What are they really fighting for?

By Gianandrea Gaiani 
(The article appeared originally on the Italian daily newspaper La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, and was translated by L. Pavese)

         Al-Qaeda has finally publicly claimed paternity of the strongest and most active militant group among the Syrian rebel movements, and in so doing has put the entire coalition that is fighting against the Bashar Assad’s regime in an embarrassing position. The most open secret about the ideological similarity between the Islamist terrorist network and some of the Salafi militants who are fighting in Syria was revealed by the leader of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia himself, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi. In a communiqué that was broadcast on the web, al-Baghdadi declared that the al-Nusra Front is nothing but the Syrian wing of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and its objective is the creation of an Islamic state in Syria.
 Al-Baghdadi, according to whom the two movements have by now been federated under the denomination of “Islamic State of Iraq and Sham,” declared also that he would favor an alliance with other Syrian jihadists, “with the condition that Syria and her citizens would be governed by the precepts of Allah.”

Until now, the al-Nusra Front had only been suspected to be loosely linked with al-Qaeda, although the group initially had brought attention to itself with bloody attacks in Damascus, and in other Syrian cities, which were identical, in their methods, to the attacks carried out by al-Qaeda in Baghdad.

Thanks to the aid provided largely by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and to the presence of hundreds of foreign jihadists, the al-Nusra Front has turned into one of the best equipped and most efficient rebel fighting forces. Last December, when the Front was included in the list of terrorist organizations by the government of the United States, several movements (Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and “secular” groups) rose up and labeled Washington’s decision rushed and unfair. After al-Baghdadi released his statements , these same groups
are now in a very embarrassing position and they are trying to distance themselves from the al-Nusra front while, at the same time, they admit that there has been, at times, some “tactical” coordination with the jihadists that was mandated by the situation on the battlefield.
The speaker of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Luai Meqdad, explained that: “Al-Nusra exists. It is well funded and armed, and for that reason a few brigades of the Free Syrian Army cooperate with it in some specific operations.” He also confirmed that “the FSA does not share the convictions of the al-Nusra Front; because our goal is clear: to overthrow the regime and set up a democratic state.”
Nevertheless, the fact that the coalition of Syrian rebels is becoming more and more
Islamist and less and less democratic is proved by other elements which have almost inexplicably been ignored (maybe because they’re too embarrassing?) by the European countries who have uncritically sided with the rebels.

A few days ago, the British daily newspaper The Times revealed that the armed wing of the Palestinian group Hamas (a former ally of Syrian President Assad) is now training the rebels of FSA in the east side of Damascus. The British paper quoted western sources as
saying that members of Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades are training units of the FSA in the neighborhoods of Yalda, Jaramana, and Babbila, which are controlled by the rebels.
This would be a confirmation of the fact that Hamas (the extremist group that controls the Gaza Strip) has severed its ties with the former Syrian ally for good, after having placed itself under the protection of the Emir of Qatar, who openly backs several of the rebel Syrian
factions. Supposedly, Qatar has bought the support of Hamas (that until very recently was strongly pro-Syria and pro-Iran) with a promise of M$ 400 worth of investments in Gaza.

        A Palestinian source in Lebanon stated that hundreds of Hamas militias are fighting alongside the FSA in Damascus and Aleppo; but the leadership of Hamas denied it, declaring the neutrality of the Palestinian Islamist group with respect to the war in Syria. Nevertheless, the presence of the Palestinians on the side of the FSA speaks volumes about the supposed “secular character” of the latter group, which consists of deserters who were the first to take up arms against the Syrian government relying on Turkish support.

The most obvious indication of the Islamist drift that the Syrian insurrection is taking is the fatwa that was issued a few days ago by the Syrian (although of Jordanian origin) Salafi imam Yasir al-Ajlawni, who says it is legitimate for the opponents of Bashar al-Assad to rape
“any Syrian woman who is not a Sunni.” In his religious edict, that he issued via an YouTube video, Ajlawni says that, based on Islamic precepts, it is permissible “to capture, and have sexual intercourse” particularly with the women of the Alawite sect (to which President
Assad belongs) or with Christian women; and for that matter with any non-Sunni female.
To emphasize his statement, the pious man called the women he authorized to rape “melk al-yamin”: an expression with which the Quran generically indicates non-Muslim female slaves. Al-Ajlawni was not the first to issue a fatwa aimed at women. Last year, Saudi
preacher Muhammad al-Arifi invited all jihadists “to enter into temporary marriages“ with the Syrian female prisoners, so that “they could take turns lying with them.”  A veritable instigation to gang-rape.
It is not the first time that “our friends and allies” of the Syrian Coalition justify rapes, religious discrimination, and slavery.  A few months ago, Egyptian imam Ishaq Huwaini said that “the female war captives” should be taken “to a slave market,” where concubines — whom he also defined as “that which your right hands own” — “are bought and sold”.

          According to this religious figure, who must be a luminary of Islamic thought considering that nobody even bothered to question his statements, the act of purchasing the woman is enough to make the sexual relation not a sin for the man: “Even without a contract or any other formality, as it is widely agreed among the ulamas.”
“In other words,” added Huwaini, not to leave any doubt in the mind of those in the West, who would be certainly ready to justify his statements on the basis of “cultural diversity” (which is always an asset), “when I want a sexual slave, I go to the market, I choose the one I like and I buy her”.

It is worth emphasizing that al-Ajlawani, al-Arifi and Huwaini have never been disavowed, nor have they ever been told to shut up, by the leader of the Syrian rebel coalition; maybe because they represent the “new wave” that is advancing in Syria.
       It is advancing all right, and mainly with the help of the West.

       Gianandrea Gaiani is an Italian author. He's an historian, a former war correspondent and the editor of the Italian on-line magazine Analisi Difesa. If you are interested in a few more English translations of his articles, please try this one, about the arms trade; this, concerning "the liberation" of Lybia; this, in which he writes about the purchase of the F-35 by the Italian armed forces and finally this one, about the killing of an Italian soldier by our trusty allies in the Afghan army.
       Your comments will be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
        Leonardo Pavese


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