By Sarah Smiles
Sunday, September 14, 2003
In southern Lebanon, a generous support network provides for the widows of Hizbullah martyrs and ensures them a place of honor in the community.
BEIRUT, Lebanon (WOMENSENEWS)--Like many Shiite Muslim girls in southern Lebanon, Rima Naji was married early, at the tender age of 13. By 15 she had delivered her first child--a healthy boy--and by 19 her husband Sheikh Fadi Abboud was dead.
"He was martyred on the 10th of February 1995. He was 21 years old," she says. "Thank God he died according to the objectives of Hizbullah."
A member of Hizbullah or "Party of God," the Shiite Islamic resistance group that controls southern Lebanon, Aboud died in a commando operation against the Israeli army, which occupied the south from 1982 to 2000. His death was not extraordinary. During the lengthy occupation, scores of Lebanese were displaced, maimed and killed in a bloody guerilla war. When the Israeli army withdrew in May 2000, grinding their tanks out from bunkers across the south, Hizbullah--which is listed as a terrorist organization by the Pentagon--emerged victorious.
A staunch, pious woman veiled completely in black, Naji shows little regret about her ultimately fateful marriage.
"When I married him, I knew he followed the party. I knew I had a martyr at home," she says. Leaning closer, she confesses her ambitions for her sons, the youngest of whom was a nursling when Aboud died.
"When my sons tell me: 'I hope to become a martyr one day,' I say: 'I hope so too. I hope God chooses you as a martyr.'
"Although a mother doesn't need to tell the son of a martyr to do it," she says, "she may guide him towards it, but really, it's innate. He automatically has a feeling that he must follow his father."
After her husband died, Naji began studying to become a religious Sheik, finding comfort and acceptance of her husband's death in Islam.
"Although it's sad that he died, it also brings me enormous pride," she says of the honor her husband earned by dying as a martyr professed in the Koran. "It's more respectful to die as a martyr than a normal death."
Deified in paradise and venerated on earth for fighting Israel, Hizbullah's martyrs are nothing short of heroes in southern Lebanon. Their wives are in turn admired, because of their husband's sacrifice.
"I have no problems in the community. I only get respect," says Naji.
Hizbullah has built up an impenetrable support network for the women. Through the Hizbullah martyrs' wives association some 2500 families in Lebanon receive a monthly salary, free health care and schooling for their children--to the tune of $1,200 each a month.
"We do everything in our power to make them feel they are not missing anything," says Mohsan Shaheen, a spokesperson for the association. "Anything a martyr's wife wants, we will give it to her, basically, because her husband sacrificed himself. The only thing we can't provide for her is to bring him back."
On top of sending their children to the best schools and universities abroad if they choose, the association runs vocational training classes and seminars for the woman and offers a dating service to help them remarry if they wish.