In late February, 2018, in a ceremony sponsored by Lebanon's Youth and Sports Minister, Hizbullah launched a 3D computer game for children and teens called "Holy Defense – Protecting the Homeland and the Holy Places," which simulates the organization's fighting in Syria. According to Hizbullah, the game aims to "cultivate the youth's fighting spirit."
Hizbullah's "Holy Defense" computer game (image: holydefence.com)
In response, Ahmad 'Ayash, a columnist for the Al-Nahar daily, harshly condemned Hizbullah, writing that it does not suffice with actual bloodshed but also creates blood-filled computer games to recruit more children and teens who will become cannon fodder in Syria.
It should be noted that this is not the first computer game created by Hizbullah. In the past it launched games simulating its war against Israel.
The following are details about the game and the unveiling ceremony, and translated excerpts from 'Ayash's column.
The Game And The Unveiling Ceremony
As stated, the game simulates Hizbullah's fighting in Syria, and especially several specific battles it waged against Syrian opposition factions and ISIS: at the Sayda Zaynab Mosque (the mausoleum of Muhammad's daughter, one of the holiest sites for Shi'ite Islam) in the suburbs of Damascus; in the city of Al-Qusayr near the Lebanese border, and in the border region near the Lebanese town of Ras Ba'albek. The game's hero Ahmad, wearing combat fatigues and carrying a rifle, defends the holy mausoleum and Hizbullah positions with various light and medium weapons in a series of battles. The trailer, posted to YouTube on February 9, states that the game "tells the story of facing the takfiri enemy's attack and [simulates] the path of the self-sacrificing [fighter] against the takfiris who wanted to destroy the holy sites and to defile the soil of the homeland. Join the resistance and defend the homeland and the holy sites!"
To view a MEMRI TV clip about the game, click here or below:
The game was unveiled at a ceremony sponsored and attended by Lebanon's minister of sports and youth, Muhammad Fneish of Hizbullah, and was also attended by Mohammad Mahdi Shariatmadari, a culture advisor at the Iranian embassy in Beirut. Fneish described the game as a means of "soft war," saying that it was important to create new tools of this sort as part of the resistance, which is the only way to defend liberty and the holy places. He also explained that the name "Holy Defense" expresses that Hizbullah is waging a war of defense and highlights the sacredness of its values.
Muhammd Fneish speaking at the unveling ceremony (image: nna-leb.gov.lb, February 28, 2018)
Lebanese Columnist: Hizbullah Does Not Suffice With Actual Bloodshed, But Works To Recruit More Kids To Become Cannon Fodder
In his March 3 column in Al-Nahar, Ahmad 'Ayash wrote that the game incites to kill, and is aimed at encouraging more Lebanese youths to join Hizbullah's war in Syria and to justify the organization's military involvement there, whose only goal is to prop up the Syrian regime under orders from Iran's Supreme Leader, Khamenei:
"Many Lebanese, especially Shi'ites, remember the huge propaganda campaign Hizbullah conducted several years ago to justify its involvement in the Syria war, [which it joined] at the direct behest of the Iranian leader [Khamenei]. The most prominent slogan in that campaign proclaimed that Sayda Zaynab… 'will not be taken captive again'... [like she was] after the Battle of Karbala [in 680].
"Rivers of blood have flowed and are still flowing in Syria, but despite this Hizbullah still insists on recruiting [more fighters], with the aim of deepening its involvement in this oppressive war, the like of which our modern history has never seen. Recently, Hizbullah's electronic media department launched a computer game called 'Holy Defense' [at a ceremony] attended by Sports and Youth Minister Muhammad Fneish and a culture advisor from the Iranian embassy in Lebanon, Mohammad Mahdi Shariatmadari. The game simulates battles 'for the defense of the tomb of Sayda Zaynab.' [At the unveiling ceremony] Fneish said: 'We defended the tomb of Sayda Zaynab in order to end the civil war, and we succeeded in ending it.'
"Hizbullah, then, does not suffice with its ongoing bloodshed in the real world. It has also taken to virtual reality to train more [future] victims from among our children and teens, for whom this 'game' is intended. This, in order to prepare them for death in the Syrian hell.
"According to [the French news agency] AFP, the game's creators chose to [pretend that] Hizbullah's only enemy in Syria is ISIS, whose hidden flags can be spotted throughout the game, along with [graffiti] on the walls saying 'ISIS was here.' The [hero of the] game wages a series of battles near Sayda Zaynab's mausoleum, which increase in difficulty from level to level. [These battles then] lead him to the Al-Qusayr region near the Lebanese border, where in 2013 Hizbullah waged its first open battle [on Syrian soil], against [Syrian] factions, before ISIS gained influence. The game ends in the summer of 2017, in the Ras Ba'albek area on the Syrian border.
"In June 2013, [journalist] Ahmad Al-Qusayr posted an article on the Orient Net website describing how the Syrian town of Al-Qusayr… had been reduced to 'piles of rubble.' He added: 'What I kept hearing on the [Hizbullah fighters'] wireless network were [cries of] 'we will avenge the death of Hussein' and 'Sayda Zaynab will not be taken captive again,' and other hate-filled sectarian cries.
"In short, this [computer] 'game' incites to kill. Has it been approved by the relevant authorities in Lebanon? Or perhaps the approval of the culture advisor at the Iranian [embassy] in Beirut is enough?
"This 'game,' and all the maneuvers of the Iranian leader, are aimed at preserving the regime of Mr. Bashar Al-Assad on various pretexts, including [the need to defend] Sayda Zaynab's tomb. They are playing with [people's] minds!"