- Nov 22, 2003
Bias doesn't begin to cover it:
Hezbollah fighter strove to be a martyr
He was fearful but resolute
By Thanassis Cambanis, Globe Staff | December 30, 2006
BINT JBAIL, Lebanon -- In unguarded moments, Rani Ahmed Bazzi openly expressed his fear of death.
On a battlefield in southern Lebanon, in the middle of last summer's month long war between Hezbollah and Israel, he broke down weeping as he spoke with a pair of reporters: "I'm afraid to die," he sobbed.
But Bazzi was also a resolute Islamist, a charismatic pillar of Hezbollah's militia -- the kind of trainer, recruiter, and fighter that the Shi'ite movement depends on to maintain its popularity in southern Lebanon and southern Beirut.
And when he finally died on the last weekend of the war -- apparently rushing an Israeli position in a suicidal charge, fighters with him told his family -- he achieved the immortality of "martyrdom," the most vaunted status for an Islamist fighter.
A rare, personal glimpse of Bazzi's public and private faces tells the story of Hezbollah's battlefield strength, its fanaticism, its religious potency, and its deep cultural hold over Lebanon's Shi'ites.
In death, Bazzi is a political instrument -- Hezbollah airs video clips of his "martyr's will" on its television station and plasters posters of martyrs like Bazzi all over the country. In this way, the Islamist movement seeks to build on its perceived success against the Israelis to strengthen its political hand in Lebanon's power struggle.
But in life, Bazzi also had a personal story, one colored by warmth and a compulsion to befriend strangers and win their confidence, and proselytize for Hezbollah's cause.