Hezbollah maintains an extensive network of social institutions in the Shiite community in Lebanon which deal with healthcare, education, finance, welfare, and media. They support Hezbollah’s military infrastructure and serve as a means of disseminating Hezbollah’s ideology and strengthening its position among the Shiite community and in Lebanon in general. These institutions provide the Shiite community with large-scale services that in other countries are provided by the state while exploiting the weakness of the Lebanese administration and its long-standing neglect of the Shiite community. Thus, Hezbollah’s civilian infrastructure enables it to maintain a Shiite mini-state of sorts within the Lebanese state. Hezbollah controls the residents of this Shiite mini-state, and its military infrastructure is placed among them.
Hezbollah operates two networks of private schools among the Shiite population in Lebanon: The Al-Mahdi School network, which is of a mainstream nature, and the Al-Mustafa School network (“Al-Mustafa” meaning “the chosen one,” a title referring to the Prophet Muhammad), which is more elitist. Children and youth from kindergarten until high school graduation attend Hezbollah schools. At these schools, students are indoctrinated with radical Shiite concepts based on the ideology of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. This indoctrination includes glorification of Khomeini and Khamenei, support for Hezbollah and the path of “resistance” (i.e., the struggle against Israel), inculcation of the value of Shahada (self-sacrifice, the willingness to become a shahid), and veneration of shahids who were killed fighting in the ranks of Hezbollah. Studies in Hezbollah’s education system are intended to create a new generation of Shiite youth, inspired by the ideology of the Iranian Revolution, some of whom may join Hezbollah at the end of their studies.
The establishment of the infrastructure of education institutions among the Shiite community throughout Lebanon and the ongoing operation of kindergartens, elementary schools, junior high schools, and high schools involve high financial expenses. In the ITIC’s assessment, Hezbollah’s schools (like other similar social foundations of Hezbollah) are financed mainly by Iran, as part of its financial assistance to Hezbollah. Secondary sources of funding are tuition, fundraising, and charitable projects. However, it is doubtful whether such funding sources cover the ongoing operation, let alone the construction of the infrastructure.
To the best of the ITIC’s knowledge, the United States has not designated the Al-Mahdi and Al-Mustafa Schools as terrorist entities and has not imposed sanctions on them, although these are Hezbollah institutions (the Americans do not distinguish between military and civilian institutions) inculcating radicalization of Shiite youth in Lebanon according to radical Iranian ideology, and their graduates enlist in the ranks of Hezbollah to become future operatives. On the other hand, Sheikh Naim Qassem, the dominant figure in the Al-Mustafa School network, is on the US sanctions list, being Hezbollah’s deputy secretary-general.
Structure of the study
The study includes the following sections:
– The Islamic Education Foundation (the Al-Mahdi Schools)
– The Al-Mahdi Schools: overview
– The significance of establishing the Al-Mahdi school in the village of Al-Qatrani
– Inculcation of Iranian radical Shiite ideology and support for Hezbollah
– Photos demonstrating the indoctrination of the Al-Mahdi schoolchildren
– The Islamic Religious Education Association (Al-Mustafa Schools)
– Al-Mustafa Schools: basic figures
– The educational teachings of Sheikh Naim Qassem, the prominent figure in the operation of the Al-Mustafa Schools
– The funding of Hezbollah’s educational institutions
– Appendix: List of the ITIC’s publications as part of a research project examining Hezbollah’s civilian infrastructure
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