Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Imam Moussa Sadr, The Man Who Disappeared For Lebanon's Sake 31 Years Ago

31 hard years have passed and people - whether contemporary of him or not - are still hoping to see him again. He’s the Imam whose Muslims and Christians alike miss; the Imam whose whereabouts remain a secret within a secret inside Libya where Imam Moussa Sadr had traveled to seek support against the 1978 Israeli war on Lebanon.

The 31st of August of every year, marks the date of the 1978 kidnapping of Imam Sayyed Mussa Sadr in Libya. The Imam is considered one of the most prominent Muslim Shiite figures who sought to apply the message of religion in real life. He adopted the causes of the oppressed and the poor. Imam Sadr was also among the religious figures who contributed in launching the Islamic-Christian dialogue in Lebanon, at a time civil war was ruining this country. The Imam did not have any ties with Libya or its rulers, however he decided to visit Tripoli in the wake of the 1978 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, as part of a tour of Arab countries to rally support and prepare for an Arab summit over the war.

Then Algerian President Hawari Boumedian, suggested that the Imam visits Libya for that purpose as Moammar Ghaddafi was a key player in the course of the political and military situation in Lebanon. Imam Sadr left Beirut's international airport for an official visit to meet Ghaddafi in Tripoli on the 25th of August 1978, accompanied by Sheikh Mohamad Yaacoub and journalist Abbas Badreddine.

According to reports, the trio stayed in the "Shate' Hotel" in Tripoli, however the Imam's visit was not mentioned in Libyan media and every contact with him was cut. Witnesses said that they saw the Imam and his two companions leave the hotel in an official convoy on the 31st of August, the date set for their meeting with Ghaddafi. The Libyan president however denied the meeting ever took place, even though reports say that he confirmed the date was set on the 31st of August at 1:00pm. The same reports said that the meeting did take place and deep differences between Ghaddafi and the Imam surfaced pertaining to the crisis in Lebanon. They added that Kings and rulers intervened in vain to sort out these differences.

Sayyed Sadr and his companions disappeared and they were never heard of until this very day. Libyan authorities claimed that Sadr, Yaacoub and Badreddine had left Tripoli for Rome, as Ghaddafi refrained from addressing the issue with then Lebanese president Elias Sarkis. An investigative panel was formed to carry out a fact finding mission in Tripoli and Rome, but Libya refused to receive the panel. Investigators concluded that Imam Sadr and his companions had never left Libya and did not check into Italy. Rome conducted two rounds of investigations into the case and authorities concluded that Libyan claims were baseless.

For their part, Lebanese authorities considered the disappearance of the Imam and his companions as a crime against the state's internal security and took legal action. On the 30th of August 2001, Amnesty International issued its first report on the disappearance of Imam Sadr and his companions and stressed allegations that they had left Tripoli contradict the outcome of the Italian investigation.

Imam Sadr was born in the holy city Qom, Iran in 1928 to the prominent Sadr family of theologians. His father was Ayatollah Sadr al-Din al-Sadr, while Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr was his cousin. He attended his primary school in his hometown and then moved to the Iranian capital Tehran where he received in 1956 a degree in Islamic Jurisprudence and Political Sciences from Tehran University. He then moved back to Qom to study theology. Eventually he left Qom for Najaf to study theology under Ayatollah Sayed Muhsin al-Hakim and Ayatollah Sayyed Abul Qasim Khou'i.

The Sadr family is originally a Lebanese family, and in 1960 Musa al-Sadr accepted an invitation to become the leading Muslim Shi'ite figure in the Lebanese southern city of Tyre. He was a vocal opponent of Israel. In 1969 he was appointed as the first head of the Supreme Islamic Shi'ite Council, an entity meant to give the dacades-long oppressed Shi'ites more say in government. In 1974 he founded the Movement of the Deprived to press for better economic and social conditions for the Shi'ites. He established a number of schools and medical clinics throughout southern Lebanon, many of which are still operating today.

Sayyed Sadr was also the founder of the first armed resistance in Lebanon against the Israeli occupation, under the name Lebanese Resistance Brigades Movement, Arabic for Amal Movement.


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