Hezbollah’s Mahdi Scouts hold plastic rifles in parade on anniversary of outbreak of the second intifada (Center for Special Studies)
TEL AVIV – Hezbollah leads a youth movement that instructs tens of thousands of children and teenagers in military tactics and indoctrinates them with radical Shia Islam beliefs – including the waging of a final, apocalyptic world battle against “evil,” according to materials found by Israel during last month’s war in Lebanon.
“Hezbollah established its Imam Mahdi Scouts to attract Shiite children and adolescents, to influence their hearts and minds and to prepare new generations of youth indoctrinated with radical Shiite Islam, which propounds the idea of the return of the Mahdi (messiah) as one of Hezbollah’s central principles,” states a report by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at Israel’s Center for Special Studies.
“Hezbollah wants to create a new generation of operatives for its own ranks who will take part in its violent campaign against Israel,” the report states.
The Center for Special Studies, a think tank here specializing in terrorism information, analyzed scores of documents and material captured last month by the Israeli Defense Forces during military confrontation’s with Hezbollah. The documents relating to Hezbollah’s Mahdi Scouts evidence the recruitment of youth to fight eventually alongside Hezbollah, the center stated.
Hezbollah’s Mahdi Scouts was established by the terror group in 1982 and operates under the jurisdiction of the Lebanese Ministry of Education. According to the Center for Special Studies, the Scouts have about 42,000 Lebanese males and females between the ages of 8-16 organized into 499 groups.
Hezbollah’s Mahdi Scouts in Beirut parade commemorating “Jerusalem Day” (Center for Special Studies)
The scouts’ namesake comes from a decedent of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Shia Muslims believe Muhammad’s immediate decedents – a series of 12 imams, or Muslim leaders – are the most trusted carriers of Islamic tradition.
Most Shia Muslims believe the 12th Imam, Mahdi, is still alive but cannot be seen until Allah determines it is time to prepare the faithful for Judgment Day. They believe Mahdi will eventually reveal himself and lead the forces of righteousness against the forces of evil in a final, apocalyptic world battle.
Hezbollah’s Mahdi Scouts reportedly undergo military training at summer camps in Shiite communities in Beirut, the Beqaa Valley and south Lebanon.
The Center for Special Studies stated major activities at Mahdi Scouts summer camps, including sports and social programs, aim to inculcate Hezbollah and Islamic revolutionary principles into scout members.
Mahdi Scout with headband reading “Oh Jerusalem , I am coming” (Center for Special Studies)
The center’s report said there are camps in which youth learn the basic use of arms along with physical training and march exercises while dressed in scout uniforms or camouflage suits. The center reviewed dozens of captured pictures of Mahdi Scouts in military uniforms holding plastic assault rifles.
An investigative report published in August by the Egyptian daily Ruz al-Yusuf claimed the scout movement trains “armed militias” in south Lebanon made up of children aged 10-15.
Lesson one: Destroy Israel
The first lesson Hezbollah teaches scouts, stated the Egyptian article, is the destruction of Israel.
“(This lesson) is always an important part of the curriculum and is always aimed at children and adolescents who are new to the program. (The objective is to train a) high-caliber Islamic generation of children who would be willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of Allah in the campaign against Israel.”
The Center for Special Studies noted evidence of Iranian involvement in the scouting program. The center’s report states Iranian Revolutionary Guard units played a central role in establishing the Mahdi Scouts and its regular programs and summer camps
The report says a large volume of materials collected in Lebanon by the IDF “illustrates how members of Hezbollah’s youth movement had been indoctrinated with the principles of the Iranian Islamic revolution and the personality cult of (Supreme Iranian leader) Ali Khamenei.”
Among the scouting literature discovered were books and magazines glorifying Khamenei as a hero worthy of emulation.
The center also found a Mahdi Scouts calendar in which dates considered important to Hezbollah were highlighted. Dates marked for celebration in September, for example, include Imam Mahdi’s birthday and the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.
The emblem of Mahdi Scouts includes international scout symbol fleur-de-lis (Center for Special Studies)
According to the center report, when male Mahdi scouts turn 17 they make their way into Hezbollah’s fighting ranks.
Several previous scouts reportedly died during confrontations with Israel in July and August. Hezbollah member Hassan Qassem Hamid, head of the scout branch in the south Lebanese Hezbollah stronghold of Bint Jbail, was killed after he attempted to attack Israeli troops.
The Mahdi Scouts calendar boasts more than 120 of the movement’s members died during Hezbollah actions, including suicide bombings against Israeli targets.
Many Western analysts fear the Shia belief in Mahdi’s return is a driving force behind Iran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran is the primary sponsor of Hezbollah.
Some contend Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be pursuing nuclear weapons in part to precipitate the final, Mahdi-led battle.
In a speech in Tehran in November, Ahmadinejad reportedly said his main mission is to “pave the path for the glorious reappearance of Imam Mahdi, may Allah hasten his reappearance.”
Ahmadinejad’s cabinet reportedly has given $17 million to the Jamkaran mosque, site of a well at which Shia Muslims believe Mahdi disappeared over 1,000 years ago.