Opposition authorities vow ‘penalty’ for pro-Assad chants at demonstration in rebel-held Idlib province

AMMAN: Four residents of a village in Syria’s northwest are wanted on Wednesday after leading pro-Assad chants in a rare expression of regime support in rebel-held Idlib province.

On Tuesday, dozens of residents of Tarmalah, a village roughly 50km south of Idlib city, demonstrated in the streets after “more than 10 air raids” killed four people there, including three members of a single family.

Videos of the demonstration show residents walking through the village and calling for rebel headquarters to be removed from the area, chanting “death to the headquarters” and “we want to live with dignity.”

In the videos, a few individuals appear to be leading the demonstration. At one point, pro-regime chants erupt and continue for approximately 30 seconds.

“With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice for you, Bashar,” dozens of Tarmalah residents chanted, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Only God, Syria and Bashar,” they cried.

 Grainy video shows demonstrators chanting pro-regime slogans in Idlib on Tuesday. Image courtesy of Obaidah al-Hayani.

“The demonstration began with chants against the rebel headquarters, then developed into slogans in support of the criminal regime which is bombing the village and caused the massacre,” Ibrahim Abu al-Yazeed, an activist in the south Idlib countryside told Syria Direct.

The protest was the first demonstration of its kind in the town, the activist said.

“There was an outburst of anger after Tuesday’s massacre,” said Abu al-Yazeed.

It was not immediately clear why pro-Assad chants broke out at the protest.

Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels and Islamist militia Ahrar a-Sham control Tarmalah, which has been in rebel hands since 2012. The village has been bombed repeatedly in recent months, said activist Abu al-Yazeed.

 Rebel authorities vow to prosecute those responsible for pro-regime chants on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Tarmalah Security Council.

The activist claimed that rebels do not maintain military headquarters inside the village, but stay at its edges. The village is in an area with many caves and caverns, and opposition groups and civilians alike take shelter in them, he said.

Administrative buildings, a field hospital and sharia court are located inside the village itself, he said.

Following Tuesday’s demonstration, the Tarmalah Local Council issued an online statement describing those who led the chants as “weak individuals.” The locations of the four men remains unknown.

“We will strike with an iron fist whoever tries to deviate the course of our revolution,” read the statement. The police station and rebels of Tarmalah issued an identical statement the same day. 

Four individuals who led Tuesday’s chants “for the criminal Bashar al-Assad” would be “presented to the sharia court to receive the penalty for their action,” read the statement. It was not immediately clear what that penalty would be.

Waleed Khaled a-Noufal

Waleed a-Noufal was born in Ankhel in northern Daraa province. He attended high school in Ankhel but could not continue his study because of security reasons. Waleed worked as an activist in his local city council and the Umayya Media Center. In 2013, he moved to Jordan and finished his high school degree. Waleed wants to bring about a solution to the current crisis through his reporting.

Maria Nelson

Maria Nelson was a 2014-2015 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. She holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, with a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture.