“The more they lose, the more they recruit”

“The more they lose, the more they recruit”

In May 2015, NOW published a report about Hezbollah recruiting young men from the Bekaa Valley and training them to fight in Syria. In November 2014, An-Nahar also reported that Hezbollah was recruiting non-Shiite fighters, including Christians. Hezbollah’s desperate recruitment schemes have come on the heels of devastating losses of manpower in Syria, and for the last few months, reports about the party’s disposition have been very clear:
Hezbollah’s casualties are increasing and the party is losing power in both Syria and Lebanon, forcing it to find new means by which to send more fighters to Syria.

Hezbollah had already recruited a large number of Bekaa residents, preying in particular on the many young men, of various confessions, who are in desperate need of a means by which to earn for their families. But the party has faced increasing pushback in this method, and increasingly this pool of men and their families are refusing to serve, both for ideological reasons and simply because the likelihood of death seems so high. This is pushing Hezbollah to find yet new indoctrination strategies.

“Hezbollah’s attempts to recruit young men never stopped,” says Mahmoud, a Lebanese resident of Bar Elias. “Lately, they stopped recruiting people to fight in Syria, or at least, not in a direct way. Currently, they are training young men how to use weapons. In my opinion, the people they are training now won’t go to Syria. They are convincing them that they are defending their country against takfiris and terrorists.” Mahmoud thinks this is part of a new strategy: training young men who think they will stay in Lebanon, and then leveraging far more pressure to fight in Syria once they’re established within Hezbollah’s ranks.

Moreover, Hezbollah is currently acting in the Bekaa mainly through Saraya Al-Moukawame, a Hezbollah subgroup. It has also been reported that Palestinians — not just Lebanese — are now being recruited. With nearly 200 young men already recruited from Bar Elias and surrounding towns, Palestinian officials in the Bekaa are getting worried.

“Weapons are everywhere here,” Abu Muhammad, a 60-year-old Palestinian from the Bekaa, told NOW. “People who have weapons are not only Lebanese, but the problem is that we do not know how these weapons will be used. It is true that we always fear the rise of extremism and terrorist groups who might reach our town at any second, but we also trust that Hezbollah and all the people who are fighting with the party are protecting the borders. Our main fear as an older generation is the youth’s motivation and excitement. Young people do not always think about consequences. Since they have weapons and they are trained to use them, we can never be sure of where their eagerness might lead them, and lead all of us.”

With such a huge volume of weapons in private hands across the country, Mahmoud worries about the internal tension in Lebanon. “A war inside the Lebanese border is very unlikely, but we fear the small conflicts that might occur. A lot of people are dying. We do not need more dead people, especially here,” he said.

While Palestinian officials fear that the weapons held by Palestinians in Lebanon could be used against Lebanese who are politically against Hezbollah, details about the party recruiting Palestinian men are not apparent yet. “It is not clear yet and we do not have details about [Hezbollah recruiting Palestinians],” said one Fatah member, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “But this is not surprising to me. We all know that Hezbollah needs all the manpower it can get. With the Syrian war and the fact that all Hezbollah fighters went to Syria, Hezbollah is definitely short on manpower in Lebanon, too, and it needs a minimum of trained men to stay in Lebanon in order not to lose all its power here. Therefore, the party will always attempt to recruit more people. The more they lose, the more they try to recruit.”

With fewer and fewer people buying Hezbollah’s claims of victory, however, the task of recruiting for the Party of God is getting harder, especially with monetary incentives falling due to lack of funding. “Last year, it was easier to recruit people by paying them money,” said Alaa, a Syrian refugee who lives in a camp in Bar Elias. “[Hezbollah] was able to recruit people from the camps by paying them money since the majority of us were willing to do anything that would provide an income for us and our families. But currently, from one side, they are not paying as much as they used to pay before, and from the other side, most of us ran away from the war in Syria to save our lives and we won’t go back there to die. In addition, if that was the purpose of the current recruitment campaigns, we will definitely not accept to fight alongside Hezbollah in Lebanon knowing that it is fighting against our own people in Syria.”

“I am not sure how much manpower Hezbollah can still recruit from here,” said Abu Muhammad. “The Bekaa Valley is drained already and I don’t think it can handle sending more men to die in Syria, or even worse, prepare them to fight in Lebanon.”

Myra Abdallah tweets @myraabdallah
“The more they lose, the more they recruit” “The more they lose, the more they recruit” Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 3:11 PM Rating: 5

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