January 30, 2014
At least 1,600 Syrians have died, including 206 civilians, in the month since Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) found itself in open, violent confrontation with other rebel factions across northern Syria.
The armed groups combatting ISIS in northern Syria such as Jabhat a-Nusra, the Islamic Front and FSA allies, have consistently held ISIS provocations – including ISIS’s torture and execution of the Islamic Front’s Ahrar a-Sham commander Omar Suleiman – ignited the fitna [schism within the Islamic community], or fighting between them.
Though violence continues – the Turkish military struck an ISIS convoy on the Syrian side of the border Tuesday in response to an errant shell falling on Turkish territory – both sides have largely consolidated their positions. In recent weeks, ISIS has withdrawn from swaths of Aleppo, Idlib and Deir e-Zor, but has tightened full control of a-Raqqa province, as well as the Aleppo province towns of al-Bab, Jarablus and Menbij.
ISIS consolidated its control of a-Raqqa in January.
Photo courtesy of Facebook user George Kadr.
Four weeks after the explosion of violence, ISIS has used its unchecked dominance in a-Raqqa to impose its harsh brand of Islam on the entire city. On Wednesday, ISIS combatants publically flogged bakery workers for praying in their workplace, rather than a mosque, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, while in recent weeks the extremist group has banned smoking and music and decreed that every woman must wear a niqab.
This week, ISIS rejected a proposal–entitled the Umma Initiative–to end the fighting in northern Syria, scuttling a peace plan that had received support from the four other major parties in the violence: Jabhat a-Nusra, the Islamic Front, Jaysh al-Mujahideen and the FSA-aligned Syrian Revolutionaries.
In the second of a two-part interview, Syria Direct’s Osama Abu Zaid spoke with ISIS spokesperson Malath Abu Ra’afat about the group’s iron grip over a-Raqqa and plans to expand their conquests.
Q: What are ISIS’s intentions in a-Raqqa now that it has taken control of the city? Does it intend to recapture Aleppo and Deir e-Zor?
A: The Islamic State represents a project to govern in Islam in practice: It aims to apply Islamic law in a-Raqqa city after it tightened control, with thanks to God. Justice and the order of the hijab (the veil) will spread, encouraging the conservation of good deeds and duties (religious practices). It will also prevent crime and prosecute criminals, providing for the nutritional, medical and educational needs of the people, despite the difficulty of conditions.
ISIS is present on all fronts, including Aleppo and Deir e-Zor, and was on the verge of completely liberating Deir e-Zor. The campaigns were interrupted in Aleppo and Homs. If the Sahwat (a reference to tribal Sunnis in Iraq that fought al-Qaeda) had not stabbed them in the back, it [liberating Deir e-Zor, Aleppo and Homs] would not have been postponed.
However, ISIS’s idea, confirmed by the Sheikhs in their speeches – Emir of the Believers al-Baghdadi, the Spokesman al-Adnani and also Sheikh al-Shishani, may God protect them all – they have arrived to destroy the nuseiri (derogatory from Alawite Muslims) and rule with shari’a.
The Sahwat will not leave the project of protecting the regime and reaching a settlement with it, and [the leaders of ISIS] will not abandon the people who have suffered at the height of events, when crimes have returned as a result of the Sahwat. ISIS has rectified the position quickly, and is able, with assistance from God almighty, to control these fronts. At the same time, it is stretching its hand to everyone who repents for their crimes, and returns to targeting the real enemy, the regime.
Q: What is your response to the hospital massacre ISIS is reported to have committed in Aleppo? Why did the organization target Syrian journalists and activists?
A: The ISIS has been falsely accused of the hospital massacre, many of the charges were strange. But they do not have evidence that makes clear what is claimed! How many incidents have been blamed on ISIS that have since been proven a lie, that ISIS was not responsible for them!
What is the benefit for ISIS, anyway, in targeting the hospital, especially in this unjust media war [so] unjust to it? Free gifts for its enemies?!
It is [ISIS’] people who are exposed to kidnapping, arrests and murder. There is no strength except in God.
Regarding [the accusation] ISIS is targeting journalists: this is untrue. ISIS arrests the suspects to interrogate and investigate them, to put to them a number of questions, then release them. They exited and had no marks on their faces or bodies.
We should be more worried about those who are being kidnapped by others. They kidnap them for ransom or merely for supporting ISIS, and they are mistreated, tortured and maybe killed, not to mention spending a lot of time in prisons without a trial or question!
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