First Published: 2006-09-22

 
Nasrallah childhood village protects its favourite son
 

While victory is cerebrated elsewhere, Bazuriyeh turns into no-go zone for outsiders.

 

Middle East Online

By Beatriz Lecumberri - BAZURIYEH, Lebanon

Old home of Nasrallah

While Beirut's Shiite suburbs on Friday were celebrating Hezbollah's resistance to the mighty Israeli army with a mass rally, the home village of the Lebanese group's chief Hassan Nasrallah was turned into a virtual no-go zone for outsiders.

With Israel refusing to rule out a hit on its sworn foe, whose predecessor was assassinated in a 1992 Israeli air strike in south Lebanon after a Hezbollah rally, strangers were eyed as suspected spies of the Jewish state.

In a departure from the traditional hospitality of the south, a group of villagers and guards in Bazuriyeh, on the outskirts of the southern port town of Tyre, gave a cold reception to some journalists visiting a modest home marked with the Nasrallah name.

The Nasrallah family has never set foot in the village, they said.

The two-storey home was draped with the yellow flag of Hezbollah and a giant portrait of Hassan Nasrallah.

"We saw Hassan Nasrallah grow up here," one of the locals, Adnan Abu Saafi, later confided.

"He studied and spent his holidays in Bazuriyeh all his life, but now any information we give could be passed on to Israel and put him in danger."

While Nasrallah himself was born in Beirut, where he has lived as Hezbollah chief, he was brought up in his father's natal village. Brothers, uncles and cousins have homes around Bazuriyeh, which was the target of Israeli air raids during the July-August war.

One brother's house appeared inhabited but access was denied.

A few metres (yards) away, an engineer sent by the local municipality which is close to Hezbollah was evaluating the damage from the air strikes, under the watchful eye of the guards who remain on duty around the clock.

"The people of Bazuriyeh are very scared of Israel. The Nasrallahs here live a normal life, they are humble people and know no more of the whereabouts of their son or brother than we do," said Ibrahim Faraz, a local councillor.

The Hezbollah chief, a grocer's son who is now married with children, was born in the capital in 1960 but fled to Bazuriyeh with his parents in 1975 at the outbreak of Lebanon's civil war.

The roads of the village are plastered with portraits of Nasrallah, with his full beard, glasses, black turban, and brown robe.

"This man is like a mountain, where we can take refuge. He fills us with a feeling of security," said local pharmacist Mohammed Rida.

Like thousands of others from all over southern Lebanon, a Shiite heartland, many Bazuriyeh residents travelled to Beirut on Friday for the massive "victory" rally called by the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah.

"Israel wanted to kill Nasrallah and destroy Hezbollah, but it failed in all its objectives," said Rida, while also paying tribute to the reputed simplicity and incorruptibility of Nasrallah.

During the latest showdown, a sister of the Hezbollah chief was trapped for several days by the Israeli bombardment of Markaba, near the Israeli border, he recalled.

"He is not one for favouritism. He could have got his sister out of there quickly, but for him all Lebanese are equal," he said of Nasrallah, who lost his own teenaged son Hadi back in 1997 in clashes with Israeli troops.

Another resident, Wafiq Deeb, said: "He lives humbly, like us, he eats with us ... He remains part of the people and has less means than any mayor in the region, not like the government ministers. He's ready to sacrifice to the last."

 

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