The insurgency's heavy losses against the Syrian government forces and its allies in the recent fighting in northwest Syria have prompted multiple actors to launch mobilization campaigns to try to bolster the insurgency's efforts. Indeed, there have been multiple complaints in light of the recent losses about lack of fighters on the frontlines, lack of adequate defense preparations and so on.
Those who have launched these campaigns are not only insurgent factions but also non-military actors, such as the Imam al-Shafi'i Institute, about which I have written previously. The institute has launched a mobilization campaign entitled 'Heed the call' (Labbu al-Nida'). On 9 February 2020, I conducted an interview with a representative of the campaign. The interview is edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: May I ask about the campaign?
A: Frankly, in these circumstances that all know of, we have suspended the work of the institute currently and have launched the campaign 'Go forth, lightly and heavily armed'. The aim is to incite the people, strengthening the brothers on ribat [frontline duty] and the mujahideen brothers on the fronts, summoning the people to mobilize, encourage the peoples to bear responsibility etc. The campaign targets the mosques, the [IDP] camps frankly as well to the first degree because you know the situation of the camps: thousands of youth sitting in them. Praise be to God there is a positive response by the grace of God Almighty and Exalted is He, praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds. The campaign is continuing. This is the second week if God wills. We are continuing by the grace of God Almighty and Exalted is He. Yes, this is the arrangement of the campaign.
Q: The campaign is for the interest of a specific faction? And what are the recruitment conditions?
A: We have undertaken the campaign in the name of the institute. The campaign is one of da'wa from the institute. And frankly, we have said what? The brother now who newly mobilizes: wherever he wants, in any place, we coordinate for him so he can go to any place. There is no problem. The important thing is what? Inciting to go forth to jihad in the path of God. Have you understood me? There are no recruitment conditions because the conditions are for the faction he joins. Have you understood me? As you know, there are different projects now. You see people in the mosques, in the camps. So a number of projects. The intent is not for a specific faction. Our aim is not for any faction: wherever he wants to go, it's fine. The important thing is to go out for jihad.
Q: Can we say there is a deficiency in manpower within the factions? Why are the areas falling rapidly?
A: The aim of the campaign is to incite the people to the jihad regardless of whether there is a deficiency or not or why the areas are falling. The areas are falling: the first reason is not deficiency [in manpower] frankly. The first deficiency is inaction: the inaction of all whether in bearing heavy arms or other things besides that, or even in manpower deficiency. Frankly perhaps you can say that there is a deficiency in manpower. But from the outset no one can now be firm in these places. But regrettably there are many of the mujahideen who were around in the beginning have sat and refrained now. We are now trying to encourage these people and encourage new members even if one cannot go out to the fronts the least thing you can do is building defences through digging soil [Arabic: tadshim] and making fortifications. This is the least they can do. The aim of the campaign is to have the participation of all- the popular support base- in this work, because the situation cannot only depend on the fighters. They must have an auxiliary through building defences through digging soil and fortifying the backlines, so this is our aim in the campaign. The important thing is for everyone in the liberated areas to bear this cause. This is the aim of the campaign.
Q: Some people think the Turks will eventually save the north from the campaign. What do you think of these words?
A: On politics, no one knows its course. Had Turkey wanted to save the north from this campaign, they would have done so a long time ago, but only promises. But these days, God knows because frankly huge forces have entered. God knows. But we as mujahid factions and mujahideen on the inside do not rely on the Turks.