Tufayli, Subhi Ali Al- (1948–)

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TUFAYLI, SUBHI ALI AL- (1948–)

Lebanese Shiʿite religious leader, born in Brital in the Beqaa Valley. Tufayli studied theology in Najaf, Iraq, between 1965 and 1972, and briefly in Qom, Iran. A member of the al-Daʿwa Party, he returned to Lebanon to teach. In June 1982, following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, he joined the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) who had been sent from Iran, becoming one of their principal figures. In February 1985 he was named head of Hizbullah for the Beqaa. As president of the movement's military commission he was in charge of coordinating operations in Lebanon with Tehran. He advocated radical policies towards the West and was believed to be involved in planning the attacks and kidnappings of Westerners that Hizbullah carried out in Lebanon. In 1986, backed by ʿAbbas al-Mussawi, he headed the mainstream of Hizbullah, facing a challenge from a faction led by Hasan Nasrallah. On 21 November 1988 he escaped a car-bomb assassination attempt. On 12 November 1989 he spoke out against the Taʾif Accord, which had been signed a few days earlier. On 26 November he was named secretary general of Hizbullah, a post that had just been created.

From this time on, his disagreements with the spiritual mentor of the movement, Muhammad Fadlallah, as well as with Hasan Nasrallah, started to become more serious and sometimes translated into bloody confrontations between their respective partisans. On 29 March 1990 he escaped a second assassination attempt. In May 1991 he was removed from the leadership of Hizbullah and replaced by Abbas al-Mussawi. After al-Mussawi's death in February 1992, Nasrallah became secretary-general of the movement. Thereafter, Tufayli affirmed the necessity of continuing the fight against Israel, even if Israel withdrew from South Lebanon, but he opposed the policy of integrating Hizbullah into Lebanese political life for fear that it would lead to the disappearance of the movement. In November 1993 he became head of the Union of Muslim Ulamas (Tajamuʿ al-ʿUlama al-Muslimin) of the Beqaa, hoping to turn this movement into a party capable of competing with Hizbullah. Denouncing the Lebanese government's lack of any real social policy, on 4 July 1997 he launched the "revolt of the hungry" (Thawrat al-Jaʿan), calling on inhabitants of the Beqaa not to pay their taxes.

Confronted by this internal opposition, the leadership of Hizbullah gradually shunted him aside, succeeding despite a number of demonstrations that he organized in his support. On 23 January 1998 Tufayli was expelled from Hizbullah. Shortly afterward the Lebanese army, with the approval of Syria, moved on Tufayli. Bloody confrontations took place between his supporters and the army, in the course of which Khodr Tlays, a deputy partial to Tufayli, was killed. Tufayli sought refuge in his fief of Brital. Since then, his stock of arms has been seized and his radio station destroyed; he is under observation by government security forces, who have occasionally threatened to arrest him, and his following has shrunk; he has engaged in very little public activity.


SEE ALSO Fadlallah, Shaykh Muhammad Husayn; Hizbullah; Nasrallah, Hasan; Pasdaran; Taʾif Accords.

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Tufayli, Subhi Ali Al- (1948–)

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