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The ’Sayyed’ Who Never Left the Bekaa

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Abbas Fneish

In his last electoral speech addressing the people of the Bekaa [a few days ago], Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah was eager to inject political momentum into the electoral battle, focusing on what awaits Lebanon and the region on May 6th. He thanked everyone who contributed to his detracting from the risk of appearing personally at the Bekaa to urge people to vote and participate. It is the Bekaa where Sayyed spent a great deal of his life.

Sayyed Nasrallah

The young man who studied in a Hawza [seminary] and who was running away from the regime of Saddam Hussein did not feel estranged in that city. He did not sense any difference between his family home in the Southern village of Bazuria, which he left at the age of fifteen, and his new residence in the Sheikh Habib neighborhood in the city of Baalbek. With his thick glasses, heavy beard and slim figure he snuck into people's hearts here. Soon whispers of the "Sayyed Hassan", the political leader of the Amal Movement in the Bekaa, will spread throughout the city of the sun. This was at the end of the 1970s.

Because he was the Imam of communal prayers in the Imam Ali Mosque in the neighborhood of Sheikh Habib, his knowledge of Bekaa and its people expanded. The close proximity of the mosque to the Imam al-Montathar Hawza, founded by his mentor Sayyed Abbas al-Musawi, as well as the latter's care for him made Sayyed Hassan more connected to the people. He transformed from being a preacher introducing people to the revolutionary Islamic movement to being one of them. He shared their concerns, rooted in their habits, and roamed through their markets. There, he was blessed with his two children Jawad and Zainab.

With the "Israeli" invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the arrival of elements of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps in coordination with Sayyed Abbas al-Musawi, the first features of what will later become known as Hezbollah was formed. In this context, Sayyed Hasan was able to attract people and mobilize them. He was the first to call [for resistance]. He would stand in the first row at times. At other times he would be standing on the "pick up" truck. He moved from town to town. He got to know them as they got to know him. He knew the tribes and families as they knew him. He moved from Hawsh al-Sayyed Ali to al-Karak and from Shmustra to Younine until his dialect became mixed with words from Baalbek because it was affected by his mingling with the people of that region.

From Beirut to the Bekaa

His goal was to encourage people to participate in military courses to learn how to bear arms to resist "Israel". However, he did not forget his role as a preacher whether in Imam al-Montathar Hawza or among the people. During the month of Ramadan, the young Sayyed gave up all his work and headed towards the areas of the al-Jaafar clan in Faysan, Joura Qaddur, Ruwaymah and others. These were remote areas and very difficult to reach. Sayyed used to free himself to teach them the provisions of religion. The people around him sensed two aspects of his personality that will accompany him along his path: his astounding patience and his anticipation of the future. He used to say those would one day become the backbone of the rising resistance.

Hezbollah's formations went public. Sayyed became responsible for the Bekaa region and, in parallel, the Friday Prayers Imam in the town of al-Nabi Sheeth. His work began to take an organizational direction. He followed-up, examined the details, especially the ones related to the military courses and those enrolling from the first day until graduation. He put himself at their disposal as a permanent instructor giving political and doctrinal lessons at the Janta camp. At the same time, he was not disconnected from Beirut or the South. He was a member of the party's Shura Council before moving to Beirut in 1985 to become the head of Hezbollah's Executive Council and then the top official in Southern Lebanon. Despite all this, he always remained present in the Bekaa. His home remained open, and he maintained a direct presence, especially at major events such as al-Quds International Day.

With the martyrdom of Sayyed Abbas al-Musawi and his assumption of the General Secretariat, the Islamic Resistance moved to another pattern. He remained present in the field in the Bekaa during graduations following the completion of military courses or in gathering the cadres and emphasizing the importance of the role of the region in resisting the occupation. The occupied Western Bekaa axis belonged to the Bekaa region. Therefore, he was deliberately present at every qualitative or sensitive operation and would delve into the most precise details.

The martyrs in the Bekaa and their families had the largest share of his interest. He took part in funeral processions. He was a speaker at the wakes. He was a celebrant of one of the sons and daughters [of the martyrs' families]. If the circumstances demanded a postponement of the visit, the visit was never left uncompleted. Most houses in the Bekaa keep commemorative photos taken in person with "His Eminence Sayyed".

From the liberation war to July 2006

In 1997, during the so-called "Revolution of the Hungry", Sayyed's recommendations to the people were to endure, assimilate and not to be drawn into any friction. When asked why, he used put the interest of the Bekaa, its people and its tribes before the organizational interest. People were always the key. They met Sayyed in the middle of the road. They invited him to their villages and homes to renew their allegiance. So, he went to Hermel, Shmustar, Tarayah, Bednayel, Shaath and other areas.

"His Eminence Sayyed's" influence was above any consideration, blood and revenge. Any friction between any two clans was solved with a visit from a cadre of Hezbollah carrying the following message: "His Eminence, Sayyed, greets you".

In that year, the martyrdom of Sayyed Hadi Nasrallah brought sadness to every house in the Bekaa. The Husayniyahs and the houses of mourning were opened to accept condolences for the young man who grew up among them. Some of them still remember him today as a child in the company of his father and his brother Jawad in a Mercedes.

The 2000 liberation resonated stronger in the Bekaa than in the South. As usual, Sayyed envisioned the next stage in preparation for a war with the enemy. He intensified his tours with the leader, Hajj Imad Mughniyeh, in the region to view the specialized courses. He opened some of them and graduated others. He was also informed in detail of the military readiness of the different units.

During the July 2006 war, the commander of the resistance was not disconnected from the Bekaa. During the war, he carefully followed-up on the function of the various apparatuses. After it, he followed-up on everything related to the martyrs and reconstruction.

Facing the Takfiris

The year 2011 formed a new and important post in the Bekaa. The movement of militants in Syria would soon become an escalating threat on the eastern border of Lebanon. During the beginning of 2012, the terrorist factions started violations on the other side of the border until the city of Qusayr fell into the hands of the militants. Attacks were unleashed around 30 thousand Lebanese residing in Syrian villages. The Secretary General of Hezbollah sent for the concerned parties and held a detailed meeting to assess the situation. He was as keen on the Bekaa and its people as he was with the national sovereignty of Lebanon, which was being threatened along its eastern frontier. The decision was purely defensive. It was based on the cooperation with the Lebanese people in the threatened villages to arm, train and organize them as needed to defend their land. But his main purpose was to form committees responsible for relations and reconciliations and to avoid friction. He requested that the door be open to humanitarian situations even if it concerned the militants. He asked that aid and medical assistance be presented and deliveries be permitted. He requested that civilians be separated from terrorists. He also recommended activating the presence of Hezbollah and its cadres among the people due to the sensitivity of the matter. He did not want to test their patience towards the violations of Takfiri terrorism. During that period, Sayyed's follow-up was almost daily. He first asked about the people, families and clans. And then came work.

As the threat escalated in 2013 and the fire extended to more villages in Hermel and other areas, he took the decision to move from defense mode to deterrence mode and clear the villages of West Assi and rural Qusayr. As the battle of Qusayr approached, Sayyed was present in person. He met with the military leadership and Saraya [Lebanese Resistance Brigades] officials. He listened to a detailed explanation of the situation on the ground and gave his remarks. He explained to them the battle with all its dimensions and demonstrated its importance in the protection of the Bekaa, its people and its villages.

After Qusayr, as the Takfiri factions moved to the villages of Qalamoun and its outskirts, they resorted to suicide bombings in the villages and towns of Bekaa. He continued to follow-up with the situation closely "as if he was in the operation room in the Bekaa", according to those with him, until the first battles of Qalamoun were concluded. Following these battles, the Nusra Front concentrated its terror on the outskirts of the Lebanese villages. It continued sending car bombs and launching rockets towards the villages of Bekaa and attacking Hezbollah positions. The most notable of which was Ein Saah in the outskirts of Britel, where eight fighters were martyred.

Sayyed in the Eastern Chains

A while later, the military leadership in the Bekaa convened to assess the situation and study the options. There was a knock on the door. The Secretary General in person was there in a black military uniform. Everyone was surprised by his presence. He asked them for a detailed explanation of the situation. He then gave his instructions that it was settled: "We must eliminate all terrorist threats on the eastern border." The surprise was greatest when he asked to inspect the field. Sayyed toured all the points of contact as well as the main axes and observatories. At some positions, the fighters did not expect Sayyed's visit. As a result, many wondered about the "big resemblance" between Sayyed and this "visiting leader". At the Ras al-Harf hilltop, he got out of the car and walked towards the first barrier. Those accompanying him feared that the car would be hit by a guided missile. But he insisted on completing the tour. He asked that fortifications be enabled, ambushes be activated, crossings be blocked and the defense plans be secured. This tour, paradoxically, took place in the midst of intense "Israeli" air activity. When he arrived to an area overlooking Ein Saah, he was keen to know the details of "how the brothers were martyred". At the last position, field officials told him about the rough terrain. Sayyed replied: "I'm comfortable. This is easy for our men." His phrase reflected the reassurance of victory.

During that tour, Sayyed actually put the finishing touches on the upcoming battles on the outskirts. He did not stop following-up, especially during the snow season. He maintained daily contact during every storm and asked about the situation of the brothers, the supplies and the routes. In some of the communications, he would refer to the positions by their names to be more reassuring. Later, in the spring of 2015, the first stage of liberating the outskirts took place. It was followed by the second phase in the summer of 2017. In August 28, 2017, the Bekaa witnessed the second liberation celebration. Sayyed was unable to attend in person as he wished. He apologized sorrowfully. The same way he wished to attend the Loyalty to Land celebration in Baalbek the day before yesterday.

Source: Al-Akhbar Newspaper, Translated by website team

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