Politics |

'Shia Reform Movement' counters Hizbullah

A close up shot shows the hands of Lebanese Shia as they gather a day ahead of the Ashura rituals in the Sayyed al-Shuhadaa complex in a southern suburb of Beirut on October 1st, 2016. [Anwar Amro/AFP]

Shia opponents of Hizbullah in late July launched a "Shia Reform Movement" to counter Hizbullah’s hegemony over Lebanon's Shia community.

The movement represents Shia who feel Hizbullah has become an instrument of the Iranian regime, and who seek to restore the standing of the community which has suffered as a result of the party's policy and actions.

"The deplorable situation we have descended into requires us not to stand idly by while Lebanon, and specifically the Shia community, collapses," said movement co-founder Sheikh Mohammed al-Hajj al-Ameli.

"From this standpoint, we launched our movement to demand reforms in the Shia community," he told Al-Mashareq.

"We seek to fulfill our moral duties in rejecting the current state of degeneration," he said, explaining that though the movement does not strive to be a political party, it aims to gain broad popular support.

''We do not want polarization, but we aspire to draw attention to people’s problems, concerns and aspirations," he said. "This will strengthen the bonds of interaction and trust among us, as a modest and nascent group."

Opposition to Hizbullah’s hegemony

Shia opposition figure Hussein Ezzedine attributed the launch of the movement to "the discontent of a large segment of Shia figures and youth over what has become of the Shia community as a result of Hizbullah’s hegemony".

The party has fueled tension in Lebanon and the region, he told Al-Mashareq, and has stymied Lebanon's efforts to become a modern democratic state.

"The movement aims to correct the course of Shia institutions, especially as we know quite well that the Shia decision is controlled by Iran and the strength of Hizbullah's weapons," he said.

It also aims to bring together Shia with a viewpoint that differs from that of Hizbullah, he said, and to show Lebanon another side of the Shia community.

Launching the movement "became a national duty and an urgent need in order to put the community’s affairs in order, especially as Shias who are not affiliated with the party outnumber those who are", Ezzedine said.

The success of the movement is contingent on the amount of media coverage it receives, he said, adding that this will show people across Lebanon the Shia community is not afraid to call for reform.

Breaking the fear barrier "is the only means to induce repressed Shia to shed their fear and say 'NO' out loud", he said, even though the livelihoods of most of them are dependent on, and subject to, Hizbullah’s tyranny.

Although the movement is still small, "it is standing up to a party that has been [established] in the country for 40 years, and part of the Lebanese authority for [the last] 15 years", he said.

Restlessness within Shia community

"The pressures exerted by [Hizbullah] and its exclusion of prominent educated and knowledgeable figures from the political decision-making process have driven us as free Shia to rebel," political analyst Rabih Tlais told Al-Mashareq.

The new movement is directed "against Hizbullah's hegemony over the political decision and Shia authority as a whole, because it has benefited no one but the Iranian regime", said Tlais, who is a member of the movement.

Hizbullah has done "nothing but contribute to the death, non-education and perversion of our youth and the widespread proliferation of drugs, which have entered every house", he said.

"There is widespread restlessness over the situation, especially in Hizbullah’s incubating environment, which is now possible to dismantle," he said.

Even before the launch of the movement, he said, Lebanese Shia "had begun to realise that the party is nothing but gloves worn by the Iranian regime to carry out despicable acts and tasks".

This awareness is beginning to spread, Tlais said.

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