As part of this ongoing series of vignettes looking into life in the strongholds of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS; cf. my previous blog post on Tel Abyad), I turn here to ISIS' Aleppo province stronghold of Jarabulus (also known as the "Emirate of Jarabulus"), located near the border with Turkey. ISIS has effectively ruled the town as a stronghold since June of last year after subjugating the main FSA-banner rival Family of Jadir. Previously the town had a Jabhat al-Nusra presence but its members declared for ISIS, as happened in Tel Abyad, after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced ISIS in April 2013. Even after the subjugation of the Family of Jadir, a PYD presence in the town was tolerated, only to be expelled after fighting broke out between ISIS/Jabhat al-Nusra and the YPG in Ras al-Ayn in July that saw the expulsion of the former.
Though the town apparently came briefly under the control of rival rebels- in particular from the Islamic Front- after wider infighting between ISIS and other rebels broke out in January, ISIS quickly regained control of Jarabulus by mid-January, calling up reinforcements from the newly acquired stronghold of al-Bab and deploying a suicide bomber who killed dozens of people: the suicide bomber turned out to be a local Jarabulus man, Shadi Jasim, who was born in 1985 and had even been in Beirut at some point. For their own part, ISIS' rivals had called up reinforcements from Manbij, from which ISIS had been briefly expelled at the time. After the fall of Jarabulus, Manbij eventually fell as well, as some local Islamic Front fighters refused to fight ISIS: apparently the local Ahrar ash-Sham cut a deal with ISIS and withdrew from the town.
To this day, ISIS' position within Jarabulus remains secure, but fighting is taking place in the nearby area: in particular around Jisr al-Shuyukh, as rival rebels attempt to advance to retake Jarabulus. These fighters are of FSA-banner and appear to include some members of the PKK-front group Jabhat al-Akrad. Within Jarabulus itself, ISIS has placed an emphasis on providing services for locals, such as electricity (in contrast in the recently abandoned stronghold of Azaz, there were many complaints of blackouts).
The translated document below is a schedule of Islamic learning in one of Jarabulus' local mosques. Its content is predictable and coincides with ISIS' emphasis on religious instruction foremost. The teacher appears to be Egyptian (al-Masri). Similarly, the ISIS teacher for children in Jarabulus who appeared in an al-Itisam media video last year was Egyptian as well, which could be evinced at the time not only from his accent but also his affirmation of teaching Shafi'i jurisprudence: the main school of Islamic law in Egypt. His kunya was Abu Obeida al-Masri, and he was subsequently killed during the rebel assault on Jarabulus in early January.
Here is my translation of the notice:
Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham
Programs of Lessons in the Shari'a Mosque.
Abu Basir al-Masri.
|Day of Lessons After Afternoon Prayers||Lessons|
|Wednesday||Sira [Life of the Prophet]|