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In the Newsroom

April 27, 2009
Scenes of Hezbollah play out on south Beirut streets

Worldfocus correspondent Kristen Gillespie reported from Beirut for the signature story “Hezbollah heads into mainstream Lebanese life and politics.”

One out of four Lebanese citizens lives in the south Beirut area known as the Dahiya, or “suburbs” in Arabic. The war with Israel in 2006 hit this area particularly hard, with blocks and blocks of neighborhoods flattened. I covered the 2006 war from Beirut, and came back three years later to see how much progress had been made in reconstruction.

The overload of billboards, posters, Hezbollah souvenir shops and the oppressive security presence remind visitors that the Party of God is organized and ready for battle. It’s a war mode, even when there is no actual war.

This partially explains the secrecy and distrust of outsiders. The American government says Hezbollah is a terrorist group, but within Lebanon, it’s more complicated. The Hezbollah political party actively participates in the Lebanese government, while not only refusing to disarm but actively stockpiling weapons outside the scope of the state.

“Now they have a say in national politics,” says Timur Goksel, who liaised with Hezbollah for 20 years as a senior United Nations advisor. “They are not going to give that up, but they also know they got there with Hezbollah’s guns.”

– Kristen Gillespie

Photos by Kristen Gillespie.

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