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Arab Democratic Party (Lebanon)

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Title: Arab Democratic Party (Lebanon)  
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Subject: ADP, Rifaat al-Assad, Lebanese National Resistance Front, Ali Eid, Arab Democratic Party, 2008 Tripoli, Lebanon bombing, Defense Companies (Syria), List of Shia Muslims, Shia Islam in Lebanon
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Arab Democratic Party (Lebanon)

Arab Democratic Party
الحزب العربي الديمقراطي
Leader Rifaat Eid
Founder Ali Eid
Founded 1974
Headquarters Lebanon Tripoli, Lebanon
Ideology Arab nationalism
Arab socialism
Religion Alawi
National affiliation March 8 Alliance
Parliament of Lebanon Template:Infobox political party/seats
Cabinet of Lebanon Template:Infobox political party/seats
Party flag
Politics of Lebanon
Political parties

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,[1] 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.

Political beliefs

Pan-Arab nationalist and radical socialist, the ADP ostensibly claimed to represent the interests of the small Lebanese Alawite community, though their pro-Syrian stance and secular views put them at odds with Sunni Islamist factions in Tripoli. Despite its alignment with Damascus’ politics, however, the ADP seems to have played an instrumental role in helping the PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and its loyalist forces in slipping out from Tripoli by sea in December 1983, after being expelled by the Syrian Army.

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)[2][3][4] since 1981-82, which they suppressed with the help of the Syrian army, the pro-Syrian Syrian Social Nationalist Party and Baath Party factions and the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) in 1985-86.[5][6]

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 supported the parliament-based provisional government of Selim al-Hoss against Gen. Michel Aoun’s military interim government.

Military structure and organization

The ADP raised in July 1981 with Syrian support its own militia,[7] 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.[8][9] Commanded by Ali Eid the ARK was about 1,000-strong, organized into infantry, signals, medical and Military Police ‘branches’, plus a motorized corps made of gun-trucks (Santana 88 Ligero Militar jeeps, Land Rovers, and Toyota Land Cruisers) 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 region right up to the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Financed and armed by Syria, by the mid-1980s the Red Knights 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 Syrian army officers.The National Fuel Company (NFC) headed by Haj Muhammad Awadah, to run in their behalf 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] 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."[13] As many as 9.000 Alawis fled their homes during the conflict.[14]

See also

  • List of armed groups in the Syrian civil war



  • Denise Ammoun, Histoire du Liban contemporain: Tome 2 1943-1990, Fayard, Paris 2005. ISBN 978-2-213-61521-9 (in French)
  • Edgar O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon, 1975-92, Palgrave Macmillan, 1998 ISBN 0-333-72975-7
  • Fawwaz Traboulsi, Identités et solidarités croisées dans les conflits du Liban contemporain; Chapitre 12: L'économie politique des milices: le phénomène mafieux, Thèse de Doctorat d'Histoire – 1993, Université de Paris VIII, 2007 (in French)
  • Moustafa El-Assad, Civil Wars Volume 1: The Gun Trucks, Blue Steel books, Sidon 2008. ISBN 9953-0-1256-8
  • Rex Brynen, Sanctuary and Survival: the PLO in Lebanon, Boulder: Westview Press, 1990.
  • Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War, London: Oxford University Press, (3rd ed. 2001). ISBN 0-19-280130-9
  • Samer Kassis, 30 Years of Military Vehicles in Lebanon, Beirut: Elite Group, 2003.
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