Jaysh al-Thuwar ('The Army of Revolutionaries') is one of the seven foundational faction components of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Along with Liwa al-Shamal al-Dimoqrati, the group is distinguished from the other components of the SDF because it uses a former flag of Syria that has to come to be associated with the 'mainstream' political opposition and the groups of the 'Free Syrian Army' brand that reject the SDF.
To learn more about Jaysh al-Thuwar and its history, I conducted an interview with the media office for Jaysh al-Thuwar on 29 January 2021 CE. The interview is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Furthermore, I have inserted as an appendix a document provided to me by Jaysh al-Thuwar's media office that gives a summarised overview of the group and its aims.
Q: When was Jaysh al-Thuwar formed and and what was its origin exactly? From which regions and towns are most of its personnel?
A: Jaysh al-Thuwar was formed with the beginning of the formation of the Syrian Democratic Forces in 2015. It was before the formation a group of battalions from the Syrian opposition and from a number of formations and from a number of towns: Idlib, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Damascus.
Q: It is said that the main foundation of Jaysh al-Thuwar is what was called the Syrian Revolutionaries Front in Idlib. Is this true?
A: The general commander of Jaysh al-Thuwar was working in coordination with the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and he was leader of the battalions of the special forces, by virtue of the fact that they are the sons of one region, but there is no connection between the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and the formation of Jaysh al-Thuwar besides that, of course not to mention that the Islamic factions went after them in the region and fought them equally, because the Islamic factions at the time began to go after all the revolutionary factions in the region.
Q: In which battles has Jaysh al-Thuwar participated and what is the number of martyrs?
A: it has participated in all the battles in which Da'esh was fought, of course from Kobani to the liberation of Raqqa and from it to Deir az-Zor. And during these battles from the beginning of the formation until now it has offered more than 100 martyrs.
Q: Does Jaysh al-Thuwar still consider itself part of the Syrian opposition?
A: Yes, Jaysh al-Thuwar considers itself a foundational part of the Syrian opposition that is bound to the principles and aims of the revolution of the Syrian people for the sake of freedom and dignity.
Q: How do you assess the current situation in Syria and what is the best solution for the crisis in it?
A: The current Syrian situation is very critical and complicated because of the divergence of interests of the regional and neighbouring states, but in our view in the end the solution will only be Syrian and in dialogue between all the sides, and especially after the failure of the military solutions. And we realise completely that the time has come to sit on the table of dialogue for the Syrian people in general have got tired of the wars.
Q: So in short what remains of the opposition in truth?
A: My friend: we want to be realistic. The Syrian people in general no longer trust in a so-called 'opposition' or 'regime' and have got tired of the wars, destruction and displacement. The Syrian people are looking for solutions. And I do not think there are solutions without Syrian-Syrian dialogue between all the conflicting sides without exception.
(Appendix: Overview of Jaysh al-Thuwar)
Syrian Democratic Forces
Overview of Jaysh al-Thuwar
- It is a group of the best of the fighting youth in Syria and from all the regions, bearing a firmly-rooted creed and believing in the rights of their people and the justice of their cause, bearing moderate thinking in creed, non-extremist, complying with the laws of the army and its military instructions and with the ethics and virtue of the noble fighters defending the people and homeland.
- And the army is organized within administrative and military systems that insist on regulation of all of its works and the conduct of its members.
- It joined the ranks of the Syrian Democratic Forces with the beginning of the announcement of its establishment on 10 October 2015.
The army aims to remove oppression from the Syrian people and protect the dignity of the citizens and their property and provide security within the areas of its work and defending all the Syrian lands in terms of presence and combating the personnel of the regime and its groups that kill the sons of the Syrian people. And the army works to put out the fitna that the regime plants between the ranks of the Syrian people in all its inclinations and creeds and it is keen to protect all the components of the Syrian people without any gender, ethnic or madhhabist discrimination.
The army complies with all international covenants and treaties regarding the rights of civilians in conflict areas and treatment of prisoners and complete compliance with the rules of engagement and the principles followed in this field. It also complies with all the necessities of the transition stage and resisting movements of extremism and takfir. It also has complete commitment to join the legitimate military forces and that all its members should become personnel within these institutions, after the fall of the regime and the receival of the homeland by the legitimate government.
Means of work:
- The army operates within official programs organizing its military works with complete discipline and implementation of oversight with it for the best course of military work.
- Working within a military system governed by the standards implemented with international and local military institutions.
- The leadership has put in place a developed financial system to regulate the financial and banking activities and the principles of storage and arrangement of soundness of salaries and compensations according to criteria of competency and limits and regulations of expenditure.
- The leadership has worked on an administrative program the organizes the office works and registries of workers with it and preserving and archiving correspondences and documents within a security plan set for the secrecy of work with it and exchange of messages within due principles.
- Liberation of all the soil of the Syrian homeland from the hegemony and dictatorship in order to realise justice and equality between all the components of the people.
- Removing oppression from the Syrian people.
- Protecting the general institutions and preserving them.
- Protecting private property of citizens.
- Caring for the citizen and preserving his security and life in safety.
- Facilitating and supporting relief projects.
- Supporting and aiding development projects.
- Complete compliance with what all the sons of the homeland agree on and consent to from ideas and opinions.
- Protecting and overseeing the decisions of legitimate authority in the transition stage.
- Complete compliance with the consensus that is mutually agreed upon in the future Syria.
- Offering all capabilities of the army to the legitimate authority the sons of the Syrian people agree upon in the future.
- Merging the army with the forces of the state whose legitimacy derives from the Syrian people.
- Compliance with all the judicial rulings and offering help to the judiciary under the shade of the law.
- Working to submit all who have caused harm to justice on the request by the legitimate authority for that.
- Realising the principle of co-existence with all the components of the people regardless of religious, ethnic and sectarian affiliation.
Overview of its leader:
- Name: Abd al-Malik Barad
- Nickname: Abu Ali
- Birth: Taftanaz, 1 January 1987
- His father: Ali Barad (one of the notables of the town of Taftanaz and the Saraqeb
- And he is from a deep-rooted and wealthy family working in business.
- The youngest among his brothers and not married until now.
- He raised the banner of the revolution against the Assad regime since the first day of its beginnings in March 2011.
- He got involved in armed and organized revolutionary work in December 2011 within the ranks of the Kata'ib and Alwiyat Shuhada' Souriya and he received the leadership of Liwa al-Maham al-Khasa on 1 November 2012. And by his leadership of the Liwa he had waged all the battles of the liberation of northern Syria and Jabal al-Zawiya and Wadi al-Deif and Khan Touman and Abu al-Zhuhur and Fawj 46 and Ariha and Hama countryside in the entirety and Saraqeb, Aleppo, Raqqa and Deir az-Zor.
- He was wounded a number of times, the most violent of which was at the end of 2013 in Idlib province and he is still in the leadership of Jaysh al-Thuwar that he established with a group of his companions after the al-Qa'ida organisation went after them in Idlib province.
The group's fight against the Da'esh ('Islamic State') organisation:
Jaysh al-Thuwar participated in the battles of the campaign to liberate the town of Kobani and the city of Raqqa from the Da'esh organisation since the beginning until the liberation, just as it participated in the campaign to liberate Deir az-Zor until the last of the strongholds of the organisation in Deir az-Zor countryside ('al-Baghuz area') and they are continuing until the cleansing of all the Syrian soil from the filth of the extremist organisations and the gangs of al-Assad and its sectarian militias, and continuing in the struggle and fight until the realization of justice and freedom and equality for the Syrian people in the framework of the democracy that grants all the rights to all the components of the Syrian people.
Battalions [Kata'ib] and Brigades ['Alwiya] from which the army was formed:
- Liwa al-Maham al-Khasa (455)
- Liwa Ahrar Jabal al-Zawiya
- Liwa Shuhada' Kafr Rouma
- Liwa Shuhada' al-Ghab
- Liwa Shuhada' Hafsarja
- Liwa al-Asir
- Halaf al-Fadhul
- Ahrar al-Jina
- Shuhada' al-Sakhur
- Liwa al-Hadidiyeen
- Liwa Shuhada' al-Atarib
- Liwa Ahrar al-Sa'ab
- Ahrar Anjara
- Liwa al-Awal Masha
- Alwiyat wa Kata'ib Maghawir Souriya
In addition to a considerable number of the brigades and battalions operating from inside the regions of Idlib that will not be mentioned for security reasons.