Sunday, August 9, 2009

Imam Musa Sadr Is Alive

Summary: Robabeh Sadr, Imam Musa Sadr's sister, considers the day of his disappearance to be in Tripoli on Aug 31, 1978. His activities including prevention of division of South Lebanon into four parts, the emigration of Palestinians to South Lebanon displeased many people.

Text: The employees of Imam Sadr's charitable and educational organization in South Lebanon call their director by her first name: Seyedeh Robabeh. Seyedeh Robabeh takes care of a large number of orphan children in South Lebanon in an institute called after the name of her brother. She told me: "Many of these children have lost their fathers and mothers in the war against Israel." Then she continues smilingly: "I feel happy at the side of these children."

Robabeh Sadr is the sister of Imam Musa Sadr who disappeared 31 years ago. Musa Sadr's name is so much linked with Lebanon that many people have forgotten that they were born in Iran and their ancestors were Iranians. Seyed Musa Sadr, who is called by the Shias of Lebanon Imam Musa Sadr, left his native land Iran and went to Lebanon at the recommendation of Ayatollah Boroujerdi and following the will of Ayatollah Seyed Abdul Hussein Sharafeddin and as the latter's successor and became the powerful leader of the Shias of this country.

I held an interview with Robabeh Sadr in her office in Imam Musa Sadr's institute in South Lebanon. The room was decorated by some white flowers in a vase placed on the table and her brother's picture hanging on the wall.

Q: When meeting you and talking with you, one is unconsciously reminded of your brother Imam Musa Sadr. So I prefer to ask some questions about him. Many different and at times conflicting versions have been heard about your brother's disappearance. That is why I would like to hear your own comments.

A: You are certainly aware that the rising agony of the people of Lebanon and intensification of the Zionists' aggression and occupation of the south of the country barred exercise of sovereignty of the government of Lebanon. That was because Israel refused to implement resolution 425 and withdraw from South Lebanon. Imam Musa Sadr felt it to be his duty to inform leaders of Arab countries about the crisis of Lebanon and the extent of the dangers there. The leaders would have direct effect on investigation of the matters. For this purpose he made trips to Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Algeria and called upon them to hold summit conference. For example he held talks with Houari Boumediene the president of Algeria. At the end of this candid talks lasting for four hours Boumediene said: "I am very elated to have seen you, because we had heard incorrect news about the war in South Lebanon and we were not aware of the facts, but now after talking with you everything is clear to me." Boumedien had also said: "I ask you to make a trip to Libya, because my brother Ghaddafi has incorrect information."

In reply to this request, Sadr said that he would make a trip to Libya soon at the invitation of the Libyan government. On 28 July 1978 he received the charge d'affaires of Libya in his office, who invited Sadr to attend the people's congress and hold talks with Col. Ghaddafi in Libya, and asked the meeting to take place on Aug. 19 or 21. Imam Musa Sadr accepted the invitation but hesitated about the timing, and about a month later he informed the charge d'affaires of Libya that he wished to make a trip on 25 August 1978, and had to leave Libya by 1 Sept. 1978 to take care of his sick wife who was under treatment in France. On Friday 25 Aug. 1978 he, accompanied by Sheikh Mohammad Yaghoub and Ostad Abbas Badreddin (director of the Lebanese news agency) went to Libya and stayed at Alshati Hotel in Tripoli as the official guest of the Libyan government. Some people had seen them till the 5th day but since then nobody knows anything about them. On the fifth day a car came to take them to see Ghaddafi and after their departure nothing has been heard about them.

Q: Did Mr. Sadr get in touch with anybody after his arrival in Libya or a few days after that? Did you or any members of your family receive any telephone calls or news from him?

A: No, there was no contact. Since Imam Sadr's arrival in Libya and the succeeding days nobody received any phone calls or letters from him, which was unlike his previous trips. Nothing was heard of his companions either. Ostad Badreddin who wanted to cover the news accompanied him.

Q: What about the mass media? Did they publish any news about Imam Musa Sadr's presence in Libya?

A: The Libyan mass media did not refer to the presence of the government's official guest, i.e. Imam Sadr, and did not publish anything about his programs.

Q: When nothing was heard about Imam Musa Sadr and his companions in Libya, what actions were taken by the Lebanese government to follow up the case?

A: When no contact was established, the Supreme Shia Council of Lebanon asked some questions from the Libyan charge d'affaires about Sadr' situation but he evaded to answer the questions. Four days later the Council informed Dr. Salim ul Hoss about the matter and he summoned the Libyan charge d'affaires immediately and demanded formal answer. The following day he replied: "Imam Sadr and his companions left Libya on Aug. 31, 1978 by the Italian Airlines for Rome so the subject did not concern them..." Following this allegation the government of Lebanon dispatched a judicial mission to Italy and the mission submitted a petition to the courts of Italy, and the Italian government replied after a few months that Imam Musa Sadr and his companion had never entered Italy.

Q: I have heard that the Libyan embassy in Lebanon sent a letter to the Supreme Shia Council on the same day in which it was stipulated that Italian security officials had confirmed the presence of Imam Musa Sadr and Sheikh Mohammad Yaghoub at the Holiday Inn in Rome and their suitcases had been delivered to the Italian prosecutor general's office. What you say does not conform to what has been said in the letter. What proof did Italy produce to prove his case?

A: What was said in the letter was unfounded. The information contained in the letter was inconsistent with correct findings of the Italian research system. The Italian judicial apparatus questioned the police on duty, customs at the airport and the crew of flight no 881 of the Italian Airlines that had left Tripoli on Aug. 31 for Rome. They even interrogated first class passengers. Passengers and crew said categorically that Imam Musa Sadr and his companions were not among the passengers.

Q: What about the Holiday Inn? The Libyan government claimed that Imam Musa Sadr and companions reserved rooms in the hotel for ten days.

A: After several months of enquiries by the Italian government it turned out that two persons with suitcases of Imam Sadr and Badreddin had left Libya to Italy and rooms at Holiday Inn had been reserved in their names. One of them, who wore Mr. Sadr's turban and cloak, was sitting in the lobby of the hotel in such a way that his back was turned toward the reservation desk of the hotel so that nobody could see his face. After ten minutes they climbed the stairs, changed their suits, left their passports in their rooms and fled from the hotel.

Q: You want to say that those who made the reservation at the Holiday Inn were not Imam Musa Sadr and his companions?

A: Yes. The manager of the hotel confirmed that the two persons who entered the hotel at 10 a.m. on Sept. 1, 1978 and who introduced themselves as Musa Sadr and Mohammad Shahadeh were not in fact Mr. Sadr and his companion because their pictures were not similar at all to those who had come to the hotel?

Q: Am I to infer from your remarks that you believe that your brother disappeared in Libya? Why should have Libya embarked on such an act? Was your brother at loggerheads with Libya? In principle I would like to know what good would come to Libya by kidnapping your brother?

A: Ghaddafi imitated Abdul Naser for years and wanted to be the leader of the Arabs but nobody would take notice of him. Then he tried to be the leader of Africa, and that was why he gave money to poor countries of Africa in order to get them around himself. In my opinion whatever he has done so far is unnatural. One day he gets involved with America, another day he comes to terms with it.

Q: Mrs. Sadr! You did not answer my question. I do not understand what was the motive for kidnapping Sadr?

A: All those who are familiar with the situation believe that Ghaddafi does not have a great mind. Imam Musa Sadr disappeared at a time when the Islamic Revolution of Iran was imminent. He had an intimate connection with Imam Khomeini and the revolution of Iran. Imam Musa Sadr was instrumental in organizing necessary training courses for brothers who came from Iran. At that time a number of Palestinians intended to settle in South Lebanon and make it their homeland, but Imam Musa Sadr was quite opposed to the idea. At the same time Christians wanted to divide Lebanon into four parts, which Sadr, through meetings with Arab leaders, prevented from happening. Therefore he caused displeasure of many individuals.

Q: I can infer from your remarks that in the episode of disappearance of Musa Sadr you consider Libya to be an agent who implemented the orders of others. Will you answer my question more clearly please?

A: I cannot mention anyone's name, I can only say those who did not want any good to be done, those who did not approve of Imam Musa Sadr's move to bring about unity among the warring factions in Lebanon, the same people who...

Q: Mrs. Sadr! You do not know their names or you do not want to reveal them?

A: Frankness might create other problems that I am trying to avoid.

Q: So you know but you rather not disclose.

A: Perhaps...

Q: Perhaps or really?

A: Yes you are right.

Q: Don't you really want to talk more frankly who were instrumental in disappearance of your brother? I mean those who, as you said, issued the orders?

A: I can say those who were the main factors of the civil war in Lebanon and sold their arms and weapons; those who would not dare do many things in their countries and brought their fights to Lebanon... Imam Musa Sadr was a great impediment for them.

Q: Were any direct negotiations carried out with Ghaddafi about disappearance of Imam Musa Sadr?

A: On Sept. 12, Ostad Elyas Sarkis, the president of Lebanon got in touch with Ghaddafi by telephone to ask him some questions and to inform him that there was no information about his guests. This telephone contact was not fruitful and the person who answered the phone said repeatedly that ghaddafi could not be reached through that number, and advised him to use another number. Use of the other phone number did not produce any result either. But the Prime Minister of Lebanon succeeded in having phone a conversation with Abdul Salam Jaloud on the same day. Jaloud said: "Mr. Sadr was not pleased with this trip, so he left Libya without informing the officials and being seen off."

Q: What have Mr. Musa Sadr's family done during these years to throw light on the incident?

A: You know families cannot do very much in this kind of problems. So what could we do? The only thing we did was to keep the matter alive from legal and popular points of view. Nevertheless we did everything that was within our power, for example we are still in contact with the Italian government.

Q: Who do you think can help with elucidation of Imam Musa Sadr's situation?

A: Whoever is fond of humanity and rightfulness can help a great person such as Imam Musa Sadr.

Q: Your brother, Imam Musa Sadr, disappeared 24 years ago, which is not a short period of time. I would like to know that despite the lapse of these years you still hope that he is alive?

A: I have had a feeling during all these years that he is in good health, and perhaps there was a good cause that he was far from social activities. I have faith in the Omnipotent and if He wishes Sard to be healthy, then he will be healthy.

Q: So you feel that Sadr is still alive?

A: Yes. Inshallah (God Willing), it stands to reason too. If some people wanted to kill him, why did not they do so in Lebanon and take him to Libya? Under conditions of Lebanon at that time, it was not at all difficult to eliminate him.

Q: I think the last piece of news I heard about your brother was from several years ago when some inmates of Abusalim Prison in Tripoli said that they had seen him in prison. What do you think about the news, could it be correct?

A: Yes we heard it too. Some persons claimed that they had seen him in prison.

Q: Have you talked with those who claim to have seen your brother? Or you merely have heard it from distance?

A: Usually much news comes to us about him every day. In order to avoid unfounded news I have refrained from meeting such individuals so far.

Q: So you are contented with merely hearing the news?

A: Yes, I only hear.

Q: Mrs. Sadr! I would like to ask some questions about you. Before anything else I want to know why you are in Lebanon instead of your own country Iran?

A: When Imam Musa Sadr was still living in Lebanon and had not disappeared yet, I came with my elder brother and mother (may God bless her soul) to Lebanon to visit him. At that time my cousin, Shahid Mohammad Bagher Sadr came to Lebanon and married my sister. A little while later Sharafeddin, the grandson of Ayatollah Seyed Abdul Hussin Sharafeddin and the late leader of the Lebanese Shias asked for my hand in marriage and I was destined to marry him. I stayed here and while studying I got busy doing social work, the most important of which was administration of social and charitable institutes of Imam Musa Sadr.

Q: You have been living in Lebanon for 24 years. Have you ever thought of returning to your native land Iran?

A: I travel to Iran once every two or three months to visit my relatives. But to tell you the truth I have never thought of living in Iran permanently.

Q: Why?

A: I am deeply attached to the Shias of Lebanon. I spend all my time in their service. In Imam Sadr's institute that I manage, a number of homeless and destitute girls of South Lebanon live and study. I am very fond of these girls and consider them to be members of my family. I feel very happy and elated to be at their sides.

Q: Mrs. Sadr! Do you consider yourself to be more Iranian or Lebanese?

A: Both in fact. That is sometimes I think I am hundred percent Iranian, at other times I feel deeply attached to Lebanon. So I feel to be an Iranian at certain periods and to be Lebanese at other periods.

By: Gila Bani Yaqoub


1 comment:

  1. Italian officers that time were involved in great corruption affairs. They didn`t work properly and all what they are telling is nothing but lies! How could you trust them?