Jaish al-Islam announces deadline for prisoner exchange


February 8, 2015

Mahmoud Darwish

CAPTURED ON CAMERA: The opposition group Jaish al-Islam gave Syrian President Bashar Assad 72 hours to exchange regime-held prisoners for the life of a captured Syrian soldier, putting pressure on the regime’s unofficial policy of refusing to negotiate with rebel groups for Syrian prisoners, according to a video announcement made by the rebels on Saturday. 

Assad had promised the family of the soldier, who activists are calling “Mahmoud Darwish,” on public television last year that he would find the missing regime fighter during a visit to East Ghouta.  

“You have been looking for him, here he is five kilometers from you,” Abdulrahman a-Shami, an official spokesperson for Jaish al-Islam, tells the camera, presumably from East Ghouta, the section of the Damascus suburbs where Jaish al-Islam is headquartered.

 “Jaish al-Islam has saved you the trouble of finding him,” says a-Shami, while a man, purportedly “Darwish,” stands next to him.

In return for the prisoner, the strongest rebel group in the Damascus suburbs demanded that the regime release 100 East Ghouta women held by the Syrian government. It listed the names of each of the women in order to prevent the regime from capturing other women and releasing them instead, a practice the regime has used before.

“I hope that Assad fulfills his promise and releases Syrians like he releases Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese prisoners,” says the captured soldier “Darwish” in the video.

While the regime is known to negotiate with rebel groups for foreign fighters, it rarely does so for Syrian soldiers.

If the Syrian government does not agree to exchange prisoners with Jaish al-Islam, the rebel group will execute “Darwish” on the basis of “crimes” he has committed, said a-Shami.

Over the past several weeks, Jaish al-Islam and the regime have exchanged a series of deadly attacks against each other. The regime has heavily bombed East Ghouta with airstrikes, resulting in dozens of civilian casualties, while Jaish al-Islam launched rockets into Damascus in retaliation.

-February 8, 2014

-Photo courtesy of Jaish al-Islam

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