For prior parts in this series:
Generally speaking, southern Syria has slipped into media obscurity since the military campaign and reconciliations that saw the Syrian government reclaim the entire region from the rebels. Some reports that have emerged tend to be polemically charged. Here, I have tried to rectify the gap in knowledge by conducting interviews with people still residing there.
Today's interviewee is a friend in the Yarmouk Basin locality of al-Shajra in west Deraa countryside. The locality used to be controlled by Islamic State-affiliate Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed.
The interview has been condensed slightly for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions are in square brackets.
Previously on this blog I have interviewed mukhtars of al-Karak al-Sharqi (east Deraa countryside) and Azaz (north Aleppo countryside). Those interviews illustrated two important and contrasting points: namely, how a mukhtar in a rebel-held area (in this case, al-Karak al-Sharqi) could still serve as an important link to the Syrian government and how a mukhtar in another rebel-held area (in this case, Azaz) could illustrate a local administration's direct links with Turkey rather than the Syrian opposition's interim government, whose influence in the Turkish-occupied Euphrates Shield zone of north Aleppo countryside is limited.
Elsewhere in the remaining rebel-held northwest where there is much less Turkish influence than in the Euphrates Shield zone, the situation is different. The interviewee for this post is Abu Brahim Aloush, the mukhtar of the north Idlib countryside locality of Killi. He was appointed the mukhtar of Killi in 2003 and presently works with the Syrian interim government. This interview was conducted on 29 October 2018 CE. A couple of the questions have been reordered for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions of mine are in square brackets.
The Hazaras are a Shi'a ethnic group native to Afghanistan, though many Hazaras reside in other countries (primarily Iran and Pakistan). In the context of the Syrian civil war, Hazaras have become widely known in the media for their role in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-affiliated Fatemiyoun Brigade, whose personnel are mainly recruited from Hazaras in Iran and Afghanistan.
Less widely known is the Hazara community residing in the Sayyida Zainab area of Damascus. This community predates the war and has been substantially reduced in size because of the war. To explore this community further, I conducted an interview with my friend Abd al-Rashid, who is of Hazara origin and resides in the Sayyida Zainab area. Born in Afghanistan, Abd al-Rashid came to Syria in 2010. He is a baccalaureate student and he is currently 19 years old.
This interview has been condensed for clarity. It was conducted on 25-27 October 2018. Any parenthetical insertions by me are in square brackets.
Previously in this series I explored the functioning of a local council in the north Idlib locality of Killi. This time, I have turned to the south of Idlib province and have conducted an interview with the local council of Kafar Sijna, which is located to the northwest of the locality of Khan Sheikhoun. This interview was conducted on 18-19 October 2018 CE. Any parenthetical insertions are in square brackets.
Local councils can be found across the rebel-held areas of Idlib in northwest Syria. To provide a sample overview of the structure and operations of a local council in Idlib, I interviewed Khalid Ghanima, who is from the media department of the local council of the locality of Killi [also spelled: Kelly] in the north of Idlib province.
In the online realm, polemical debates continue to play out between supporters of the Islamic State's official media and supporters of media outlets that are supportive of the Islamic State as a whole but are critical of what they see as the excess power wielded by 'extremists' in the organization. One of those outlets is al-Wafa' Media Foundation.
Supporters of the Islamic State's official media regularly deride al-Wafa' and others in its camp as "suspect" (mashbuhun). Until now, there is no sign of a resolution of the dispute. Each side maintains its own positions and continues to produce new material. For instance, three days ago al-Wafa' Media Foundation published this short article by one 'Abu Osaid al-Mosuli' (whose kunya suggests he is originally from Mosul). Entitled 'Paradoxes!', the article contrasts those whom the supporters of the official media deride as 'suspect' with those whom they deem to be honest and true supporters.
In the 1990s, the Qadhdhafi regime faced a limited and unsuccessful insurgency launched by the Islamic Fighting Group in Libya (Arabic: الجماعة الإسلامية المقاتلة بليبيا), more commonly known as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and usually abbreviated as LIFG in English.
In my view, the former translation of the full name is more appropriate, even if a debate about translating the full name might seem a little pedantic. The reason I mention this point is that the former translation conveys a better sense of the group's broader vision: namely, a jihadist group that happens to be in Libya for the time being, with ambitions not necessarily confined to Libya.
As can be seen from the manifesto of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) published with the signature of Abu Abd al-Rahman Amin (Djamal Zitouni) in Sha'aban 1416 AH (c. late December 1995 CE-late January 1996 CE), the group repeatedly emphasized that it was the sole legitimate Islamic group fighting in its abode of Algeria, and as such required all Muslims within that abode to hear and obey its amir. For those who wanted to work with the GIA as a fighting force inside Algeria and/or formally join the group's ranks, it was required to pledge allegiance and sign a document called wathiqat al-ta'ahhud ("pledge document"). This document is presented in this post.
There has been much talk of the need for a final offensive to end Islamic State (IS) control over a small strip of territory along the Euphrates River in the eastern Syrian province of Deir az-Zor. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) carried out a limited offensive in May 2018 with the support of the U.S.-led coalition, advancing through desert areas and eventually capturing the Syrian side of the locality of [al-]Baghuz Tahtani right on the border with Iraq. This month, a new campaign has been launched against IS by the SDF with U.S.-led coalition support. Among the rumoured aims of this phase is the capture of the town of Hajin, which is described as the last main base of IS in the area.
By now, most of Hajin's original inhabitants have fled the town. The majority of those who have fled Hajin have taken refuge in SDF areas. A number of people from Hajin have even been recruited into the SDF.
To discuss Hajin further, I interviewed a person from Hajin whom I will only identify here as 'al-Muwahhid'. He himself is a critic of both the SDF and the Syrian government.
This interview was conducted on 26-27 September 2018 CE. Any parenthetical insertions for clarity are in square brackets.
لا تزال بعض الفصائل الرديفة للجيش السوري مستقلة ومن هذه الفصائل مجموعة ليث بقيادة 'ليث الجبل' من مواليد ١٩٨١ وهو من منطقة جبل الشيخ اصلا ولكن يسكن في السويداء حاليا. هو شكل مجموعته في عام ٢٠١٣ بمنطقة سكا في ريف دمشق وقاتلت المجموعة في مناطق كثيرة منها الغوطة الشرقية والقصير (حمص) وحلب وريف حلب ودير الزُّور (الميادين والبوكمال) وحاليا من المتوقع ان المجموعة ستشارك في عمليات ادلب. خلال الحرب اترقى ٩ مقاتلين من مرتبات المجموعة منهم اخو القائد الذي ارتقى في منطقة الزبداني في ريف دمشق.
يقول ليث ان هدف المجموعة 'تحرير سوريا من رجس الإرهاب والقضاء علىه بشكل كامل', كما يقول انه يفتخر بوجود المقاومة الإسلامية اللبنانية حزب الله في سوريا ويعتز بسماحة السيد حسن نصرالله (قائد حزب الله). ويضيف ليث انه لا يجود رواتب لدى مجموعته المستقلة وهي رديف للجيش السوري فقط.
وأرسل ليث إلي صور لمجموعته.