[This entry contains three subentries:
- ḥIZBULLāH IN IRAN
- ḥIZBULLāH IN LEBANON
- THE KURDISH HIZBULLāH IN TURKEY]
Ḥizbullāh in Iran
The Qurʿānic term ḥizb Allāh (occurring in surahs 5 and 58) refers to the body of Muslim believers who are promised triumph over ḥizb al-Shayṭān (the Devil 's party). Thirteen centuries later, the term was brought back by Iranian Shīʿī faithful who described their amorphous political organization as “the Party of God” and claimed to emulate the teachings of Ayatollah Ruhollah al-Musavi Khomeini. The Ḥizbullāh philosophy was summed up in its slogan, “Only one party, the Party of Allāh; only one leader, Ruhollah.”
The lineage of Ḥizbullāh in Iran can be traced back to a few extreme right-wing organizations, such as the Fidāʿīyān-i Islām, which were active in the 1940s and 1950s. Like their predecessors, Ḥizbullāh faithful have adhered to a politicized interpretation of Islam and have not shied away from using violent means to achieve their goals. They entered the Iranian political scene during the 1978–1979 revolutionary upheaval of Iran. Recruited mainly from the ranks of the urban poor, the bāzārīs (small businessmen), and the lumpenproletariat, the Ḥizbullāhīs played an important role in organizing demonstrations and strikes that led to the downfall of the Pahlavi regime. Following the victory of the revolution, they served as the unofficial watchdogs and storm troopers of the clerically dominated Islamic Republican Party (established in 1979 and dissolved in 1987). Considering its amorphous nature and nonofficial status, there is no way to make an accurate estimate of Ḥizbullāh 's numerical strength. However, along with such other (para)military-intelligence apparatuses as the Sipāh-i Pāsdārān Inqilāb-i Islāmī (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), komitehs (revolutionary committees), and SAVAMA (the intelligence service), Ḥizbullāh played a crucial role in the consolidation of the new regime.
Often led by the firebrand Ḥujjāt al-Islām Hādī Ghaffārī, the Ḥizbullāhīs used clubs, chains, knives, and guns to disrupt the rallies of opposition parties, beat their members, and ransack their offices. The Ḥizbullāhī ruffians—nicknamed chumāqdārs (those with clubs) by the opposition—were instrumental in the undoing of President Abol-Hasan Bani Sadr, the closing of the universities, the enforcement of veiling, the suppression of the press, and the browbeating of people into silence. In addition, the Ḥizbullāh provided an inexhaustible pool of faithful warriors who enlisted for the war with Iraq. The recruitment of many of these veterans by such organizations as the Basīj youth volunteers, Jihād-i Sāzāndigī (Reconstruction Crusade), and Pāsdārān has so far prevented the establishment of a formal party called Ḥizbullāh. On the contrary, some Ḥizbullāhī squads have now been transformed into the private militias of powerful clerics and have even set on each other 's benefactors.
The Iranian Ḥizbullāh is reported to have transnational links with like-minded groups in the region, in particular with its namesake in Lebanon. The Lebanese Ḥizbullāh was organized, trained, and financed by the Iranian Pāsdārāns who were dispatched to Lebanon in 1982. The two groups share certain characteristics, such as a militant interpretation of Shīʿī doctrines, adoration for Ayatollah Khomeini, anti-Zionism, suspicion of Western governments, and propensity to use violence. Furthermore, some of the leading personalities of these two groups are linked through family ties or can boast of having studied with the same mentors at theological seminaries in Najaf and Qom. However, while the Ḥizbullāh of Lebanon operates as a formal political party, the Iranian Ḥizbullāhīs for the most part continue to operate as vigilante bands. Nonetheless, they have proven themselves forces to be reckoned with in both countries.
In Iran, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir Kharazzi serves as the secretary general of the World Organization of Ḥizbullāh. The Iranian Ḥizbullāh has gone through seven periods of transformation. In the first stage of its development in the years immediately preceding the victory of the 1979 revolution, the Ḥizbullāh was simply a loose association of a group of young religious activists in Qom who were engaged in learning urban warfare against the Shah 's forces. In the second stage, the organization focused its activities on disseminating religious and political tracts against the monarchy and leading a number of attacks against military and economic targets in Iran. The Ḥizbullāh 's third stage was augured by the victory of the revolution, and its focus shifted to what it called political and cultural activities while attacking presumed internal enemies of and dissidents in the Islamic Republic. During the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988), the Ḥizbullāh ceased its anti-dissident activities inside the country and sent its forces to fight in this war. During this (fourth) phase of its evolution, the Ḥizbullāh lost many of its committed members in the Iran–Iraq War.
After the end of this war, the Ḥizbullāh initiated its fifth phase of development by resurrecting its domestic organizational structure and targeting its attacks on what it viewed as cultural threats to Iran. In the sixth stage of its development, the Ḥizbullāh undertook a major expansion of its membership base and infrastructure as it perceived its very existence being threatened by the maturation of the governmental structure in Iran and the initiation of the reform movement in the country. Finally, in the last (current) stage of its transformation, the Ḥizbullāh has continued to focus on solidifying its base by supporting the Ahmadinejad administration and expanding its sociocultural activities.
- The Iranian Ḥizbullāh maintains an informative website, in Farsi with an inadequate English translation, at www.hizbollah.ir.
- Akhavi, Shahrough. “Elite Factionalism in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”Middle East Journal41, no. 2 (Spring 1987): 181–201. Excellent exposition of early political infighting among Iran 's postrevolutionary elites.
- Bakhash, Shaul. The Reign of the Ayatollahs: Iran and the Islamic Revolution. Rev. ed.New York, 1990. Comprehensive and insightful account of the Iranian Revolution and its aftermath.
- Fuller, Graham E.“The Hizballah–Iran Connection: Model for Sunni Resistance.”The Washington Quarterly30, no. 1 (Winter 2006–2007): 139–150.
- Hamzeh, Ahmad Nizar. In the Path of Hizbullah. Syracuse, New York, 2004.
- Norton, Augustus Richard. Hezbollah: A Short History. Princeton, New Jersey, 2007.
- Shapira, Shimon. “The Origins of Hizballah.”Jerusalem Quarterly46 (Spring 1988): 115–130. Provides useful information on the background of some of Lebanese Ḥizbullāh 's leading personalities and their ties to Iran in the early years of the Ḥizbullāh.
Updated by Nader Entessar
Ḥizbullāh in Lebanon
A political and social movement that arose among Shīʿī Lebanese in response to the Islamic revolution in Iran, Ḥizbullāh means the “Party of God.” During the 1980s, Ḥizbullāh drew on Iranian support to become a major political force in Lebanon and the Middle East. It gained international renown, first for its attacks against American and French peacekeeping troops—as well as Israeli forces occupying parts of Lebanon—and, later, for its holding of Western hostages. Ḥizbullāh thus emerged as the major rival of the established Amal movement for the loyalty of Lebanese Shīʿah. Its declared objective—to transform Lebanon into an Islamic state—failed to materialize, although it pursued the goal by all available means.
The foundations of Ḥizbullāh were laid years before the 1979 Iranian Revolution in the ties that bound the Shīʿī ʿulamāʿ (religious scholars) of Iran and Lebanon. Many of these men attended Shīʿī theological seminaries in Iraq, especially in the shrine city of Najaf. During the late 1950s and the 1960s, these academies formulated an Islamic response to nationalism and secularism. Prominent ʿulamāʿ lectured and wrote on Islamic government, Islamic economics, and the ideal Islamic state. In Najaf, the Iraqi ayatollah Muḥammad Bāqir al-Ṣadr and the exiled Iranian ayatollah Ruhollah al-Musavi Khomeini both subjected the existing political order to an Islamic critique. Lebanese ʿulamāʿ and theological students joined in these debates.
Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Faḍlallāh, the future spiritual leader of Ḥizbullāh, was an exemplary product of Najaf 's mix of scholasticism and radicalism. Faḍlallāh was born and schooled in Najaf, where his father, a scholar from south Lebanon, had come to study. He imbibed the ideas then current in Najaf and went to Lebanon in 1966, where he made his Beirut ḥusaynīyah (a Shīʿī congregation house) into a center of Islamic activism. Although Sayyid Mūsā al-Ṣadr was the dominant Shīʿī voice and by far the more influential religious authority (marjaʿ) in Lebanon, he nevertheless welcomed Faḍlallāh, with whom he shared several common goals. After al-Ṣadr disappeared on a visit to Libya in 1978, and with the onset of Iraqi expulsions of more than a hundred Lebanese theology students from Najaf, Faḍlallāh gathered these mobilized voices around him. These men formed the core of an emerging Ḥizbullāh, even though the guerrilla movement would not become active until 1982. See NAJAF and ṢADR, MUSA AL-.
With the 1979 Iranian Revolution, contacts between Lebanon and Iran intensified, as Faḍlallāh and his disciples became frequent visitors to Qom. That same year, Muḥammad Muntaẓirī, a leading member of the revolution, attempted to send six hundred Iranian volunteers to Lebanon, where they proposed to launch a jihād against Israel. However, Beirut successfully appealed to Damascus to block their entry, which was enforced. The obstacles to an effective partnership between Lebanese Shīʿah and Iran lifted only in 1982, following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the deployment of American, French and Italian peacekeeping forces in Beirut. Syria, although defeated in battle, was determined to drive all other foreign forces out of Lebanon by encouraging popular resistance, especially among the Shīʿah. Among the latter, many were receptive, believing that Israel and the West planned to perpetuate Christian Maronite privileges by force. When Iran offered to assist in mobilizing Shīʿah, Syria approved, permitting Iran to send about a thousand Revolutionary Guards to the Bekáa (Al Biqāʿ) Valley in eastern Lebanon. There they seized a Lebanese army barracks and turned it into their operational base.
Emboldened by the arrival of the Iranians, Faḍlallāh and a number of young ʿulamāʿ declared jihād against the Israeli presence in Lebanon while pledging their allegiance to Khomeini. Similarly, a faction of the Amal militia led by a former schoolteacher, Ḥusayn al-Mūsawī, went over to the Revolutionary Guards, disappointed that the Amal movement had failed to resist Israel 's invasion. Iran 's ambassador to Damascus after 1981, ʿAlī Akbar Muḥtashimī, established a council to govern the new movement, which brought together Lebanese ʿulamāʿ and security strongmen responsible for secret militia operations. Later, the council created the post of secretary general, held successively by Shaykh Ṣubḥī al-Ṭufaylī, Sayyid ʿAbbās al-Mūsawī, and Sayyid Ḥasan Naṣrallạh. Faḍlallāh declined all formal office, but his rhetorical genius and seniority assured his moral prestige in the movement.
The movement drew its support from two components of Shīʿī society. It especially appealed to some of the larger Shīʿī clans of the Bekáa Valley, for whom the war in Lebanon brought prosperity, fueled by the expansion of smuggling and hashish and opium cultivation. The leadership of the Amal movement, based on the Shīʿī professional and commercial classes, made insufficient room for this emerging counterelite of the Bekáa Valley. With the encouragement of Iranian emissaries based in the valley, the clans flocked to Ḥizbullāh. Baʿalbek, the site of 3,000-year-old Roman ruins, was transformed into an autonomous Ḥizbullāh zone. Its buildings were plastered with posters of Khomeini and draped with Iranian flags.
The message of Ḥizbullāh also appealed to Shīʿī refugees who were forced by war into the dismal slums of southern Beirut known as the Dahīyah. They included Shīʿah driven from their homes in the Phalangist assault on Palestinians in eastern Beirut (Nabaʿ and Burj Hammud) in 1976. Many more fled the South following the Israeli invasions of 1978 and 1982, further swelling Beirut 's less-privileged suburbs. Faḍlallāh personified their grievances. His ancestral villages in the South (Bint Jubayl and ʿAynata) had come under Israeli assault, then occupation, and he lost his first pulpit in Nabaʿ during the 1976 Phalangist siege. These Shīʿī refugees felt a strong sense of identification with Palestinian refugees and a deep resentment against Israel, the Phalangists, and the West. Many young Shīʿī refugees even joined Palestinian organizations during the 1970s, from which they acquired combat experience. When Israel forced these organizations from Beirut in 1982, Shīʿī fighters who were left behind joined Ḥizbullāh, which promised to continue their struggle.
Jihād against the West and Israel.
Ḥizbullāh systematically formulated its doctrine in its 1985 “open letter.” “We are proceeding toward a battle with vice at its very roots,” declared the letter, “and the first root of vice is America.” The letter set four objectives for the movement: the termination of all American and French influence in Lebanon; Israel 's complete departure from Lebanon “as a prelude to its final obliteration”; submission of the Lebanese Phalangists to “just rule” and trial for their “crimes”; and granting the people the right to choose their own system of government, “keeping in mind that we do not hide our commitment to the rule of Islam.”
From the outset, Ḥizbullāh conducted its struggle on three discrete levels—open, semiclandestine, and clandestine. Faḍlallāh and the ʿulamāʿ openly preached the message of resistance to Islam 's enemies and fealty to Khomeini in mosques and ḥusaynīyahs, which became the focal points for public rallies. The Revolutionary Guards trained the semiclandestine Islamic Resistance, a militia-like formation that successfully attacked and drained Israeli forces in south Lebanon. The Organization of the Islamic Jihad, the clandestine branch of the movement, operated against Western targets. ʿImād Mughnīyah, a shadowy Shīʿī figure from south Lebanon and a veteran of Palestinian resistance, reputedly led it.
The violence of Islamic Jihad catapulted Ḥizbullāh to prominence. Assassinations of individual foreigners escalated into massive bombings, some of them conducted by “martyrs,” which destroyed the U.S. embassy and its annex in two separate attacks in 1983 and 1984; the Beirut barracks of American and French peacekeeping troops in two attacks on the same morning in 1983; and command facilities of Israeli forces in the South in 1982 and 1983. Hundreds of foreigners died in these bombings, the most successful of which killed 241 U.S. marines in their barracks. As a result, the United States and France withdrew their forces from Lebanon; Israel, whose troops also came under attack by the Islamic Resistance, retreated to a narrow “security zone” in the South. In solidarity with Iran, Islamic Jihad also bombed the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983, in an effort to compel Kuwait to abandon its support of Iraq in the Iran–Iraq War. Ḥizbullāh activists were also responsible for a spate of fatal bombings in Paris in 1986, meant to force France to abandon its policy of supplying Iraq with arms.
Although the movement 's ʿulamāʿ disavowed all direct knowledge of kidnapping or hijacking operations and occasionally expressed reservations, they harvested the credit (and blame) for Ḥizbullāh 's jihād. Mosques filled to overflowing, and various statements and interviews granted by Charismatic leaders resonated in the media. However, several leaders became the targets of assassination and abduction. Faḍlallāh narrowly missed death in a massive car bombing in 1985 that killed 80 and injured more than 400; Israel abducted a local Ḥizbullāh cleric, Shaykh ʿAbd al-Karim ʿUbayd, in 1988; and Israeli helicopter gunships killed Ḥizbullāh 's secretary general, Sayyid ʿAbbās al-Mūsawī, and his family in an attack on his motorcade in 1992.
Ḥizbullāh also found that its growing appeal among Lebanon 's Shīʿah made enemies within the existing Amal movement. As Ḥizbullāh gained momentum, it sought unimpeded access to the South so it could promote the struggle against Israel. Amal regarded this as an encroachment on its last strongholds but lost the turf war as Ḥizbullāh 's guerilla operations inflicted serious casualties on occupying forces. As Israeli deaths in Lebanon increased—Ḥizbullāh took credit for the estimated 1,600 killed between 1982 and 2000 even though its own casualties were probably much higher—the party gained added legitimacy. Among Shīʿī Lebanese casualties was Ḥasan Naṣrallāh's eldest son, Muhammad Hadi, who was killed by Israeli forces in the Jabal al-Rafiʿ in 1997. In fact, Ḥizbullāh's military campaigns were probably a major factor in the Israeli decision to withdraw from southern Lebanon in 2000. Ḥasan Naṣrallāh played an important role in the prisoner exchange with Israel in 2004, when 400 Palestinians and 30 Ḥizbullāh detainees were freed—and the remains of 59 deceased Lebanese men returned to their families—in exchange for Israeli businessman (and former colonel) Elchanan Tenenbaum, as well as the remains of three Israeli soldiers. Remarkably, this accord catapulted Ḥizbullāh to new heights in Arab political circles.
Although Ḥizbullāh battled its adversaries, it also co-operated with Iranian aid agencies to fund a wide range of social and economic projects. These included a hospital and pharmacies in Beirut, small textile factories and sheltered workshops to employ families of members and “martyrs,” book allowances and scholarships for students, street paving in Beirut, and the digging of wells and reservoirs in rural areas. Ḥizbullāh sponsored a scout movement, summer camps, and a soccer league. The movement published a weekly newspaper and operated an independent radio station, as well as the widely popular al-Manār television network. These activities broadened the base of the movement and enhanced its ability to field fighters.
Resistance and Democracy.
By the end of its first decade, Ḥizbullāh had fought and bought its way into the hearts of perhaps as many as half of Lebanon 's Shīʿah, but the objective of an Islamic Lebanon remained remote. On the basis of the 1989 Ṭāʿif Accord, Syria enforced an end to the civil war, based on an updated balance of forces among various denominations. Damascus also disarmed several militias and launched a determined drive to build up the authority of a Syrian-backed government in Beirut. Ḥizbullāh 's place in the new Syrian order remained uncertain. In Beirut and parts of the South, the party surrendered some weapons and turned over positions to the reconstituted Lebanese army. In 1992, Ḥizbullāh and the Revolutionary Guards evacuated the Lebanese army barracks near Baʿalbek, which had served as operational headquarters for ten years. Nevertheless, Ḥizbullāh 's Islamic Resistance enjoyed an exemption from the general disarming of militias to permit it to continue a guerilla war of attrition against Israel 's so-called “security zone” in the South. The Islamic Resistance increased its operations and Syria pledged to disarm it only after a complete Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.
True to its ideology, Ḥizbullāh opposed implementing the Syrian-guaranteed Ṭāʿif Accord, which it denounced as an American plan. Yet, starting in the early 1990s, Ḥizbullāh underwent a carefully tailored process to “Lebanize” it, which necessitated the “Party of God” to accept a multiconfessional country, perhaps even to contemplate a serious rapprochement with a variety of non-Muslim groups. A carefully tailored nationalist, even a patriotic, agenda was adopted without neglecting guerrilla operations. The party denounced the government of Prime Minister Hariri and sided with Syria, advocating a straightforward referendum on the establishment of Islamic state rather an updated confessional system. As Hariri maneuvered in Arab and international arenas to accelerate the Syrian withdrawal via the UN Security Council Resolution 1559, Ḥizbullāh once again aligned itself with Syria and Iran. Prime Minister Hariri was assassinated on February 14, 2005, an act that set in motion a permanent liberation that manifested itself in the March 14, 2005, “Cedar Revolution,” which gathered more than 1.5 million Lebanese in Martyrs ’ Square. Ḥizbullāh responded with a counter demonstration on March 8, 2005, supporting Syria and accusing Israel, as well as France and the United States, of meddling in internal Lebanese affairs. Its leaders rejected Resolution 1559, which called for disarming the party, allegedly because Lebanon needed the resistance.
In the 2005 parliamentary elections, Ḥizbullāh won 14 seats nationwide, out of a total of 128, and Amal gained 15 more seats for a total of 29 Shīʿī portfolios. To counter these gains, a coalition of 72 parliamentarians grouped Hariri 's party with the Progressive Socialists, the Lebanese Forces, the Qurnat Shihwan group, and various independents. Ḥizbullāh, in turn, rallied the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and a few leftist deputies, for a total of 35, before entering into a new alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement of former General Michel Aoun, whose 21 seats brought the opposition total to 56. What emerged was a significant national compact, but it suffered from a specific shortcoming, namely Ḥizbullāh 's declared objective of never folding its military capabilities into the Lebanese Army.
On July 12, 2006, Ḥizbullāh troops kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed three others, in a border clash that quickly degenerated into a massive Israeli retaliation. The war lasted until August 14. More than 2,500 Lebanese and 165 Israelis were killed. On August 11, 2006, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1701, ushering in a ceasefire with the deployment of a beefed-up UN peacekeeping force to police the border.
With undeniable military capabilities—lobbing thousands of short- and long-range rockets into Israel—Ḥizbullāh demonstrated rare fighting abilities that earned it Lebanese and Arab praise. Sunnī and Christian Arabs believed that Ḥizbullāh restored their dignity, because its fighters did what mighty Arab armies failed to do. Yet, this “divine victory” (a Ḥizbullāh coined epithet for the war) was significantly damaged after party leaders turned to divisive tactics in internal Lebanese affairs. Ḥizbullāh withdrew its ministers from the Fouad Siniora government, allegedly because of a dispute over the implementation of an international tribunal to determine who was responsible for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and other Lebanese officials. It was difficult to conclude whether Ḥizbullāh was finally a legitimate political actor or if its leaders preferred to operate as a perpetual guerrilla movement.
- Carré, Olivier. L ’utopie islamique dans l ’Orient arabe. Paris, 1991. Chapters 9 and 10 deal with the thought of Faḍlallāh.
- Hamzeh, Ahmad Nizar. In the Path of Hizbullah, Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2004. The best study on the movement to date.
- Harik, Judith Palmer. Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terror-ism, London: I. B. Tauris, 2004. Dissects the party 's political and military agendas.
- Kramer, Martin. Hezbollah 's Vision of the West. Washington, D.C., 1989. Analysis of Ḥizbullāh 's discourse on its adversaries, relying on the movement 's own texts.
- Mallat, Chibli. Shiʿi Thought from the South of Lebanon. Oxford, 1988. Early debate among Shīʿī ʿulamāʿ (including Faḍlallāh) which informed Ḥizbullāh 's doctrine.
- Noe, Nicholas, ed.Voice of Hezbollah: The Statements of Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, London: Verso, 2007. Compilation of key statements made by the party 's secretary-general and strongman.
- Piscatori, James P.“The Shia of Lebanon and Hizbullah: The Party of God.” In Politics of the Future: The Role of Social Movements, edited by Christie Jennett and Randal G. Stewart, pp. 292–317. South Melbourne, 1989. Introduction to the movement, with an emphasis on its social base.
- Ranstorp, Magnus. Hizbʿallah in Lebanon: The Politics of the Western Hostage Crisis, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Focuses on past hostage-taking episodes.
- Saad-Ghorayeb, Amal. Hizbullah: Politics and Religion, London: Pluto Press, 2002. A useful primer from an eye-witness.
- Sankari, Jamal. Fadlallah: The Making of a Radical Shiʿite Leader, London: Saqi Books, 2005. Traces the background of the ideological father of the party.
- Shanahan, Rodger. The Shiʿa of Lebanon: Clans, Parties, and Clerics, New York: Tauris Academic Studies, 2005. Assesses the intricate nuances of one of the largest religious/ethnic groups in Lebanon.
Martin Kramer Updated by Updated by Joseph A. Kéchichian
The Kurdish ḤizbullĀh in Turkey
Hizbullāh (Party of God) is the largest militant Islamic group currently active in Turkey. It is often referred to as “Kurdish Hizbullāh” (KH), to distinguish it from the Lebanese group using the same name.
In the 1970s a group of Turkish and Kurdish Islamists, including KH's founders, believed that an Islamic state could be established through democratic processes and to this end joined the National Turkish Student Association (Milli Türk Talebe Birliği, MTTB), the youth organization of the National Salvation Party (Millî Selamet Partisi, MSP). After the 1980 military coup, however, Hizbullāh's founders concluded that Turkey's powerful military was determined to maintain secularism as the basis of the Turkish state and abandoned all hope for success through the ballot box.
Thus, a group of Kurdish Islamists including Hüseyin Velioğlu and Fidan Güngör left MTTB in 1980 and formed the Union Movement (Vahdet Hareketi). The Movement opened bookstores for recruitment and training purposes. Two bookstores, Menzil (Destination) in Diyarbakır owned by Fidan Güngör, and İlim (Science) in Batman owned by Huseyin Velioğlu, were competing centers of Islamic activity, which led to a division among Islamists and the formation of new militant Islamic movements, Hizbullāh/Menzil and Hizbullāh/İlim.
Between 1990 and 1993, Hizbullāh/Menzil led by Fidan Güngör and Hizbullāh/İlim led by Huseyin Velioğlu, had competed to prevail in Islamic activities. In 1993, by killing many members of the Menzil group, Hizbullāh/İlim prevailed in the Kurdish region and adopted a new name, “Hizbullāh.”
In order to maintain its dominant position among Kurdish communities, KH had also confronted the Marxist Kurdish terror organization, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In this period of confrontation, KH conducted numerous murderous operations against the PKK. Between 1992 and 1995, in the southeastern cities of Diyarbakır and Batman, KH killed roughly 500 members of the PKK, suffering 200 deaths themselves. These clashes took place without interference from Turkish security forces which were also in hot pursuit of the PKK. For this reason, much of the general public had come to regard KH as a quasi-official terrorist, or counterterrorist, organization. However, the truth behind these violent clashes is that the PKK claimed to be the only true spokesman of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey, and KH viewed this claim as a threat to its own identity that had to be crushed.
Velioğlu foresaw Hizbullāh developing through three distinct stages:
- 1. Propaganda (tebliğ): an educational period of raising religio-political consciousness. KH members in this period were expected to strive to persuade the people to adopt Islamic religious practices.
- 2. Community (cemaat): communities are restructured in accordance with Islamic rules and practices.
- 3. Jihād (cihat): armed struggle to safeguard the Islamic way of life.
The Police Crackdown and the KH's Recovery.
On January 17, 2000, police launched a nationwide operation against KH. Huseyin Velioğlu was killed in a shootout in Istanbul. In this series of operations, nearly 6,000 KH members were arrested. While these operations represented a serious setback for KH, the organization remains very much alive. KH estimates its current strength at 20,000 sympathizers, but some experts believe the true figure is substantially larger.
Under the new leadership of İsa Altsoy, a Turkish Kurd living in Germany, the organization has given up violence order to reestablish grassroots support. (In doctrinal terms, this represents a retreat to the tebliğ, or propaganda, stage.) KH is conducting publicity, fund-raising, and recruitment operations throughout the Kurdish diaspora in Europe as well as in Turkey. It is printing books and publishing magazines in Turkey and Europe and has opened new bookstores in Eastern Turkey.
The following magazines are believed to be publications of KH: Gönülden Gönüle Damlalar, İnzar, and Müjde. The Association for Human Rights and solidarity with the Oppressed (Insan Hakları ve Mustazaflarla Dayanişma Derneği) was established to advocate for the rights of imprisoned KH members.
Kurdish Identity and the KH.
For KH, Islamic identity is primary, but Kurdish identity also played an important role in its development. The Kurdish character of the organization helped it to gain support in southeastern Turkey. In turn, KH reinforced the Kurdish consciousness of Islamist Kurds in Turkey. KH's new leader İsa Altsoy, under the pseudonym I. Bagaşi, wrote a book in 2004—Hizbullah in its Own Words; Selections from the History of the Struggle (Kendi Dilinden Hizbullāh; Mücadele Tarihinden Kesitler)—to clarify the objectives and strategies of the organization. It was initially published and distributed underground.
Bagaşi explains that KH is “an Islamic movement that emerged from Kurdistan and is centered in Kurdistan. A majority of its members are Kurds. However, this should not imply that the organizations and its community consist of Kurds alone. It includes people from many different races.” Bagaşi describes Kurds as members of a great nation that has lived in the same area for 3,500 years, and that, after accepting Islam, helped the ummah to expand. Muslim Kurds, he suggests suffered twice as much as others whom the Kemalist state sought to suppress, in that they were persecuted both for being Muslim and for being Kurdish.
KH wants all organizations that originated or are based in Kurdistan to consider the Kurdish question in an Islamic framework. If Islamic societies are liberated, it contends, the Kurdish problem will automatically be solved. To this end, Bagaşi argues, “Hizbullāh as an Islamic movement, is dedicated to defend the Muslim Kurds’ Islamic and Human Rights, and to find solutions to historic, social, political, economic, and cultural problems through an Islamic approach. Hizbullāh's duty is to struggle against oppression, tyranny, and injustice to make Kurds free.”
Sources of Ideology.
KH selected the elements of its ideology eclectically. Passages from the writings of such disparate thinkers as Sayyid Qutb, Ayatollah Khomeini, İhsan Süreyya Sırma, and to a lesser degree, since the police crackdown in 2000, Said Nursî, the founder of the Nurcu movement in Turkey, are incorporated in its training manuals.
For KH, the cosmic struggle between good and evil, or, as it is often phrased, between Islam and godlessness (küfür) is unending. Sometimes Islam will reach the summit, and sometimes küfür. An individual has two choices: to be a soldier for God and serve God's causes, or to serve Satan. In this context jihād is inevitable, as is martyrdom. In this century Islam has withdrawn into solitude, and küfür is dominant. Muslims are oppressed, vulnerable, and destitute. Their wealth has been stolen by the colonialists who want to eliminate their faith and culture as well. Given these dire conditions, all Muslims are obliged to join the cosmic battle, in which they have three duties to fulfill: jihād (cihat), martyrdom (şehadet) and when arrested, patience (sabır). They must fight against false deities and false leaders (tagut), tyranny (zulüm), and those who sow discord (münafık).
- Aras, Bulent, and Bacık, Gökhan. “The Mystery of Turkish Hizballah.”Middle East Policy9, no. 2 (June 2002): 147–160.
- Atalar, M. Kürşad. “Hizballah of Turkey: A Pseudo Threat to the Secular Order?”Turkish Studies7, no. 2 (June 2006): 307–331.
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