Aleppo activists blame rebels for ‘anarchy’ after kidnappings

Dozens of demonstrators gathered Monday in Fardous, a rebel-controlled neighborhood of central Aleppo, cutting off one of the city’s main roads by erecting a barricade of burning tires to protest a recent spate of activist disappearances.

The protestors are calling for accountability and security following the disappearance of Mohammed Karman, an activist for the local opposition group Aleppo Revolutionary Council. Thus far, no kidnappers have been identified nor has any group claimed responsibility, though local activists suspect the involvement of Jabhat a-Nusra.

Mohammed is the fourth activist kidnapped in Aleppo in the last month.

Monday’s protest comes in the wake of other popular demonstrations in rebel-held Aleppo. Last week al-Jabhat a-Shamiya dissolved its security forces in the city after residents criticized corruption in their ranks.

At the end of October, popular outcry thwarted a rebel plan to establish a religious police force in the city, with civilians saying it was “time to fight” rather than regulate civil and sharia matters.

It is not a choice of either/or, Mahmoud Shahabi, one of the activists participating in the latest protests, tells Syria Direct’s Alaa a-Nasser.

“If there were actually coordination between them, the [rebels] would be able to protect us both in our homes and on the fronts.”

Q: What is the impetus for the recent protests?

A number of media activists, doctors, members of the local council and I launched a campaign of civil disobedience in order to bring an end to the anarchy that has plagued the city. There has been a series of activist kidnappings in Aleppo.

In order to bring attention to the severity of the current situation, we burnt tires and blocked one of the city’s main roads in the Fardous neighborhood. The campaign is not affiliated with any military faction or political party.

We requested that the rebel factions in Aleppo set up security checkpoints in order to defend activists and civilians. We demand the release of all activists who have disappeared or were arbitrarily arrested.

We will continue in these protests daily until the security situation improves. If there is no response from the rebel brigades, we will escalate our protests to include all areas of Aleppo and maybe even the countryside.

Q: Who do you suspect is behind the kidnapping? And who is responsible for the breakdown of security?

A few days ago, we released a statement accusing Jabhat a-Nusra of the kidnappings. They have hated us and threatened us since we started demonstrating against them in the city last October.

We blame all the rebel brigades generally for the collapse of security and ongoing chaos. As we are revolutionary activists, it is their duty as military brigades controlling the areas we live in to provide us with protection.

Q: Recently, Aleppo residents have called for the rebels to unify their ranks and go to the battle fronts. Now, you are demonstrating asking for them to protect civilians. Is there a split among Aleppo’s civilians in what the rebels should be doing?

There is not a split in the opinion of the people, but rather in the coordination of the military factions. If there were actually coordination, they would be able to protect us both in our homes and on the fronts.

Alaa Nassar

Alaa was forced to flee Damascus with her family because of the pressure from the Syrian regime in 2013. She was a student of Arabic Language & Literature at the University of Damascus. She came to Syria Direct because she hopes to find a new direction in her life and to show the world what is happening in her country.

James Bowker

James Bowker graduated from Tufts University in 2013 with a double major in Arabic Language & Middle Eastern Studies. He has previously worked with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) study-abroad program and as a remote translator for the Article 25 Right to Health campaign.