Resistance movement in Lebanon.
The AMAL movement was established in 1975 by Imam Musa Sadr. In Arabic the name means hope, but it is also the acronym for Afwaj al-Muqawama al-Lubnaniyya (Lebanese Resistance Detachments). The name was originally used for the military arm of the Movement of the Disinherited, which Sadr founded in 1974 to promote the Lebanese Shiʿite cause. Although Sadr established his own militia, he later opposed a military solution to the Lebanese Civil War, refusing to involve AMAL in the fighting during 1975 and 1976. This reluctance discredited the movement in the eyes of many Shiʿa, who chose instead to support the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and members of the Lebanese National Movement. AMAL was also unpopular for endorsing Syria's military intervention in Lebanon in 1976.
Several factors caused AMAL to make a dramatic resurgence during the late 1970s. First, Shiʿa became disillusioned with the conduct and policies of the PLO and its Lebanese allies. Second, the mysterious disappearance of Sadr while on a visit to Libya in 1978 made him a symbol of the Shiʿite heritage; the significance attached to his absence was not unlike the concealment/absence of the twelfth imam of the Shiʿite Twelvers. Third, the Iranian Revolution revived hope among Lebanese Shiʿa and instilled a sense of growing communal solidarity. Moreover, when the PLO feared AMAL's increased power, it tried to crack down on its cells using military force. This strategy backfired and rallied an even greater number of Shiʿites around AMAL.
Husayn al-Husayni, former speaker of parliament, headed AMAL from 1979 until April 1980, when Nabi Berri assumed the leadership and transformed the movement into one of the most powerful political and military forces in Lebanon. Although its charter expressed dedication to the Palestinian cause, the movement laid siege to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and started the war of the camps, which lasted from 1985 until 1988. In 1994, Berri was speaker of parliament, and AMAL's role had been enhanced by the 1992 landslide victory of Berri's slate of candidates in the South. The disarming of militias during the late 1980s forced AMAL into the political arena, and it remains a major force. Its success has been aided by Berri's political subservience to Syria.
AMAL's broad support in predominantly Shiʿite areas notwithstanding, neither AMAL's rank and file nor its leadership is cohesive. The movement has become a political tool for Berri, who uses his influential position in government to advance the cause. Many members and leaders of AMAL have been appointed to key government positions. The movement's fortunes declined in the late 1990s; it barely managed to keep its seats in the parliament in the 2000 election. Hizbullah benefited from the reputation for corruption and insensitivity that surrounds AMAL leaders and deputies, but the Syrian government forced Hizbullah and AMAL to run on the same list in South Lebanon. In 2003 Nabi Berri revealed an internal crisis in AMAL when he forced the resignation of his two representatives in the cabinet, accusing them of corruption, although his motives were most likely political. Berri remained protected by strong Syrian support, although his popularity in South Lebanon suffered greatly.
see also berri, nabi; husayni, husayn al-; lebanese civil war (1975–1990); lebanese national movement (lnm); palestine liberation organization (plo); shiʿism.
Ajami, Fouad. The Vanished Imam: Musa al Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986.
Norton, Augustus Richard. Amal and the Shiʿa: The Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987.