Amal Movement

Amal Movement

"For other uses of Amal, see the disambiguation page."Amal Movement (Arabic: abbreviation of أفواج المقاومة اللبنانية transliterated: Afwâj al-Muqâwmat al-Lubnâniyya, or just حركة أمل; transliterated:Harakat Amal, lit. "Amal movement") is short for the Lebanese Resistance Detachments [Augustus R. Norton, "Amal and the Shi'a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon" (Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1987)] the acronym for which, in Arabic, is "amal", meaning "hope."

Amal was founded in 1975 as the militia wing of the "Movement of the Disinherited", a Shia political movement founded by Musa al-Sadr [] a year earlier. It became one of the most important Shi'a Muslim militias during the Lebanese Civil War. Amal grew strong with the support of, and through its ties with, Syria [Byman, D., 2005, "Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism", Cambride, Cambridge University Press ] and the 300,000 Shi'i internal refugees from southern Lebanon after the Israeli bombings in the early 1980s. Amal's practical objectives were: to achieve greater respect for Lebanon's Shi'ite population and to obtain allocation of a larger portion of governmental resources to the Shi'ite-dominated southern part of the country. [Palmer-Harik, J., 2004, "Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism", London, I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd ]

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 its fellow Shi'a group Hezbollah for control of Beirut, which provoked Syrian military intervention.



*1974: Harakat al-Mahrumin (The Movement of the Deprived) is established by Imam Musa al-Sadr.

*1975 January 20: 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.

*1978: Al-Sadr disappears in mysterious circumstances while visiting Libya. He is succeeded by Hussein el-Husseini as leader of Amal.

*1979: Palestinian guerrillas attempt to assassinate then-Secretary General Hussein el-Husseini by launching missiles into his home, outside Beirut.

*1980: Hussein el-Husseini resigns from Amal leadership after refusing Syrian president Hafez al-Asad's request to fight alongside the PLO.

*1980: Nabih Berri becomes one of the leaders of Amal, marking the entry of Amal in the Lebanese Civil War.

*1982 Summer: Husayn Al-Musawi, deputy head and official spokesman of Amal, breaks a way to form the Islamist Islamic Amal Movement.

*1985 May: Amal attacks Shatilla refugee camp in Beirut, sparking the so-called "war of the camps" which lasted until 1987 and claims an estimated 2,500 lives. [ [ Hezbollah: Between Tehran and Damascus] ]

*1985 December : Nabih Berri of Amal, Walid Jumblatt of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party, and Elie Hobeika of the Lebanese Forces sign the Tripartite Accord in Damascus which is supposed to give strong influence to Damascus regarding Lebanese matters. The agreement will never come into effect due to Hobeika ousting.

*1987 February 22: After Amal launchs a "disastrous campaign" against rival Druze and Palestinian forces in west Beirut, Syrian forces enter the area to prevent Amal from being defeated. Syrian troops killed 23 Hezbollah members which Syria claims attacked them and Hezbollah claims were killed in cold blood. [ [ Hezbollah: Between Tehran and Damascus] ]

*1988 Feb. 17: American Chief of the UN Truce and Supervision Organisation's observer group in Lebanon (UNTSO), Lt. Col William Higgins, is abducted and later killed after meting with Amal's political leader of southern Lebanon. Amal responds by launching a campaign against Hezbollah in the south. [Ranstorp, Hizb'allah, (1997), p.101]

*1988 April: Amal launched an all-out assault on Hezbollah positions in south Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut.

*1988 May (early): Hezbollah gains control of 80% of the Shi'ite suburbs "through a combination of well-timed assaults and Iranian-financed bribes to local Amal commanders" [ [ Hezbollah: Between Tehran and Damascus] ]

*1989: Amal accepts the Taif agreement (mainly authored by el-Husseini) in order to end the civil war.

*1991 September: With background in the Syrian controlled end of the Lebanese Civil War in October 1990, 2,800 Amal troops joined the Lebanese army.


The origins of the Amal movement lie with the Lebanese cleric of Iranian origin Imam Musa al-Sadr. In 1974 Harakat al-Mahrumin (the Movement of the Deprived) [Nasr, Vali, 2006, "The Shia Revival", New York, W.W. Norton & Company, p. 85] was established by al-Sadr and member of parliament Hussein el-Husseini in order to attempt to reform the Lebanese system. While acknowledged as having its support base in the “traditionally under-represented politically and economically disadvantaged” Shi'a community, [Byman, D., 2005, "Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism", Cambride, Cambridge University Press, p.82 ] it aimed, according to Palmer-Harik, to seek social justice for all deprived Lebanese. [Palmer-Harik, J., 2004, "Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism", London, I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd ] Although influenced by Islamic ideas, it was a secular movement trying to unite people along communal lines rather than religious or ideological lines. [Byman, D., 2005, "Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism", Cambride, Cambridge University Press ] The Greek Catholic Archbishop of Beirut, Mgr. Grégoire Haddad, was among the founders of the Movement [Augustus Richard Norton, " [ Hezbollah: A Short History] " Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007] [ [ Hizbullah, a progressive Islamic party? - Interview with Joseph Alagha] ] .

On the 20th January 1975 the Lebanese Resistance Detachments (also referred to in English as 'The Battalions of the Lebanese Resistance') were formed as a military wing of The Movement of the Disinherited under the leadership of al-Sadr, and came to be popularly known as Amal (from the acronym Afwaj al-Mouqawma Al-Lubnaniyya). [ Palmer-Harik, J., 2004, "Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism", London, I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd ] In 1978 al-Sadr disappeared in mysterious circumstances while visiting Libya, the Amal movement’s then regional supporter. Hussein el-Husseini became leader of Amal and was followed by Nabih Berri in April 1980 after el-Husseini resigned from that post. One of the consequences of the rise of Berri, a less educated leader, the increasing secular yet sectarian nature of the movement and move away from an Islamic context for the movement was a splintering of the movement.

Islamic Amal

In the summer of 1982 Husayn Al-Musawi, deputy head and official spokesman of Amal, broke with Berri over his 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, [Wright, "Sacred Rage" (2001) p.61-2] and his opposition to pledging allegiance to Ayatollah Khomeini. [Ranstorp, Magnus, "Hizb'allah in Lebanon : The Politics of the Western Hostage Crisis", New York, St. Martins Press, 1997 p.31]

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 Shia, but to export the PanIslamic Islamic revolution to 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.` [Musawi in "Monday Morning" magazine, Oct. 31, 1983 shortly before the embassy bombings, quoted in Wright, Sacred Rage", Simon and Schuster, 2001, p.83]

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. [Ranstorp, "Hizb'allah in Lebanon" (1997) p.33] Iran was in many ways a natural ally of Shia in Lebanon as it was far larger than Lebanon, oil-rich, and both Shia-majority and Shia-ruled - the only state ruled by Shia. 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. [Ranstorp, "Hizb'allah in Lebanon" (1997) p.36]

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;
*and 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." [Ranstorp, Hizb'allah in Lebanon", (1997), p.32] Islamic Amal went on to be particularly active in fighting Israel's soldiers in southern Lebanon. [ Palmer-Harik, J., 2004, "Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism", London, I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd ]

By August 1983 Islamic Amal and Hezbollah were "effectively becoming one under the Hezbollah label," [Wright, Sacred Rage, (2001), p.84] and by late 1984 Islamic Amal, along with "all the known major extremist groups" in Lebanon, had been absorbed into Hezbollah. [Wright, Robin, "Sacred Rage", Simon and Schuster, (2001), p.95]

Amal During the Lebanese War

The War of the Camps

The War of the Camps was a series of fights that happened in the mid-80's between Amal and Palestinian groups. During these events, the Druze-oriented Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and Hezbollah supported Palestinians while Syria supported Amal..

First battle: May 1985

Although most of the Palestinian guerrillas were expelled during the 1982 Israeli invasion, Palestinian militias began to regain after the Israeli withdrawal from Beirut at first, then from Sidon and Tyre. Syria was looking at this revival with some anxiety: though in the same ideological camp, Damascus had little control on 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. In Lebanon, Shia-Palestinians relations had been very tense since the late 60's. After the multinational force withdrew from Beirut in February 1984, Amal and 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 PSP attacked Al-Murabitun, the main Lebanese Sunni militia and the closest ally of 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 Palestinians for the control of the Sabra, Shatila and Burj el-Barajneh camps (all in Beirut). Despite its effort, Amal could not take the control of the camps. The death toll remains unknown, with estimate ranging from a few hundreds to a few thousands. This and heavy Arab pressure led to a cease-fire June 17.

econd 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 armament 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

The tension due to this conflict was also present in the south, an area where Shias and Palestinians were both present. This unavoidably led to frequent clashes. On September 29 1986, fighting occurred at the Rashidiyye camp (Tyre). The conflict immediately spread to Sidon and Beirut. Palestinian forces managed to occupy the Amal controlled town of Maghduche 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 position 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 87, the fighting spread to Hezbollah and PSP who supported the Palestinians. The PSP quickly seized large portions of west-Beirut and the situation. Consequently, Syria occupied west-Beirut beginning of February 21, 1987. In April 7, 1987 Amal finally lifted the siege and handed its positions around the camps to the Syrian arm. 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 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 of southern Lebanon. It soon becomes "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." [Ranstorp, Hizb'allah, (1997), p.101] 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 southern suburbs however where fighting also rages, Hizballah is 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. [ Voice of Lebanon, 0615 gmt 18 Apr 88-BBC/SWB/ME/0131, 21 April 1988; and "Ha'aretz", 18 April 1988] , quoted in Ranstorp, "Hizb'allah", (1997), p.101]

By May Amal is suffering major losses, its members are defecting to Hezbollah and by June Syria must intervene militarily to rescue Amal from defeat. [Ranstorp, Hizb'allah, (1997), p.101] In January 1989 a truce in the "ferocious" fighting between Hizballah and Amal is 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." [Ranstorp, Hizb'allah, (1997), p.102]

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 is often criticized for corruption among its leadership. Nabih Berri was elected speaker of parliament in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2005. Currently Amal has 14 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" [ Israeli troops suffer largest one-day loss] - "CNN" July 27, 2006] during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon Conflict, and at least eight 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
*Byman, D., "Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism", Cambride, Cambridge University Press, 2005
*Nasr, Vali, "The Shia Revival", New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 2006
*Palmer-Harik, J., "Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism," London, I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2004
*Ranstorp, Magnus, "Hizb'allah in Lebanon : The Politics of the Western Hostage Crisis," New York, St. Martins Press, 1997
*Wright, Robin, Sacred Rage, Simon and Schuster, 2001

External links

* (Arabic)

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