A good looking man with a very pleasant disposition, most likely in his 20s, is the face that the Hezbollah chose to promote its image in Lebanon and the rest of the Arab world following its involvement in Syria’s violence.
Mahdi Yaghi’s videotaped will, leaked this past week, went viral with many Lebanese trying to figure out why this young fighter for Hezbollah was genuinely happy about joining the fight in Syria and foreseeing his own death.
Yaghi’s death in Sryia was confirmed by several Lebanese news sources including al-Safeer newspaper. Some sources reported that he was killed in Aleppo on July 31 2013, but no details on how he was killed were given yet. Some Lebanese pro-Shia leaning forums and news websites displayed photos of Yaghi’s funeral and burial to confirm the death.
The video does not provide any details either on why Yaghi decided to tape his will, but it shows him wearing a camouflage uniform answering with a big smile and simple words random questions thrown at him by the cameraman.The Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper reported that the media bureau of Hezbollah often videotapes the party fighters’ before they head out to the battlefield in order to broadcast them later.
With the heavy Lebanese accent of the Beqaa Valley, Yaghi responded humorously to questions on how his family and friends would react to his death news and what last words he had for them.
“If Al Manar interviews my mother and asks her about the kind of person I was, I hope she would say something like I was kind hearted and forgiving..nothing more,” he said. Al Manar is a Lebanese satellite television station affiliated with Hezbollah. The channel often broadcasts interviews with families of the so called “men of resistance” killed in Syria or earlier in the war with Israel in southern Lebanon.
Asked if he was married, Yaghi indicated he had a fiancée. “If I’m is still alive, we will get married next summer” he said. “No no..I don’t want hoor al-ayn”, he said. The Quranic description interpreted by some Muslim scholars as “fair virgins promised by Allah in heaven”. The interpretation is widely used by Jihadist Sunnis groups to recruit new members.
As for his last words to his friends, Yaghi jokingly said he does not want them to read the Quran over his grave, I just want them to think of me when “they spend a good night or maybe just visit my grave to have a chit chat”.
Constantly repeating that no one is perfect and all human beings make mistakes, Yaghi closed the video with the same big smile asking everyone for forgiveness.
You really don’t need to know Arabic to see how jovial this man was. His pleasant disposition is perhaps why more than one Facebook page is now named after him. Fans are posting personal photos of him with prayers and poems to salute him. Videos showing him with his family and friends or during training continue to surface on different social media platforms. The videotaped will also made it to Elaph, a Saudi online news journal with anti-Hezbollah editorial line.
From a PR perspective, the video is meant to give Hezbollah a facelift amidst an aggressive press campaign launched against it by the Sunni Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Lebanese opponents of the party’s support for the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad.
The seven minute video attempts to paint Hezbollah fighters as tolerant “cool” people who while they have strong belief in their “cause”, they also like to hang out and have a good time, i.e they are not Muslim fanatics . Such portrayal is meant to stand in contrast with the image of the Sunni jihadists of Al-Qaeda or Jabhat al Nusra who as Syrian regime opponents, are also involved in Syria and accused of restricting civil liberties and imposing Sharia laws in cities which fall under their control.
The video also targets young Lebanese for recruitment and fund-raising purposes. Some of Yaghi’s Facebook pages called on fans to text their donations to support the party. As for recruitment, Yaghi’s cheerful personality may have a strong impact on the young generation, whether in Lebanon or other Shia Arab communities, such as Iraq, who could see Yaghi as role model or see themselves in him.