New York Times (March 10, 1992, citing figures from the Lebanese police), 3,781 were killed in the fighting.
- February 1988
On February 17, 1988, Lt. Col William R. Higgins, American Chief of the UN Truce and Supervision Organisation's observer group in Lebanon (UNTSO), was abducted from his UN vehicle between Tyre and Nakara after a meeting with Abd al-Majid Salah, Amal's political leader in southern Lebanon. It soon became "clear that Sheikh al-Musawi, the commander to Hezbollah's Islamic Resistance, had been personally responsible for the abduction of Lt. Col Higgins in close cooperation with both Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, the local commander of Hizballah's military wing, and Mustafa al-Dirani, the former head of Amal's security service." This is seen as a direct challenge to Amal by Hezbollah, and Amal responds by launching an offensive against Hezbollah in the south where it "scores decisive military victories ... leading to the expulsion of a number of Hizballah clergy to the Beqqa". In Beirut's southern suburbs however, where fighting also raged, Hizballah was much more successful. "[E]lements within Hizballah and the Iranian Pasdaran established a joint command to assassinate high-ranking Amal officials and carry out operations against Amal checkpoints and centers."
By May, Amal had suffered major losses, its members were defecting to Hezbollah, and by June, Syria had to intervene militarily to rescue Amal from defeat. In January 1989, a truce in the "ferocious" fighting between Hizballah and Amal was arranged by Syrian and Iranian intervention. "Under this agreement, Amal's authority over the security of southern Lebanon [is] recognized while Hizballah [is] permitted to maintain only a nonmilitary presence through political, cultural, and informational programmes."
Amal after the war
Amal was a strong supporter of Syria after 1990 and endorsed Syria's military presence in Lebanon. After Rafik Hariri's assassination in 2005, Amal opposed the Syrian withdrawal and did not take part in the cedar revolution. Since 1990, the party has been continuously represented in the parliament and the government. Amal's enemies often criticize it for corruption among its semi-major leaders. Nabih Berri was elected speaker of parliament in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2005 and 2009. Currently, Amal has 13 representatives in the 128-seat Lebanese parliament. According to Amal officials, the party's militants "have been involved in every major battle since fighting began" during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon Conflict, and at least 8 members were reported to have been killed.
- Augustus R. Norton, Amal and the Shi'a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon (Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1987)
- Nasr, Vali, 2006, The Shia Revival, New York, W.W. Norton & Company, p. 85
- Byman, D., 2005, Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism, Cambride, Cambridge University Press, p.82
- Palmer-Harik, J., 2004, Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London, I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd
- Byman, D., 2005, Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
- Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007
- Hizbullah, a progressive Islamic party? - Interview with Joseph Alagha
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- Hezbollah: Between Tehran and Damascus
- Ranstorp, Hizb'allah, (1997), p.101
- O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 137.
- Micheletti, Bataille d'artillerie, RAIDS magazine (1989), p. 34.
- Micheletti, Les véhicules de la Guerre du Liban, RAIDS magazine (1994), p. 9.
- El-Assad, Blue Steel III: M-113 Carriers in South Lebanon (2007), p. 8.
- El-Assad, Blue Steel: M-3 Halftracks in South Lebanon (2006), p. 58.
- Wright, Sacred Rage (2001) p.61-2
- Ranstorp, Magnus, Hizb'allah in Lebanon: The Politics of the Western Hostage Crisis, New York, St. Martins Press, 1997, p.31
- [Musawi in Monday Morning magazine, October 31, 1983 shortly before the embassy bombings, quoted in Wright, Sacred Rage, Simon and Schuster, 2001, p.83
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- Ranstorp, Hizb'allah in Lebanon (1997) p.36
- Ranstorp, Hizb'allah in Lebanon, (1997), p.32
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- Voice of Lebanon, 0615 gmt 18 April 88-BBC/SWB/ME/0131, 21 April 1988; and Ha'aretz, 18 April 1988], quoted in Ranstorp, Hizb'allah, (1997), p.101
- Ranstorp, Hizb'allah, (1997), p.102
- Israeli troops suffer largest one-day loss - CNN July 27, 2006
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- Moustafa el-Assad, Blue Steel 2: M-3 Halftracks in South Lebanon, Blue Steel Books, Sidon 2006.
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- Moustafa El-Assad, Civil Wars Volume 1: The Gun Trucks, Blue Steel books, Sidon 2008. ISBN 9953-0-1256-8
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- Palmer-Harik, J., Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London, I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2004.
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- Samer Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon 1975-1981, L’Echo des Cedres, Beirut 2011. ISBN 978-1-934293-06-5
- Seyyed Ali Haghshenas, "Social and political structure of Lebanon and its influence on appearance of Amal Movement, " Iran, Tehran 2009.
- Robin Wright, Sacred Rage, Simon and Schuster, 2001.
- Fouad Ajami, "Gadhafi and the Vanished Imam", Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2011
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