An Ex-Muslim Talks About Growing Up in Hezbollah Culture

Marwa Berro is an ex-Muslim blogger whose writing has enlightened me whether she’s talking about transitioning out of Islam or why she continues to be an activist.

Her latest piece may be the most eye-opening of them all. In it, she writes about growing up in “Hezbollah culture” and how thinking of the group as a “terrorist Islamist organization” doesn’t quite encapsulate its power and effect:

Marwa at 16

When I ran away from home at 18, Hezbollah gathered its resources to locate me, move me from the area of Beirut I was in, where they did not have power, and secure me in an apartment in another area that served as their stronghold — had I physically resisted any of this, they were on standby to stop me, but they did not use that type of force at all, and made all but a suggestion of it incredibly invisible. Instead, they presented themselves as attempting to help me. They’d send groups of people in turn with sympathetic, concerned demeanors, claiming they wanted to help reconcile me to my family, that they could help solve whatever problems I had, hoping that I could be made to comply by manipulating me into agreement. But even though I told them about the abuse I endured and stated multiple times that I did not want reconciliation with my family and just wanted to go, they only continued to close in, faster and closer, with their emissaries and coaxing and sweet-talking. When I still would not budge, they simply brought my father and uncle in and escorted all of us home. In the weeks thereafter, I was visited and spoken to by more Hezb members, who probed into my personal life, asking questions about my sexuality. They had confiscated my hardware and looked through my files as well under the flimsy excuse of a possible security threat. They had no fundamental respect for adult human autonomy or a right to self-determination.

It seems somewhat clear, reading it presented like this, that in the guise of helpfulness were efforts to coerce me to comply to their values and codes of behavior. But it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that their attempts were actually manipulative and controlling, were not goodwill offers of help and resources, but rather part of a system of regulating their demographic and making sure its members complied to visible standards of adequate religious sensibility. I learned this in years thereafter, after I had time enough to process my trauma, and piece together the strange, unsettling blips in the virtuous veneer of the value system surrounding me. I realized the Hezb had turned an active blind eye to both reports of violence from my father and threats of violence he gave in their actual presence. I realized that the discomfort I felt towards them was not just because their attempts to help me were based in a value system I didn’t really subscribe to, but because those attempts were actual mechanisms of coercion. It wasn’t about disagreement and reconciliation at all…

I dare you to read the full piece without being moved.

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