elizrael + jayshal-islam   139

ما الذي حدث في الغوطة الشرقية؟ | الجمهورية.نت June 25, 2018
بعد فصل القطاعين، بدأت قوات الأسد بالتقدم في الأراضي الزراعية في المحمدية والإفتريس والأشعري لتصل إلى جسرين وسقبا وحمورية، مدن وبلدات قلب الغوطة. تعرضت حينها حمورية، المتاخمة لبيت سوى والأشعري، إلى حملة قصف غير مسبوقة. دُمِّرَ معظم المدينة، وقُصِفت بالكيماوي عدة مرات، وقضى سكانها ليلة كاملة مع المروحيات التي لا تتوقف عن رمي البراميل كل بضع دقائق. كانت ليلة شنيعة عليهم. وبعدها قررت مجموعة من الوجهاء والناشطين التفاوض مع قوات الأسد، بعضهم أعرفه جيداً وأعرف عمله الثوري، دون قبول لواء الأشعري في البداية، لكنّ حادثة المسيرة المؤيدة التي رفع فيها بعض أهالي المدينة علم قوات الأسد، وهتفوا «للوحدة الوطنية»، جعلتهم يغضون النظر عن خروج لجنة التفاوض إلى دمشق. وحين عادت اللجنة بورقة اتفاق، وهو الاتفاق ذاته الذي تم إقراره في النهاية، رفضته قيادة لواء الأشعري في البداية، لكنها مع ضغط المدنيين أعلنت قبوله لاحقاً، فيما كانت بقية المدن ترفض اتفاق لواء الأشعري لوحده مع قوات الأسد لتسليم حمورية، إما من أجل انضمام بلداتهم ومدنهم إلى الاتفاق، أو رفضاً قاطعاً لأي تسليم أحادي أو جماعي.

كان الخبر قد وصل من النساء، كما كانت الأخبار قبلها تصلنا، ويتضح بعد فترة أنها صحيحة. لمدة يومين كنا نتواصل مع القادة الميدانيين حول الخبر وكانوا ينفونه تماماً: «بس دبابة فاتت عالكتيبة وعم نتعامل معها». هذا آخر ما حُرّر من أخبار، قبل أن ألقى صديقاً يقاتل على جبهة الإفتريس ليخبرني أنه تَرَكَ الجبهة أمس ليهتمّ بأمر أسرته وأهله، وأن قوات الأسد منذ يومين تسيطر على كتيبة الإفتريس واقتربت من الدخول إلى أراضي سقبا. صَدَقتْ أخبار النساء دوماً، فيما كانت أخبار قيادات الفيلق تتبع النهج «الصحّافي».

حين بدأ الشيخ يدعو شباب الفيلق من أهل كفربطنا إلى الدخول في «مصالحة»، استجاب له عشرات الشباب في البداية، فجاؤوا إليه بسلاحهم. كانت قوات الأسد حينها قد سيطرت على حمورية وجسرين ودخلت الجزء الشرقي من سقبا، أي أن دخولها إلى كفربطنا كان مسألة وقت، وكان الشيخ يحاول أن يكسب من الوضع الجديد، وقال للشباب الذين استجابوا له حينها أن يخبروا الناس بأنه لن يتم قصف كفربطنا بعد الآن لأنه «أخذ ضمانات من النظام» ليدخلها الأخير دون قتال. بعد ساعات حدثت مجزرة النابالم في كفربطنا التي راح ضحيتها العشرات حرقاً. وتدخلت جبهة النصرة في اليوم التالي لتقبض على الشيخ، فاشتبكت مع شبابه. تدخل حينها أبو النور حسام نمور، أكبر قيادي عسكري من كفربطنا في فيلق الرحمن، ليحاول وقف القتال ويقوم بحلّ الأمر سلمياً مع الشيخ. وكان عنيفاً في رده على مقاتلي النصرة من أجل عدم التدخل في الشؤون الداخلية لكفربطنا، وأنه سيقوم بحل المشكلة داخلياً دون تدخل. فقتلته جبهة النصرة التي شكّت أن يكون متعاوناً معهم. هنا ثار شباب كفربطنا في الفيلق ضد النصرة وقاموا بالاقتتال معهم، وربما ظنوا أن حسام نمور قد انحاز للشيخ، وهو ما لا يمكن الجزم به، لكنّ ما يمكن تأكيده هو أن العصبية الأهلية و«لحمة البلد» تحركت لديهم ليواجهوا النصرة بعد قُتِلَ قائدهم، وليقفوا في صف الشيخ بعد أن رأوا أن قوات الأسد ستدخل لا محالة وأن هناك فرصة للبقاء دون تعرضهم للأذى، وربما يعاملون معاملة خاصة بعد قيامهم بالانقلاب على الفيلق والتحوّل إلى ميليشات مع قوات الأسد قبل دخول الأخيرة إلى كفربطنا.

أي وباختصار، لم يكن الضفادع سبباً في سقوط الغوطة كما أُشيع، ولم يكن لهم دور هام، وقد تم تضخيم دورهم من الطرفين، من قوات الأسد التي أرادت أن تُظهر أنها تعمل منذ سنين على ميليشيات تابعة لها في الغوطة، ومن العسكر والناشطين الذين حمّلوهم مسؤولية دخول قوات الأسد إلى الغوطة بعد أن «أتونا من بين ظهرانينا».

عدتُ إلى قبو المجلس، وكان الجميع قد تخلى عن اتزانه وبدأ يشتم. وبعد ساعات جاء أحد قادة الفيلق ممتعض الوجه وجلس وهو يدخن دون أن يسلّم، فسأله أحدهم: «شو؟»، فقال: «شو شو؟... انهزمنا. طول الوقت ونحنا عم نقلكن في عمل. بس ما حدا تجاوب معنا. ولا حدا رفع همّة الشباب. كل الوقت عم تحاكونا بشو إمكانياتنا وما حدا بدو يقاتل. كلكن كنتو قاعدين تحبطوا أبو النصر بدل ما تعاونوه. ولا حدا منكن إجا وقلّه بدنا نقاتل. تقعدوا تسألوا عن التفاصيل لتقولوا ما في أمل وخلينا ندور على خروج آمن...». قاطعه أحدهم: «يعني في خروج آمن...؟» فقال: «أي». تركه معظم الموجودين واتجهوا خارج المجلس، وأنا ذهبتُ إلى الأريكة لأنام.

ما يهمنا في الحديث عن المجالس المحلية، بعيداً عن تحسن أدائها داخلياً كمؤسسة، هو علاقتها مع السكان، فقد كان الرأي الأعم رافضاً لإجراء انتخابات عامة معظم الوقت، ولم يتغير هذا الحال إلا في الأشهر القليلة التي سبقت سقوط الغوطة، وفي مدن وبلدات قليلة. كما كانت الشفافية مع السكان شبه معدومة، سواء على صعيد خطة عمل المجلس أو وارداته أو رواتب موظفيه أو مشاريع تمويله الذاتي أو احتياطياته من المحروقات والمواد الغذائية، كما أنه لم ينتج قنوات اتصال فاعلة مع السكان لشرح إمكاناته وما يستطيع فعله وما لا يستطيع، وما يمكن أن يصنعه سماع المواطنين من تحسن العلاقة. إضافة إلى التنازعات الدائمة بين التيارات والشخصيات المختلفة حول تشكيل المجلس وطريقته وسبل الهيمنة عليه.

بسبب ما سبق، كانت العبارة الأكثر شيوعاً بين السكان عند ذكر كلمة «مجلس محلي» أو غيرها من المؤسسات العامة: «مين حطهن؟!». إضافة إلى اتهامهم الدائم بالسرقة سواء كانت هناك سرقة فعلاً أم لا، وسهولة تصديق الشائعات عنهم.

في كل المراحل التي مرّت فيها تجربة القضاء في الغوطة، وبعد خطف رزان التي كانت تعمل على تأسيس قضاء مدني مستقل، وبعد أن انضمّ جيش الإسلام إلى القضاء وخرجت جبهة النصرة، كان المشايخ هم أصحاب الهيمنة، ذلك رغم تطوير الهيكلية ليشابه القضاء المعروف تقريباً، وبرغم ضمّ بعض الحقوقيين والقضاة المنشقين إليه والسماح بوجود محامين في المحكمة المدنية فقط، وبرغم اتباع القانون السوري في العام الأخير ضمن المحكمة المدنية في فرع قضاء القطاع الأوسط الذي كان يخضع لسلطة فيلق الرحمن، لكنه مع ذلك لم يتم إعلان اعتماد أي قانون أبداً. ظلت الأحكام تصدر باسم «الشريعة الإسلامية»، الكلمة الفضفاضة وسهلة الليّ. وكان القاضي العام دوماً، أو رئيس مجلس القضاء الأعلى، شيخاً يتبع لإحدى الفصائل، وكان البتّ في القضايا يحدث بحسب القضية إن كانت تهمّ فصيلاً ما، وبحسب التوازنات فيها، وهو ما لا يمكن التكهّن بنتائجه سلفاً. وفي حال التنازع بين مدني وعسكري، «فالمجاهدون» لهم حصانة بنسب متفاوتة بحسب القضية، ولا يحق لشيخ تابع لفصيل أن يتدخل في محاكمة «مجاهد» من فصيل آخر، قبل أن يحدث اقتتال عام 2016… [more]
Damascus  blockade  Mar15  localGovt  hidden  JayshAl-Islam  FSA  civil_society  freedomofspeech  corruption  Assad  important 
august 2018 by elizrael
Assad’s Divide and Conquer Strategy Is Working – Foreign Policy, March 28, 2018
Though seemingly staged for the cameras, the protests were significant for showing that loyalists now felt safe enough to come out of hiding and that the government still had strings to pull inside the enclave — a tentacular network of spies, sympathizers, and exploitable relationships that have mostly escaped the attention of Western analysts. In a typical example, pro-Assad tribal leaders were wheeled out once the offensive got going to plead with civilians and fighters from their home region, Marj, to abandon the rebels.

Reports from 2011 claimed Difdaa had joined the opposition, and some say he worked with Faylaq al-Rahman’s Kafr Batna wing, but his conversion to the rebel cause seems to have been superficial. “He leaned toward the regime from the start of the revolution,” an opposition source inside Eastern Ghouta told me earlier this month.

By the time the final offensive began, Difdaa began calling for rebel capitulation and set up peace talks through the offices of Assad’s electricity minister, Mohammad Zuhair Kharboutli, whose family hails from Kafr Batna. Outraged, Faylaq al-Rahman leader Abdel-Nasser Shmeir vowed to respond to any attempt at negotiations outside his purview with “an iron fist.” Difdaa reacted by organizing his students and supporters in Kafr Batna into an armed guard, with firearms being easily available to anyone with money in Eastern Ghouta — and apparently, Difdaa now had money.

“You could say that there were sleeper cells that tried to take over several areas of Kafr Batna,” an anonymous source in Eastern Ghouta explained to me. “Two hours after they began to deploy, regime forces assaulted from two directions at once.” At the head of a force reportedly numbering hundreds of local youth and side-switching rebels, Difdaa linked up with the army as it pressed into the Damascus suburbs.
Mar15  Damascus  espionage  internal_struggle  JayshAl-Islam  FSA  Reconciliation 
july 2018 by elizrael
Brothers in Alms: Salafi Financiers and the Syrian Insurgency - Carnegie, May 18, 2018
Gulf-based Salafi financiers have had a diminished role in the Syrian civil war recently, but their influence will linger in the country's religious sphere.
https://carnegie-mec.org/2018/06/04/ar-pub-76504
Salafis  Kuwait  Mar15  JayshAl-Islam  AhrarAl-Sham  JabhatAl-Nusra  FSA 
may 2018 by elizrael
What is Jaish al-Islam’s Role After Being Moved North? - Sourianta, May 10, 2018
The head of the general staff in the National Army, Col. Ahmed Osman, said: “We met with leaders of Jaish al-Islam, in the headquarters of the Al-Sultan Murad Division base in the Aleppo countryside, to discuss the possibility of the Jaish al-Islam joining the National Army in the future, but it is too early to say if they will join the National Army’s ranks.”
Turkey  JayshAl-Islam  Mar15  BufferZone  Aleppo 
may 2018 by elizrael
اتفاق دوما مرحلة فاصلة في مسيرة جيش الإسلام | | صحيفة العرب
ومن الممارسات التي أقدم عليها جيش الإسلام إصدار تعميم على المواطنين في الغوطة الشرقية يتوعد فيه بإغلاق قاعات الأفراح التي تقيم أعراسا مختلطة وتغريمهم ومحاسبة أصحاب العرس.
Mar15  authoritarian_regime  JayshAl-Islam  Turkey  BufferZone  FSA 
april 2018 by elizrael
دوما.. الكيماوي أو التماهي مع الروس - عنب بلدي
فيما قالت مصادر لعنب بلدي إن الجانب الروسي أوصل مقترحه لـ “جيش الإسلام”، الجمعة، على لسان الكولونيل ألكساندر زورين، الذي قاد المفاوضات مع فصيل “فيلق الرحمن” في القطاع الأوسط من الغوطة، وتقضي مقترحات الجانب الروسي بتسليم السلاح الثقيل، بمدة لا تتجاوز ثلاثة أيام، للنظام السوري، مع ضمان روسيا عدم استخدام النظام الطيران الحربي، كما يسلم الفصيل سلاحه الخفيف خلال أسبوع مع ضمان خروج قوات الأسد من المنطقة.

كما يقضي المقترح بتسوية وضع كل من سلم سلاحه، وتقديم طلب للتطوع في الشرطة، على أن يتم تشكيل الشرطة خلال أسبوعين.

ثم يتلقى التشكيل الدعم من روسيا لقتال تنظيم “الدولة الإسلامية” (داعش) و”جبهة النصرة”، إضافةً إلى انتشار الشرطة الروسية على الحواجز في المنطقة.
Mar15  Damascus  JayshAl-Islam  Russia  diplomacy  Reconciliation 
april 2018 by elizrael
What became of the four rebel groups that once dominated the Syrian conflict? - The National
Jaish Al Islam has insisted it will not leave its strongholds outside Damascus. Alternative scenarios include remaining in control of its strongholds through a peace deal with the regime, which could mean operating as a local administrative force.

Both the opposition and the regime, though, believe evacuation is the likely scenario. Like a fish out of water, Jaish Al Islam will not survive evacuation. As a result, informed sources say, a deal has been delayed while Jaish Al Islam seeks an alternative fish tank.

Jaish Al Islam, as part of its outreach, is touting itself as a viable Turkish ally in the north against the Kurdish militias that Ankara despises and against Jabhat Al Nusra, which many view as a potential pretext for attacking Idlib.
JayshAl-Islam  Mar15  Turkey  Damascus 
april 2018 by elizrael
ملامح نسخة جديدة لـ"اتفاق" تهجير دوما - Al-Araby al-Jadid
وفي ما يخص مقاتلي "جيش الإسلام" الذين يفضلون البقاء في دوما، ينص الاتفاق على "أن تعمل سلطات النظام على تسوية أوضاعهم بعد تسليم أسلحتهم، بشكل كامل وبضمانة روسية كاملة، على أن يجري تأجيل خدمة التجنيد الإجباري للشبان المطلوبين لها، لمدة تتراوح بين 6 أشهر و10 أشهر". ولا ينص الاتفاق على دخول قوات النظام إلى المدينة بل "يمكن لعناصر شرطة النظام الدخول إلى دوما خلال فترة إعادة تأهيل المدينة بضمانة الشرطة العسكرية الروسية، كما سيجري تخديم دوما بالكامل من نقل وحركة تجارية وغيرها من الخدمات اللازمة"، وفق المصدر. هذا الاتفاق الذي يتداوله ناشطون في مدينة دوما، لم يصدر أي بيان رسمي من أطراف الاتفاق بتأكيده، أو نفيه.
JayshAl-Islam  Damascus  rumors  militia  NDF  Reconciliation 
april 2018 by elizrael
Hundreds of civilians leave Douma city as rebel resolve to remain - Syria Direct
The departure of civilian authorities followed a Saturday morning meeting between several major civil society organizations and Jaish al-Islam leadership in Douma, in which the former requested that civilians be given the option to evacuate, pro-opposition news outlet al-Modon reported at the time.
Mar15  Damascus  JayshAl-Islam  blockade 
april 2018 by elizrael
Interim Govt Demands Immediate Release of Nurse 'Arbitrarily' Detained by Army of Islam - Al-Etihad Press, Dec 18, 2017
Among the charges issued by the Army of Islam judiciary were “killing Sunni Muslim children” and practicing “magic and sorcery.” Murshid is still under arrest.
JayshAl-Islam  Mar15  Damascus  health  Forced_Disappearance  arrest  kidnapping 
december 2017 by elizrael
Jail and Forced Labour: The Penalty in Douma for Kids Who Steal — Syria Deeply, Dec 14, 2016
The fighter who had caught the boys was a member of Jaish al-Islam, one of the largest fighting factions in Eastern Ghouta. The armed opposition group controls Douma’s internal affairs, including a judiciary system based on their interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. Bilal and Ibrahim were referred to a Sharia court, where the judge sentenced Bilal to one month in prison and Ibrahim to one month of unpaid labor.

The judge offered Bilal a chance to reduce his sentence by memorizing parts of the Quran, but the 10-year-old did not know how to read or write. Bilal was placed in an underground cell with adult prisoners, spending a month in the militia’s al-Tawba prison, a facility notorious for its abuse and torture methods.

Older detainees like Ibrahim often serve sentences of hard, unpaid labor. Tunnels managed by Jaish al-Islam connect the besieged town to government-held neighborhoods, and are used for smuggling: a lucrative business. Ibrahim spent a month cementing and transporting dirt inside the tunnels in exchange for one meal a day, at the end of which he would sleep in the prison.
Damascus  JayshAl-Islam  Judiciary  laborCamps  tunnels  Mar15  child_abuse  child_exploitation  children 
september 2017 by elizrael
Amid Factional Conflicts, the Regime Prepares to Reclaim Eastern Ghouta - Syria Source, Aug 24, 2017
However, these issues seem much more complicated internally. Al-Riqi summarizes, “Jaysh al-Islam launches an attack on the Al-Rahman Legion in Saqba, while the Al-Rahman Legion repels an attack from the regime’s forces from Ein Tarma on one side and an attack from HTS and Ahrar al-Sham on the other. Both were attempts to control Saqba, the legion’s stronghold.

Regarding the Al-Rahman Legion’s operations in Ghouta, media activist Khaled Abu Jaafar says, “The Al-Rahman Legion is fighting al-Nusra Front and forcing Ahrar al-Sham out of the sector under its control in the region. They are also fighting the regime on the Jobar and Ein Tarma fronts, while Jaysh al-Islam is fighting al-Nusra Front in Al-Ash’ari, taking complete control of the Al-Ash’ari region.”
Mar15  internal_struggle  Damascus  AhrarAl-Sham  FSA  JabhatAl-Nusra  JayshAl-Islam 
august 2017 by elizrael
‘Almost as Bad as the Regime’: Inside Syria’s Rebel-Run Prisons — Syria Deeply, July 25, 2017
In the past week alone, his monitoring group recorded the kidnapping of dozens of civilians in Idlib by HTS. On June 15, the monitor claimed that more than 50 FSA rebels are currently being detained in an HTS prison located in the northern Hama countryside, near Idlib. Syria Deeply could not independently verify these reports.

Zidan says that these HTS crackdowns and arrests target any individual or group that has a large following and is capable of “changing public opinion” in its respective area of control. These people, are often presented with three options, he said: “detention, death or following their [HTS] ideology.”

“Random arrests take place all around Eastern Ghouta. Some former prisoners who had been detained by Jaish al-Islam have spoken of the abysmal conditions in [their] prisons, and especially in al-Tawba,” he said.

Firas, a 32-year-old resident of the suburb, was detained in the facility for a month in the summer of 2016. Unlike other prisoners who were accused of spying for the government or colluding with rival rebel groups, the Douma native says he was thrown into jail for raising a complaint against a well-connected neighbor who had links to the hard-line Jaish al-Islam group.
torture  JayshAl-Islam  JabhatAl-Nusra  PrisonerRights  Mar15  Damascus  corruption 
august 2017 by elizrael
Security ‘deteriorates’ in Damascus suburbs as rebels usurp police stations, install paramilitary - Syria Direct, June 22, 2017
Armed gunmen from the Failaq a-Rahman rebel faction reportedly stormed a police station on Sunday in the opposition-held Damascus suburbs, a police spokesman tells Syria Direct.

The rebel fighters drove out the policemen, seized all of their equipment and occupied the building in the latest in a nearly two-month wave of Failaq attacks on East Ghouta police stations and officers.

“It’s chaos here, and things will continue like this so long as Failaq a-Rahman prohibits the police and the judiciary from doing their jobs,”  Mohammad, a spokesman with the East Ghouta Free Police, tells Syria Direct’s Waleed Khaled a-Noufal.

The East Ghouta Free Police, a force intended to be independent of rebel groups, is the most recent casualty of the conflict. After its headquarters in the Central Section came under attack “on more than five occasions,” the group announced it would begin suspending its operations in the Failaq a-Rahman-controlled territory last month.

Failaq a-Rahman has also formed what they call the “military police,” which they established as an alternative to the Free Police. We, however, are continuously working with organizations across East Ghouta to pressure Failaq to keep the Free Police as a neutral, civil society entity as opposed to a military-affiliated organization.

We really don’t have any issues with Jaish al-Islam. There is a mutual understanding about the crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the police and the ones that Jaish al-Islam handles. The police oversee all crimes with the exception of matters dealing with the regime and Daesh. The police force does not touch these crimes, and they are transferred to Jaish al-Islam’s internal security branch.
police  Mar15  FSA  Damascus  JayshAl-Islam  lawlessness  internal_struggle 
july 2017 by elizrael
The Economic Map of Ghouta: Tunnels and ‘the Prince of Cheese’ | SyriaUntold, July 9, 2017
https://www.enabbaladi.net/archives/160188

Manfoush is not the only businessman who brings goods into Ghouta. Well-connected businessmen, faction leaders and Assad’s officers control the market and the movement of goods – and therefore people’s lives. However, none of them is as well known and influences the market as much as Manfoush, after whom the main checkpoint at the city of al-Tal in Rif Dimashq was named.

Enab Baladi met with one of the directors of Rahma Foundation (Mercy Foundation), whose name, along with our other sources, has been withheld for their protection. The foundation is a front for Failaq al-Rahman and is in charge of Rahma tunnel. According to the manager, the tunnel, which was initially dug to break the monopoly on the market, did not help ease the suffering of the besieged people, because it was turned into profitable business for businessmen and faction leaders.

“Everyone finds in the tunnel the perfect opportunity to make money. Since the very first tunnel was completed, Fajr al-Umma, the faction that had dug the tunnel, took control of all incoming goods and sold them for extremely high prices. In 2014, for example, 1kg of sugar was sold for 60-70 Syrian pounds [around 30 cents] in Damascus, but Fajr al-Umma sold it for 3,500 Syrian pounds [more than $16] within Ghouta,” says the manager.
The director also pointed out that every month Fajr al-Umma gave away free food and a tank of propane for people in Harasta in attempt to strengthen its popularity in the area, while people in some areas in Ghouta were suffering from malnutrition.

At this point, Jaish al-Islam, Fatah al-Sham and Failaq al-Rahman interfered and put pressure on Fajr al-Umma to give them access to the tunnel. As a result, they – together with local councils, civil organizations and relief offices – gained access to the tunnel for 14 days every month, while Fajr al-Umma had access for the rest of the month.

The director explained that the faction charged 10 percent of anything that came into Ghouta through the tunnel, even when it was for medical or relief uses. If the medical office, for example, brought in 10 boxes, the faction would take one box, regardless of its content.

According to the director of the Rahma Foundation and a number of officials in local councils, Fajr al-Umma required civil institutions and local councils to sell food at a fixed price, determined by what the faction itself found suitable for the market. If their pricing scheme was not applied, the faction would refuse to let food through the tunnel.

-The terms of the movement of civilians that are publicly agreed upon by the factions are summarized as:

-Those passing through the tunnels must be born before 1970, since the factions are in need of young fighters.

-The person passing must provide clearance from the Unified Judiciary, to prove that there are no cases outstanding against him or her, and a clearance from the Housing Bureau.

-Fighters must provide an official permit from their faction.

These conditions were strictly enforced for a brief period, during which, despite the internal problems between the factions, the unified leadership and judiciary maintained a strong rule in Ghouta. But after the killing of Zahran Alloush, a rift in the unified leadership emerged, fighting between the factions broke out and everything turned into chaos, Khaffash said.

Due to the widespread despair in Ghouta, some faction leaders would help young people leave Ghouta in exchange for money. They would enroll these young men in their factions, and then provide them with official permits to leave for a certain task in Barzeh or Qaboun, and from there they would go wherever they wanted. The cost of this service, according to Khaffash, was around 100,000 Syrian pounds ($465). But he pointed out that the situation was different in Jaish al-Islam. No one could falsify an enrollment form to Jaish al-Islam, except for the commander himself, since each fighter has a serial number known by all security branches.

Enab Baladi met with some of the men who left Eastern Ghouta to Turkey through the tunnels. While the civilians paid 150,000-200,000 Syrian pounds ($700-$930) for a military task permit to get out of Ghouta, the fighters who crossed the tunnel using their legitimate permits had to pay $500-$2,000 in bribes to the regime forces in order to pass the regime’s checkpoints.

Some small groups fabricate fake clashes. They document in the group’s registry that they used a certain number of bullets, only to smuggle them out of Ghouta to sell them in Barzeh or Qaboun. Despite being rare, many sources with whom Enab Baladi met confirmed that such fabrications happen. However, our reporters could not find any solid proof.

Some fighters smuggle and sell rare weapons that they confiscate during fighting, or those that they had owned before the revolution. This practice is legally prohibited in Ghouta, but fighters find a way around the law. They leave using military permits, which allow them to take their weapons with them after registering them at the tunnel’s exit. However, the fighters who plan on selling their weapons take advantage of the lack of communication between the different factions and come back through a different tunnel.
JayshAl-Islam  Damascus  blockade  corruption  trade  smuggling  tunnels  FSA  JabhatAl-Nusra 
july 2017 by elizrael
Bribes, graft and the cost of moving cash in Syria’s war economy - Syria Direct
Aid money entering the East Ghouta suburbs must first pass through the area’s largest rebel faction, Jaish al-Islam, at the only remaining checkpoint leading into the blockaded, 400,000-person region.

But for nearly six weeks, Jaish al-Islam has prevented the flow of cash into territory controlled by rival militias—arresting traders and seizing their money—in an attempt to starve its enemies of funding, five aid officials and local medical practitioners tell Syria Direct. The result is a near-total economic blockade within half of East Ghouta, already encircled by regime forces since 2012.

Anything that enters East Ghouta must first go through the dairyman’s crossing. By May, with the Wafideen crossing reopened, international aid money was once again entering East Ghouta, but not without multiple parties exacting their pound of flesh.

Wire transfer offices, money-runners, regime border guards at the Wafideen crossing, al-Manfoush and Jaish al-Islam are each reportedly exploiting the bottleneck into East Ghouta by charging higher fees to move money since the crossing reopened. The cost of a money transfer reportedly skyrocketed from a maximum of approximately five dollars per transaction to as high as 20 percent before the cash ultimately reaches its destination.

Once any money transfer enters East Ghouta via the Wafideen crossing, its next destination is Jaish al-Islam’s Economic Office in Douma.

It is here that Jaish al-Islam plays the role of gatekeeper for the entire rebel-held enclave. Only with the rebel group’s blessings can the cash reach its intended recipient, whether that is a hospital, local council office or individual family.
JayshAl-Islam  corruption  Mar15  Damascus  blockade  smuggling  aid  health 
july 2017 by elizrael
Rebel infighting puts more strain on hospitals in Syria's Ghouta - Al-Monitor, June 16, 2017
In Eastern Ghouta, one of the armed rebellion's last footholds in Rif Dimashq, recent infighting between Islamist rebel groups has created yet more risks for hospitals, medical staff and patients. Medical staff have been arbitrarily detained, beaten and threatened. Medical infrastructure, including front-line hospitals, have been commandeered by armed groups.

On June 1, monitoring group Syrians for Truth and Justice warned that in the wake of interfactional clashes that began in April, "the frequency of arbitrary arrests and assaults … against a number of medical personnel" has escalated.

In mid-May, a group of doctors travelling between two areas of Ghouta that are controlled by opposing factions were detained and threatened with violence.

"All the doctors intended to return to Douma, which is controlled by the Army of Islam [Jaish al-Islam]. They got on an ambulance, and on the way back, a Faylaq al-Rahman-operated checkpoint … stopped the medical personnel and attacked them," the Syrians for Truth and Justice report stated.

Since the first day of infighting — April 28 — Al-Salam Hospital in Ghouta has also been struggling to operate after armed gunmen believed to be from Jaish al-Islam raided the hospital's main supplies warehouse and took off with some 90% of its contents. Clashes in an area then under Hayat Tahrir al-Sham's control reached around the area of the warehouse, but armed men then entered and confiscated the items, including emergency room equipment and drugs, according to a hospital manager speaking to Al-Monitor on June 8.

Jaish al-Islam representatives were unavailable for comment. However, the group's spokesman, Hamzeh Birqdar, was quoted on June 1 as saying that Jaish al-Islam would "return [the supplies] to the people of East Ghouta as soon as possible," according to Syria Direct.

Hospital staff say they are still waiting more than a month on. "Until now, nothing has been returned," Al-Salam's manager said. "The hospital is open and functional, but the quality of surgical supplies is very poor as a result of the confiscation of the warehouse."
Mar15  internal_struggle  JayshAl-Islam  JabhatAl-Nusra  health  WarCrimes  corruption  crime 
july 2017 by elizrael
The Tangled Web of the Syrian Jihad - WoTR, April 2016
Other important events and dynamics, including ones with special relevance for the jihadist insurgency, seem to be omitted entirely. There is no discussion of rebels’ summer 2012 capture of the eastern half of Aleppo city, for example. It was after the capture of Aleppo city that Nusrah and other Islamist rebels collaborated to establish the Aleppo “Shari’ah Commission,” a combined judicial-service body that was among rebels’ most visible early experiments in Islamist governance. It was also one of the clearest examples of Nusrah’s collaborative approach and its integration into the rebel mainstream.

The book contains little mention of the Aleppo Shari’ah Commission or other shari’ah commissions established on the same model nationwide, including the Deir al-Zour Shari’ah Commission through which Nusrah effectively controlled its oil-rich eastern fiefdom, as I’ve been told by interviewees. Nusrah’s summer 2014 withdrawal from the shari’ah commissions and mostly unilateral establishment of hardline “Dar al-Qada” courts helped signal its more recent radical turn. Nusrah’s Dar al-Qada courts are mentioned only once, despite their role as the linchpin of the group’s new, more aggressive approach to political control. There is no mention of Nusrah’s Public Services Administration, the Aleppo city municipal service administration Nusrah cleaved from the Aleppo Shari’ah Commission and expanded west into the Aleppo and Idlib countryside.

This isn’t only the case with jihadists. When I was fact-checking an insider account of northern rebel politics recently, interviewees told me that nationalist rebel symbol Jamal Ma’rouf had been close with Abu Abdulaziz al-Qatari, a veteran of the Afghan jihad and al-Qaeda in Iraq member who became a leader in Jabhat al-Nusrah before founding the ultra-extreme Nusrah splinter Jund al-Aqsa. But my sources said it wasn’t because Ma’rouf was somehow secretly an al-Qaeda true believer; rather, al-Qatari was just a very nice guy who had set up in a neighboring town. Interviewees told me Yousef al-Hassan, commander of Hama “Free Syrian Army” faction Jabhat Haqq al-Muqatilah, was tight with Ahrar al-Sham’s original leadership mostly because they were half-neighbors — he was from the Hama town of Kafranboudeh, and they were from Qal’at al-Madiq, the next town over.

As others have made clear — most prominently in The Logic of Violence in Civil War by Stathis Kalyvas — it is this sort of local detail that drives a civil war. The specificity gives otherwise-disconnected data points narrative meaning.
books  Mar15  internal_struggle  jihadists  JabhatAl-Nusra  ISIS  JayshAl-Islam 
july 2017 by elizrael
East Ghouta’s rebel infighting spills over to embattled civilians: ‘The factions are sowing hatred’ - Syria Direct, May 16, 2017
The outcome of the internal battles is a near-total shutdown of all transportation—commercial, humanitarian and medical—across East Ghouta as the power struggle between rival rebel factions enters its third week, with hundreds of fighters and civilians dead on both sides.

Central to the dispute is one of East Ghouta’s largest roads, the primary artery that runs the length of the opposition pocket.

Today, dozens of checkpoints, berms and unpredictable gunfire are preventing civilians from traversing East Ghouta’s once-busy, central highway, five local residents tell Syria Direct. The result, they say, has been “devastating": Teachers are separated from their schools, doctors from their hospitals, family members from each other and an entire region split at the seams.

“No one makes the trip [between the two sides] unless they are absolutely forced to,” says Hakim a-Dimashqi, an East Ghouta photographer and video producer. “The road has become long and dangerous, and at any moment there could be renewed clashes with civilians caught in the shooting.” 

In order to move between the two sides of East Ghouta, residents must take a circuitous and dangerous detour, one that winds through active rebel battlefronts and passes just meters from a commonly used regime sniping position. With fuel in East Ghouta in such short supply, the path is most often traveled on foot, turning what should be a 10-minute trip into a deadly, hours-long journey.

“This situation defies logic,” Mahmoud said. “The factions have plunged civilians into their infighting; they’ve torn families in half, and they’ve sown hatred among residents.”
health  blockade  internal_struggle  JabhatAl-Nusra  FSA  JayshAl-Islam  Damascus  FreedomOfMovement  Mar15  hidden  Propaganda 
june 2017 by elizrael
Jaish al-Islam confiscates warehouse full of medical supplies, sparking days of protests by hospital staff - Syria Direct, June 1,2017
A Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in East Ghouta, an opposition enclave just east of Damascus, is now “turning away” patients after local rebels seized a warehouse containing 90 percent of the hospital’s supplies, its administrator tells Syria Direct.

Rebel faction Jaish al-Islam commandeered the a-Salam Surgical Hospital’s store of surgical tools, emergency room equipment, anesthetics and medicine late last month, after disputes between rival rebel factions in East Ghouta erupted into violent infighting.

The warehouse, located in the town of Arbin in East Ghouta’s north, was in Hayat Tahrir a-Sham (HTS) territory until the latest round of infighting, when Jaish al-Islam took control of the area.

“Masked men from Jaish al-Islam took everything,” Abu Muhammad, a-Salam Hospital’s administrator tells Syria Direct’s Majdoleen a-Zouabi and Yazan Torko.

A Jaish al-Islam spokesman denied the administrator’s accusations, telling Syria Direct on Thursday that rebel fighters took over the warehouse in Arbin because rival faction HTS were hoarding medical supplies.

“We will return [the supplies] to the people of East Ghouta as soon as possible,” says Jaish al-Islam spokesman Hamza Birqdar.

Despite days of protests demanding the supplies be returned, Jaish al-Islam has not given back any medical equipment to the hospital, which is now limited to performing basic surgical procedures.
JayshAl-Islam  Damascus  Mar15  internal_struggle  health  human_rights  crime  protests 
june 2017 by elizrael
Accusations of forced displacement as rebel infighting splits East Ghouta in two - Syria Direct, May 25,2017
Douma Revolution, a pro-Jaish al-Islam news page, posted a video on Sunday purportedly showing families who had been kicked out of their homes.

“What can I say—my sons are in Jaish al-Islam…now we’re displaced,” one woman named as Umm Tariq is quoted as saying

Syria Direct spoke with a handful of other residents from East Ghouta’s “Central Section” on Thursday who said they were told by members of Failaq a-Rahman to leave because they had relatives fighting for Jaish al-Islam.
Mar15  internal_struggle  Damascus  JayshAl-Islam  FSA  JabhatAl-Nusra  IDPs  dispossession 
may 2017 by elizrael
Syria: East Ghouta Turns on Itself, Again - TCF, May 2,2017
Youssef, an activist in the East Ghouta, tells me that the Islam Army attack on April 28 successfully broke up 80 percent of the Nusra Front before Failaq al-Rahman intervened to shield the jihadis from destruction. “The Nusra Front no longer exists in the Ghouta as an organization, having lost both its bases and its weapons,” he says. “Unfortunately, however, Failaq al-Rahman helped some of their members seek shelter in its bases,” Youssef claims. “It’s strange,” he says, “this senseless and insane defense by Failaq al-Rahman of the remains of the Nusra Front, especially the foreigners among them, who are seen to be the most extremist figures in the Nusra Front. They’re providing them with weapons and ammunition and they have launched attacks against the Islam Army alongside them.”
JabhatAl-Nusra  Mar15  JayshAl-Islam  FSA  internal_struggle  Damascus 
may 2017 by elizrael
Syrians Under Siege: The Role of Local Councils | Arab Reform Initiative, Sep 13, 2016
Just 3 councils: Douma, Qalaat al-Mudiq, Tasil

According to multiple testimonies,1 the way that local councils are formed varies from region to region depending on the political forces active there. According to testimony from one council member, the council in Douma (near Damascus in Rif Dimashq governorate) was formed through a “democratic” electoral process with the participation of civil society and political actors.2 In 2016, Douma council members numbered 298.

By contrast, the local council in Qalaat al-Madiq, a city in the countryside of Hama Governorate in central Syria, was formed in 2013 through an agreement between the city’s military and civil society leaders. According to the head of the council,4 the Shoura Council selected members for the local council in coordination with leaders of military factions. He said that the council is independent and free from interference from local military groups. Nonetheless, the council remains dependent on funding from military groups and is therefore subject to influence by them


The local council in the town of Tasil, in Daraa Governorate in southern Syria, was formed through a different process. According to a teacher in Tasil,5 two members from each family in the town were selected, and the council members were elected from amongst them. As a result, the council is more or less representative of most families in Tasil. Although this formation mechanism ensures the council’s independence from the influence of military factions, it is more akin to a family and tribal system than to a democratic one most councils, including those described above, have to deal with interference from the opposition military groups that control their area. Judicial courts, for example, which fall within the councils’ purview, are often subject to change. Some courts which started out as independent and secular have become sharia courts as a result of pressure from military groups. Military groups also undermine the work of the judiciary, as each of them has their
own sharia courts that do not recognize any outside authority. Furthermore, local councils have authority only over civilians; they have no power over combatants operating within military groups

To fill gaps in the curriculum, local councils instead focus on the educational process, though in many cases Baathist ideology has been replaced with an Islamist one. This is often imposed by the parties that finance the education sector or
bodies that operate under military groups. At the same time, local councils struggle to protect the civil and secular aspects left in the curriculum, which are threatened with removal.
Daraa  Hama  Damascus  blockade  localGovt  Judiciary  FSA  elections  JayshAl-Islam  education 
april 2017 by elizrael
Discord Among Rebel Groups in Ghouta Beckons Regime Intervention - Al-Modon, Mar 14, 2017
How can we explain this surreal situation? Specialists and observers count a number of reasons for the conflict and division between the factions east of Damascus. The strength of regionalism is one of the first causes, as some of the factions include residents of certain towns who reject other factions comprised of residents from neighboring towns to take control of their neighborhood.

Against the backdrop of regionalism, other causes such as economic interests become more entrenched. In this respect, observers report a surreal situation in the Ghouta, manifested in the figure of Abu Ayman al-Manfoush, one of the major traders in Mesraba. Manfoush enjoys strong relations with Faylaq al-Rahman who favors them as partners in commercial dealings, selling goods to their fighters at lower rates, while the people of Douma under control of Jaish al-Islam receive the same goods from him at higher rates.

In the same context, Fatah al-Sham — previously the Nusra Front — appears in the picture under the name “Jaish al-Fustat.” The group controls several crucial underground tunnels which connect the Ghouta to al-Qaboun. From there, some high in demand goods pass into the area. Fatah al-Sham controls these tunnels and Jaish al-Islam accuses them of using them to pressure other Ghouta residents in areas under Jaish al-Islam control.

A few days ago, Jaish al-Islam announced that it had planned a major military operation into the heart of the capital Damascus. However, according to Jaish al-Islam’s indictments, the First Brigade of the Southern Front, which controls the Barzeh district of Damascus, obstructed the military operation. The two groups blamed one another, with Jaish al-Islam denouncing the First Brigade as traitors and agents of the Assad regime.

Observers say that the First Brigade’s stance stemmed from Barzeh residents’ wish to avoid becoming targets of retaliatory campaigns by the regime if Jaish al-Islam used Barzeh as point of entry into the capital Damascus.
Mar15  Damascus  internal_struggle  smuggling  blockade  JayshAl-Islam  FSA  JabhatAl-Nusra 
april 2017 by elizrael
To Work in Douma, Men Must Join Militants of Jaish Al-Islam — Syria Deeply, Feb 24, 2017
In addition to controlling the food supplies and all political, military and judicial institutions, Jaish al-Islam has a monopoly on employment in Douma. The group has set up an employment center where applicants are matched with available jobs, almost all of which they control. The armed group’s approval is required even for private initiatives, such as shops, charities and pharmacies.

Faced with the prospect of being unable to feed his family, Omar had no choice but to visit the center and accept the work Jaish al-Islam assigned him. Many men in Douma face the same fate.

He decided to quit after becoming disenchanted with the group’s objectives. “When I joined Jaish al-Islam, I thought that I was going to liberate Syria from tyranny,” he said. “But later I later discovered that Jaish al-Islam is no different from the Syrian regime.”

In Douma, tunnels are used to smuggle everything from medicine and food supplies to ammunition – and even people. The difficult and sometimes dangerous work of digging the tunnels connecting Douma with areas beyond the siege borders is another field of work available to the city’s many unemployed men and pays nearly $100 a month.

“We work for 12 hours a day,” said Omar, a 25-year-old resident of Douma. “If I do not finish the task on time, they dock my salary. Sometimes we do not get paid for several months. I don’t like this job, but I have no other choice. I do not have the connections to get a better job.”

The manual labor is so arduous that, occasionally, Jaish al-Islam will assign the work to its prisoners. Men are reported to have died as tunnels collapsed on them while they were digging, or through lack of ventilation. Some have been killed by government bombs targeting the tunnels, or arrested by pro-regime forces after being accused of attempting to smuggle goods through the underground routes.

One of the highest-paid jobs with Jaish al-Islam in Douma is not that of a fighter, but an informant for its Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vices institution – a form of religious police. For roughly $200 a month, informants are required to report violations of its code to the armed group, who will then usually arrest the accused party to “send the message that they are present and powerful,” said 22-year-old Douma resident Bilal.
authoritarian_regime  tunnels  Mar15  Damascus  JayshAl-Islam  repression  poverty  unemployment 
april 2017 by elizrael
The Syrian Rebel Who Tried to Build an Islamist Paradise - POLITICO Magazine, March 31, 2017
In early 2015, the Syrian military bombed Alloush’s tunnels, disrupting the trade and increasing the Islam Army’s dependence on Abu Khaled al-Zahteh. Foreign support also seems to have tapered off, partly because of U.S. pressure on the Gulf Arab states to rein in Islamist fundraisers, some of whom had been sponsoring Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. According to reports in the Arabic press, Alloush was eventually forced to borrow money from local merchants to make ends meet.

Safely back in the enclave, Alloush decided to make a move on the tunnels. “The Islam Army leadership began erecting earth berms around the town of Harasta and they banned people from entering or exiting,” recalled a supporter of Abu Khaled al-Zahteh. That summer, Alloush ordered tanks to the outskirts of Harasta, but, with impeccable timing, Abu Khaled had just rediscovered his interest in religion and was accepted back into the ranks of Ajnad al-Sham, which told Alloush to back off. The Islam Army leader was furious, but he could do nothing unless he wanted to trigger a major battle with several factions at once. He withdrew the tanks. But with the Islam Army’s logistical needs still unmet and its appetite for power unsatisfied, the status quo was unsustainable. In an enclave now teeming with distrust and accumulated ill will, all sides began to prepare for the coming confrontation.

To the population of the Eastern Ghouta, the bickering rebel leaders looked like vultures feeding from a carcass. They were incapable of breaking the siege, but in the eyes of local activists they didn’t even seem to be trying, instead squandering their resources on venal feuds over the tunnel trade. A 2015 study by the London School of Economics found “widespread resentment” against the insurgent commanders, even among solidly anti-Assad respondents. All the while, Assad kept up a relentless drumbeat of airstrikes against the Eastern Ghouta, killing hundreds of civilians and creating an intolerable state of paranoid suspense and terror.
JayshAl-Islam  internal_struggle  Damascus  smuggling  tunnels  blockade 
april 2017 by elizrael
ريف دمشق.. اعتداء بالضرب على الإعلامي "ياسر الدوماني" - The Syrian Journalists Association, Mar 17, 2015
وقال "الدوماني" لموقع "رابطة الصحفيين السوريين"، إنه تعرض أمس للاعتداء بالضرب من قبل مسلحين اثنين مجهولين يرتديان زياً عسكرياً، هاجماه في المدينة وقاموا بتحطيم سيارته.

وأوضح أن الاعتداء عليه جاء على ما يبدو بعد كتابته انتقادات للمسؤولين والأفرع الأمنية في دوما ومطالب بالإفراج عن معتقلين سياسيين في المدينة على حساباته في مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي.

Attack on the 16th of March
Mar15  Press_freedom  JayshAl-Islam  Damascus  repression 
march 2017 by elizrael
Rising oppression: Syrian opposition group with history of abuses closes magazine | Al Bawaba
Rising oppression: Syrian opposition group with history of abuses closes magazine
mine  JayshAl-Islam 
march 2017 by elizrael
Into the Tunnels - TCF, Dec 21, 2016
spearheaded the creation of military and judicial institutions that could potentially have evolved into a post-Assad government.
Weakened by its failure to control the tunnel economy and by the death of its leader, the Islam Army’s dominance was shattered by infighting in spring 2016. Since then, the enclave has been split and Assad is now moving to recapture it.
Mar15  internal_struggle  corruption  smuggling  Damascus  blockade  JayshAl-Islam  JabhatAl-Nusra  AhrarAl-Sham  Muslim_Brotherhood  FSA  protests  Judiciary  tunnels 
february 2017 by elizrael
Merchants Strike in Damascus Countryside as Residents Call for Rescue of East Ghouta - All4Syria, Nov 4, 2016
The protesters demanded the construction of an operations room, eliminating checkpoints between the Ghouta’s cities and towns, opening the quiet fronts, and returning rights to their owners.

Bustani said that demonstrators also demanded the trial of masked militants and those who commanded them in Faylaq al-Rahman to shoot at protesters.

He said that Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) group agreed to the protesters' demands in a decision sealed by the commander and Jaish al-Fustat operations room had agreed verbally to the demands, while Faylaq al-Rahman had not agreed to the four conditions.
protests  Mar15  Damascus  blockade  civil_society  activism  JayshAl-Islam 
january 2017 by elizrael
The Endless Hostilities of Army of Islam - al-Modon, Oct 26, 2016
Infighting between East Ghouta's main rebel groups threatens to undermine the security of the opposition-held district as regime forces encircling the Ghouta area stand to benefit from the instability

This collapse in the relations between the two parties comes after a round of negotiations carried out by the Army with a delegation close to the regime over the last few days. The negotiations were attended by civilian parties loyal to the Army, such as the local council in the city of Douma, which lost its independence after the Army gained solid control of Douma, and thereby over the Douma people’s council.

The negotiations with the regime did not bear fruit after it imposed conditions which the Army of Islam considered unfair to it and limited only to the areas under its control, and which would not have been imposed by the regime if the Army controlled the whole Ghouta.

The Army of Islam has not changed its security practices, most recently the aggression through attacks on the organizers of a feminist lecture around the political rights of women after they rejected the order from Army security officials to cancel it. The security officials told organizers they would have to bear the reaction of the people, before a group of young marched on the lecture hall, broke it up, looted its contents, and attacked two young men from among the conference organizers. The organizers accused them of trying to “spread immorality and desecrate our honor.”

Many Ghouta activists feared the possibility of the return of the Army’s control and the return of it restricting public activity and the relative intellectual diversity which has become a reality in the areas under Al-Rahman control.
protests  Mar15  activism  JayshAl-Islam  FSA  repression  female  feminism  women_rights 
november 2016 by elizrael
Damascus Control Emboldens Assad Nationally - WINEP, Aug 2, 2016
Beginning in the 1970s, the regime also sought to distribute Alawites strategically throughout the city. In this arrangement, regime officials still live in Malki, around Assad's private residence, while lower-ranking civil servants inhabit Mezzeh 86, a large area overlooking the wealthy neighborhoods of Mezzeh. Also attracting Alawites are the originally Druze-Christian suburban towns (e.g., Jdeidat Artouz, Jaramana, and Sahnaya), which offer a more sustainable lifestyle than the conservative Sunni areas of Ghouta (e.g., Douma, Daraya, Zamalka) -- which have become strongholds of the rebellion.

Since Hafiz al-Assad's rise, the Syrian regime likewise allowed Alawite, Druze, and Christian neighborhoods to expand close to the strategic axes linking Damascus to the rest of the country and Lebanon, while also interrupting the city's "Sunni crescent." This is the case in the large suburb of Jaramana, which beginning in the 1980s was developed along the road to Damascus International Airport, fitting the regime's strategic plan to separate the city's Sunni suburbs -- West and East Ghouta.

As compared to government-controlled western Aleppo, which is being buffeted by rebel rocketfire, the Syrian capital is relatively calm. Public services are operating normally, and barring the sound of artillery from Jabal Qasioun pounding rebel areas, the war seems far away. The international airport is operating again, and the main roads to Homs, Deraa, and Beirut are safe. Such developments can only reassure Assad. Although he still does not control most of the country and his army can barely preserve the recent territorial gains facilitated by the Russian air force's intervention, Assad feels less threatened because he holds Damascus. And because he no longer needs Putin to defend the airspace over Damascus, he will be less likely to bow to Russian pressure, not to mention other international pressure, to cede power. What Assad does still need in Damascus is continued strong defensive military support from Iran, its proxy Hezbollah, and Iraq Shiite militias. As it stands, without a real military threat to Damascus, neither Assad nor Iran will accept a political transition in Syria, even if Russia agrees to one.
Alawite  Mar15  Damascus  geography  Druze  Christians  blockade  JayshAl-Islam  Iran  Shia  Hizbollah  Russia 
october 2016 by elizrael
March on Douma: Regime breaks 58-day stalemate in East Ghouta - Syria Direct, Sep 28,2016
Jaish al-Islam has not coordinated with other rebel groups on the Katibat al-Ishara front since rebel infighting broke out in April, Hamza Beriqdar, spokesman for Jaish al-Islam’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Syria Direct on Wednesday.
Damascus  JayshAl-Islam  internal_struggle  Mar15  blockade 
october 2016 by elizrael
The MOC’s Role in the Collapse of the Southern Opposition - Atlantic Council, Sep 23, 2016
The effects of the MOC’s decisions are not limited to the front in Daraa; they also extend to regions in the countryside around Damascus. Russia has focused mainly on the north and central regions of the country since last August, when its intelligence services learned of a plan that Saudi Arabia and Jordan were preparing (through the MOC) to launch a sudden attack through Daraa and Quneitra to bring down Damascus, accompanied by a huge mobilization from Jaysh al-Islam, led by Saudi’s man Zahran Alloush. This would have been Saudi’s first foothold in Syria, and it would have taken Eastern Ghouta as its primary headquarters. Russia verified their intelligence with information from the field from Hezbollah, which had noted unusual movements around Jobar and Qura al-Asad outside Damascus. Russian planes changed their usual routes from the north to the south, and launched air strikes on several sites in Jobar and Eastern Ghouta. They hit the two towns of Marj al-Sultan and Deir al-Asafeer especially hard, as well as other villages that make up the opposition’s supply lines. The leaders’ positions were destroyed, a large number of opposition fighters were killed, and thus the opposition’s attack was thwarted before beginning.
Some fighters who did not belong to any of these factions managed to band together and form new brigades, to rekindle the revolution in the south, and have more independence from the MOC. Their primary goal is to take back regions under regime control and enable displaced persons to return home. The fighters, who numbered only around 2,500, reached out to local councils in Eastern Ghouta to act as a secure base for them, and provide a social and political cover for the fighters.

On August 30, 2016, Arbin Council released a statement that they agreed to restructure the rebel group Saraya al-Sham and create a new faction under the auspices of Arbin’s local council. It stated that the council would not undertake any financial burden related to the faction, that the faction would not be allowed to intervene in civilians’ affairs, and that it is required to defend public freedoms and respect human rights under the law and within reason. Four other councils also adopted the same idea around the same time, but their role was limited to administrative coordination, and they did not release statements of their decision or publicize it in the media.

Some activists in the region have worked with military and civil leaders in an attempt to amass a greater number of fighters under bigger civil umbrella entities, like the provincial council. Their offer was well received by several leaders, who ultimately agreed to ensure food support and salaries, at a minimum.
JayshAl-Islam  Russia  Daraa  MOC  Jordan  obama_administration  aid  foreign_aid  FSA  Damascus  localGovt  Saudi-Arabia 
october 2016 by elizrael
Fearing bombardment, East Ghouta town demands armed groups leave - Syria Direct, Aug 1, 2016
Residents of Misraba, in the rebel-held East Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, are demanding that all armed factions leave in a bid to make the town less of a target for airstrikes and bombardment.

One week ago, after an airstrike reportedly killed a dozen people in the town, the Misraba Local Council issued a statement demanding that all armed groups leave. “The residents of [Misraba] call for the exit of all armaments from the town …to avoid subjecting the town and its people to dangers, tragedy and damages that they cannot bear,” the statement read.

“Most people are very angry about the presence of security checkpoints and heavy weapons in the town,” a member of the town’s local council, which maintains civilian control of the city, tells Syria Direct’s Bahira al-Zarier and Mahran Mohammed.

Rebel factions Jaish al-Islam and Failaq a-Rahman currently maintain checkpoints in and around Misraba, a town of 25,000 residents.

Both Jaish and Failaq pledged to leave Misraba this past May, designating it a “neutral area” as part of a deal to stop nearly two weeks of deadly infighting. It wasn’t until July 28 that Jaish al-Islam partially withdrew from Misraba, while Failaq remains in place.

If the armed groups do not leave, residents will “protest peacefully until we achieve our goals,” said the council member, who requested anonymity.

“We left Bashar al-Assad for freedom and dignity. It doesn’t make sense for another group to come along and revoke our freedom.”

Many people here are worried about cameras because they bring nothing except for more bombs.

The world knows about the violations and massacres that are occurring but they are spineless. There is no point to photography—it doesn’t bring us anything. Also many journalists aren’t professionals.

Q: You’re asking rebel factions to leave. Do you see the regime as a threat?

We aren’t asking the groups to leave Ghouta. We want them to leave Misraba. Our city is far from the front lines. As I told you before, we are the commercial market for all of Ghouta and we have a dense population of civilians.

[Ed.: Traders living in Misraba reportedly cut deals with traders in neighboring regime-held territory and are able to bring some goods into East Ghouta. The illicit trade, coupled with smuggling tunnels, is a lifeline for the regime-blockaded suburbs and makes Misraba an economic center.]
Mar15  Damascus  blockade  JayshAl-Islam  internal_struggle  civil_society  localGovt  activism 
october 2016 by elizrael
Ghouta Infighting Challenges Jaish al-Islam’s Rule | Syria Deeply, June 1, 2016
A month-long struggle between the two leading factions in the besieged suburb of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus ended last week when the parties agreed to a cease-fire. However, the dispute raises questions over the rule of Jaish al-Islam, the leading faction in the area.

A Syrian analyst, who asked to remain anonymous because he works with groups operating in areas under Islamist control, said that the media had misrepresented the infighting as being between Jaish al-Islam and Failaq al-Rahman, which is backed by the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

According to him, the truth is far more complicated. The struggle arose from the way in which Jaish al-Islam had imposed itself on the area using intimidation.
JayshAl-Islam  Mar15  internal_struggle  Damascus  JabhatAl-Nusra  FSA  authoritarian_regime  Assassination 
september 2016 by elizrael
An Islamist Experiment: Political Order in the East Ghouta - Carnegie, April 18, 2016
Rebels in Syria’s East Ghouta enclave have established a unique system of coordination and governance under the auspices of one of Syria’s most powerful rebel factions.
localGovt  Judiciary  Mar15  JayshAl-Islam  Damascus 
september 2016 by elizrael
Showdown in East Ghouta - Carnegie Middle East Center, May 4, 2016
If negotiations fail to overcome the divide between rebel factions, the East Ghouta may be heading for a permanent internal split.

“The Islam Army is on a downward spiral, I think,” says a Syrian source that is closely involved with the armed opposition groups. “A confrontation was a foregone conclusion as soon as Zahran died. There was a power vacuum that Feilaq al-Rahman and the Nusra Front will rush to fill. It's like when a powerful mafia don gets killed and rival families move in to take advantage.”
JayshAl-Islam  Mar15  Damascus  internal_struggle  FSA  JabhatAl-Nusra 
september 2016 by elizrael
Fearing rebel retaliation, East Ghouta journalists silent after hundreds hospitalized - Syria Direct, June 22, 2016
However, one journalist, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the food was handed out by, Sa’ad, a charity administered by the powerful rebel group, Jaish al-Islam.

No one is speaking up because “we’re afraid of the security forces [affiliated with Jaish al-Islam]; we could get arrested or accused of conspiring against the revolution,” he said.
Press_freedom  JayshAl-Islam  food  Mar15  Damascus 
june 2016 by elizrael
East Ghouta loses its breadbasket: ‘The regime exploited the ongoing infighting’ - Syria Direct, May 19, 2016
On Wednesday, at least part of Jaish al-Islam’s forces stationed in Marj withdrew from the fronts just before the latest regime gains as a direct result of the infighting, a JAI fighter told Syria Direct on Thursday, requesting anonymity.

“Nusra had cut the road to us [in Marj] and prevented the evacuation of the wounded and the entry of food and reinforcements,” he told Syria Direct. On Wednesday, “JAI fighters were able to open a gap in the road, which was being covered by Nusra snipers, and the order was given to withdraw.” Syria Direct cannot independently confirm his account.
internal_struggle  Damascus  blockade  JayshAl-Islam  Mar15  JabhatAl-Nusra 
may 2016 by elizrael
'Stop Fighting Between Yourselves': Civilians Pressure Opposition Leadership in East Ghouta - Al-Souria, May 4, 2016
Local media activists published images on Facebook and Twitter of Eastern Ghouta residents protesting in the districts of Douma and Masarba, demanding that the factions stop fighting each other and instead focus attention on the regime’s attempts to exploit the division by attacking the opposition’s fronts in Damascus and Aleppo. Protesters raised signs, one of which read: “Oh Aleppo, forgive us, we’re killing each other with our own hands.”
internal_struggle  JayshAl-Islam  Mar15  Damascus  protests  civil_society 
may 2016 by elizrael
East Ghouta a war zone despite truce: ‘Warplanes began flying this morning’ - Syria Direct, Mar 31, 2016
Pro-regime media outlets reported on Wednesday that the Syrian Arab Army cut off the last supply route leading from northern East Ghouta to villages in al-Marj, where they claim Jabhat a-Nusra has a presence. But a war photographer from inside Marj, who preferred anonymity, told Syria Direct Thursday that “the road is still passable, but with difficulty.”

Marj is a cluster of 28 villages and contains fertile agricultural land. It serves as “the agricultural storehouse for East Ghouta, with huge agricultural plots and fruit-bearing trees...that have helped ease the siege” on East Ghouta, Abu Suleiman, member of the Outer Damascus Provincial Council, which organizes civilian life and municipal services in the rebel-held area, told Syria Direct earlier this month.

A regime takeover of the breadbasket of East Ghouta—encircled for nearly four years—will squeeze civilians even harder, a rebel fighter in Marj told Syria Direct at the start of the regime's latest campaign.
“All of the brigades operational in Marj are part of either Jaish al-Islam or Feilaq a-Rahman,” said provincial council member Abu Suleiman. Neither Jabhat a-Nusra nor the Islamic State, who Abu Suleiman says have no presence in Marj, are included under the international ceasefire agreement.
Mar15  Damascus  hunger  blockade  ceasefire  JayshAl-Islam 
april 2016 by elizrael
The Economics of War: A Case Study on Jaish al-Islam – The OSINT Blog, Mar 19, 2016
Jaish al-Islam is not your ordinary Syrian rebel group; while it may not have the large scale presence of Ahrar al-Sham or Jabhat al-Nusra, it is clearly one of the most well organized rebel groups in Syria. As far as conventional weapons and munitions manufacturing among non-state actors is concerned, Jaish al-Islam is by far the most successful at it. While it is quite clear that their heavy backing by Saudi Arabia and Turkey plays a significant role in their manufacturing capabilities, a large portion of the manufacturing equipment they use, such as forges, lathes and sterilization machines, are simply too large to have been smuggled in with the support of their foreign backers.
Damascus  JayshAl-Islam  Mar15  weapons  IED 
april 2016 by elizrael
Iron Rule: Jaish al-Islam in Eastern Ghouta | Syria Deeply, Mar 22, 2016
Zahran Alloush, the leader of Jaish al-Islam, or "Army of Islam" was killed in December last year in a government air strike. His death, however, did nothing to stop to the group’s totalitarian rule in Eastern Ghouta, where residents say torture and imprisonment without trial occur routinely in the name of "liberation" and Sharia law.

The young man said he was interrogated and tortured by being electrocuted and beaten with metal wires while hanging from a wall. “I was detained at the regime’s air force security prison once, and I found no difference between the two, except that Jaish al-Islam claims to be part of a revolution,” he said.

Many of the prison’s occupants are under the age of 16, and some of them have been detained for longer than 18 months for criticising Jaish al-Islam policies.

Many people in Eastern Ghouta have challenged the policies of Jaish al-Islam – despite the group's power – and organized peaceful protests in Saqba, Hamouriyya, Misraba, Ein Tarma, Jisreen and Kafr Batna. The protests called for an end to Jaish al-Islam’s practices, as well as the holding to account of businessmen – many of them members of armed factions – who have allegedly profited from the years of unrest.
JayshAl-Islam  authoritarian_regime  repression  torture  Mar15  Damascus  protests 
april 2016 by elizrael
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