The recent Russian-Turkish agreement over the Idlib region and its environs in northwest Syria has prompted many questions on that region's future. To give an on-the-ground perspective on the matter, I interviewed a muhajir (foreign fighter on the insurgent side) in the area, though for security reasons, I decline to mention his exact origin and factional affiliation. This interview was conducted on 19 March 2020 and is slightly edited for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: How do you feel about the current situation in Idlib and the agreement struck between Turkey and Russia?
A: I feel disappointed that the situation in here is nearly completely in the hand of Turkey. The agreement also wasn't an advantage for the people of Idlib. Another problem is growing up simultaneously, the Murtadeen [apostates] meaning Turkish backed rebels from Dir' ul-Firat [Euphrates Shield area: north Aleppo countryside] are outnumbering [us] in men and weapons. This means if there is going to be a truce or something like that, they are going to work on us. They would be stupid if they do not do it: the strong ones always swallow the weak or if there is chance to use the opportunity, they will take it. Since they are here, the crime rate is rising increasingly. HTS [Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham] doesn't play a role anymore. They have 2 options, be with those one who are fighting for "democracy" or with the one who are fighting for the sharia [law] of Allah swt [Subhanuhu wa Ta'ala: Almighty and Exalted is He].
Q: So now the Turkish-backed groups are more numerous in Idlib than HTS? Is HTS' Salvation Government still administering the area?
A: Yes they are more [numerous] and the Salvation Government is getting more useless like it was before. They weren't able to punish the criminals or rule with sharia. The rule was always that the strong and rich are above the law and the poor ones don't get their rights. I think it was just built up for political reasons with Turkey and not to rule and bring order between the people.
Q: So what do the mujahideen of Hurras Al-Din and the other factions of Wa Harridh al-Mu'mineen do? Will they try to fight the Turkish presence? I see an IED hit a Turkish convoy today.
A: This EYP or RPG attack could be a false flag attack of the nizam [regime]. Such acts would just harm us and make Russia and the regime happy. Our amir askeri [military amir] said yet that this action have nothing to do with us [i.e. the mujahideen]. Hurrasuddin and other factions will never fight the Turkish presence until the danger of Russia, Shia and the nizam is over. Even if it's over I am sure they will attack us at first, because the common enemy of all Taghuts [idolatrous tyrants] are the muwahidun [monotheists] who want to live under the banner of Tauhid [monotheism].
Q: So in this situation what is the solution for the mujahideen? Just to try to continue the jihad and hope the agreement between Turkey and Russia falls apart?
A: The solution is to continue the jihad, because of the Islamic rules of jihadu def [defensive jihad]. The agreement between Russia and Turkey is just for getting prepared for the next stage of war. Russia is preparing right now their next steps, Turkey also bringing all day military stuff in here. It doesn't seem if it's going to end with an agreement and a joint patrol.
Q: And if the situation remains as it is with the fighting frozen do you fear Turkey will eventually set its rebel clients to attack and eliminate the mujahideen factions like Hurras al-Din?
A: Sure, like after the fall of the Russians in Afghanistan all factions are going to fight each other. Because all of them are having different interests and most of the are controlled by bigger players like Turkey or America. In Afghanistan the winner was Taliban, we will see who is going to win in Syria. It will be a long term war here that's for sure.