Arab Democratic Party (Lebanon)
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The Arab Democratic Party – ADP (Arabic: الحزب العربي الديمقراطي | Al-Hizb Al-'Arabi Al-Dimuqrati) or Parti Démocratique Arabe (PDA) in French, is a Lebanese party, based in Tripoli. Its current leader is Rifaat Eid.
The ADP traced back its origins to an earlier leftist students’ organization called the Alawite Youth Movement – AYM (Arabic: حركة الشباب العلوي | Harakat al-Shabab al-Alawiyya) or Mouvement de la Jeunesse Alaouite (MJA) in French, originally formed in 1972 at Tripoli by Ali Eid, a former teacher. As its name implies, the AYM drew its support from the Shia Alawite sect minority of Lebanon, even receiving the personal backing of Rifa’at al-Assad, Syria’s vice-president at the time and himself a member of that sect. During the early war years, the AYM kept itself outside the LNM-PLO alliance, but in 1977-78 the movement joined the Patriotic Opposition Front – POF, a pro-Syrian multiconfessional coalition of Lebanese notables and activists founded in Tripoli by the MP Talal El-Merhebi (elected in 1972), Souhale Hamadah, Rashid Al-Muadim, George Mourani, and Nassib Al-Khatib, with Ali Eid being elected vice-president of the new formation.
However, internal disagreements soon led to the dissolution of the alliance at the early 1980s, when Eid and some of its ex-coalition partners went to form in 1982 the ADP, choosing the Sunni Muslim lawyer Nassib Al-Khatib as their first Secretary-General, later replaced by Ali Eid in 1985. In the process, the AYM was absorbed into the new party and became its youth branch.
The ADP in the civil war 1982-1990
Widely regarded[by whom?] as a Syrian-backed proxy force, the ADP and its Red Knights' battled several Tripoli-based factions hostile to Damascus' presence in Lebanon, in particular the Sunni Islamic Unification Movement (Arabic: al-Tawhid) since 1981-82, which they suppressed with the help of the Syrian army, the pro-Syrian Syrian Social Nationalist Party and Ba'ath Party factions and the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) in 1985-86.
The ADP/ARK also joined the LNRF (Jammoul) guerrilla alliance in September 1982 to fight the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and later its successor, the wider Syrian-sponsored Lebanese National Salvation Front (LNSF) in July 1983 against the American-backed government of President Amin Gemayel. In 1988-1990 they accepted the Taif Agreement and supported the parliament-based provisional government of Selim al-Hoss against General Michel Aoun's military interim government.
Military structure and organization
The ADP raised in July 1981 with Syrian support its own militia, the Arab Red Knights – ARK (Arabic: Al-Fursan al-Hammur al-Arabi) or Red Knights for short. Trained by Rifa'at's Defense Companies, they were also known as the 'Pink Panthers' due to their green- and raspberry-colored camouflage uniforms. Commanded by Ali Eid the ARK initially aligned just 500 militiamen, but subsequently grew to 1,000 well-armed male and female fighters, organized into infantry, signals, medical and Military Police 'branches', plus a motorized corps made of gun-trucks or 'technicals'. The latter comprised Santana 88 Ligero Militar jeeps and Land-Rover series II-III and Toyota Land Cruiser (J40) light pickups equipped with heavy machine-guns, recoilless rifles and Anti-Aircraft autocannons. The ADP/ARK operated manly in northern Lebanon, with its main stronghold in the adjacent Alawite-populated Jabal Muhsin, a sub-urban strategic high ground area overlooking the whole city of Tripoli though they also claimed to control some of the Alawite villages of the Akkar District right up to the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Illegal activities and controversy
By the mid-1980s, allied with the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) Popular Guards' militia, the Red Knights also controlled the city’s commercial harbour and oil refinery – the second large deep-waters port of Lebanon – in collusion with the director of Tripoli’s harbour Ahmad Karami and corrupt Syrian Army officers. The National Fuel Company (NFC) headed jointly by businessmen Maan Karami (brother of late prime-minister Rachid Karami) and Haj Muhammad Awadah, run in the behalf of the ADP and LCP a profitable fuel smuggling ring that stretched to the Beqaa Valley.
The post-war years
After the end of the civil strife in October 1990, the ADP was disarmed and its leader Ali Eid was elected in 1991 to the newly established Alawite seat in the Lebanese Parliament. Prior to this, no Alawite had been elected to the Lebanese parliament. The Party seems to have revised its traditional pro-Syrian stance in the 1990s, in favour of a moderate, cautious neutralist posture in the current sphere of Lebanon’s internal politics.
In 2005 it was rumoured[by whom?] that Rifa'at al-Assad was reviving the Red Knights militia in Tripoli. It rearmed during the 2007 Lebanon conflict, after it was revealed that the Islamist group Fatah al-Islam had planned to attack the Alawis of Tripoli. It was active during the 2008 Lebanon conflict, now led by Ali Eid's son Rifaat, being between 1,000 and 2,000 men strong. During the 2008 conflict, where Sunnis and Shias fought throughout Lebanon, Rifaat said in an interview: "We're the most convenient targets, the stand-in for Hezbollah, our problem can only be solved when the Shiites and Sunnis solve theirs." As many as 9.000 Alawis fled their homes during the conflict. Despite years of freedom in operating a militia throughout Tripoli, the Lebanese Army later severely cracked down on the militia starting in April 2014. This forced most militants to surrender to security forces and the group's leaders/commanders to free from the possibility of life in prison.
Syrian Civil War
On 29 March 2014, Rifaat and Ali Eid Left Lebanon to Syria.
And on April 10, 2014, the Lebanese Military Investigative Judge Riyad Abu Ghayda issued an arrest warrant in absentia for the pro-Assad figure Rifaat Eid and 11 of his associates over their alleged involvement in clashes on the northern city of Tripoli. Abu Ghayda’s warrants are based on articles in the Penal Code that could lead to the death penalty.
- "Rifaat founded the Red Knights in northern Lebanon in the early 1970s and they were eventually instrumental in helping Yasser Arafat to slip by sea to Tripoli in 1983..."Naharnet
- "Sporadic fighting in Tripoli between the Alawite ADP forces and anti-Syrian Sunni Moslem groups has continued throughout the 1980s. Open conflict between the ADP and anti-Syrian Sunni groups broke out in the streets of Tripoli in 1981-82, largely in response to the conflict in Syria between the Sunni majority and the Alawites who constitute the ruling elite. "
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