Hezbollah established educational and athletic networks, including the "Sports Mobilization," to indoctrinate young people to embrace the terrorist organization's radical ideology, a recent Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center report finds.
Since its founding in 1982, Hezbollah has invested significant resources in developing institutions to recruit and cultivate future terrorists.
As part a broader vision to create a "Society of Resistance," Hezbollah's efforts target youth from kindergarten through post-secondary schools.
This includes "The Imam al-Mahdi Scouts Association," Hezbollah's official youth movement, which is devoted to brainwashing young Lebanese Shi'a as loyal disciples of the Islamic Republic of Iran's revolutionary ideology.
The Scouts Association has branches throughout Shi'a areas across Lebanon with tens of thousands of members nationwide.
"Hezbollah perceives sports as a means of inculcating its values in the youth and attracting it to its ranks, based on the connection between sports and the jihadi-military sphere," the report said, citing Sports Mobilization chief Jihad Atiya's 2015 interview with Hezbollah's Al-Manar Channel.
Photos of Islamic Republic founder Ruhollah Khomeini and current leader Ali Khamenei are often displayed during youth award ceremonies.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) similarly spreads the regime's radical ideology by producing computer games, books, documentaries, and children's videos.
The sporting programs teach athletic skills from a young age to develop effective future terrorists and fighters. These skills include martial arts, weightlifting, swimming, and sports shooting.
Hezbollah emphasizes soccer, given the sport's immense popularity in Lebanese society. According to the Meir Amit report, roughly half of all athletic competitions are hosted on symbolic dates for the terrorist organization, including "Shahid (martyr's) Day."
Sports teams and facilities are named after Hezbollah operatives killed during militant operations.
Children are encouraged to follow in their footsteps.
This phenomenon is similar to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority's (PA) use of educational facilities and athletic activities to incite violence against Israel and encourage children to become terrorists. This year, PA-affiliated institutions, including Fatah's student movement, organized several sporting events named in honor of terrorists. Similar events were held in Hamas-run Gaza.
Hezbollah's Sports Mobilization keeps a low-profile with no official online or social media presence. But throughout the course of its study, the Meir Amit Center was able to uncover 400 Hezbollah-run sports events since 2011.
Lebanon's minister of Youth and Sports, Muhammad Fneish, is not featured on a U.S. sanctions list targeting Hezbollah operatives despite the fact that he is a known Hizballah figure, the report points out.
The government ministry also sponsors Hezbollah's athletic programming.
Click here to read the full Meir Amit report. It is part of a wider research project devoted to exposing Hezbollah's vast social networks and institutions meant to strength the terror group's stranglehold over Lebanese society.
Steven Emerson is executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism. He was a correspondent for CNN and a senior editor at U.S. News and World Report. Read more reports from Steve Emerson — Click Here Now.
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