Kafr Nabl activists freed after ISIS arrests

January 6, 2014.

By Abdulrahman al-Masri and Kristen Gillespie

AMMAN: A mass abduction of journalists from the Kafr Nabl media center highlights the ongoing chaos in Syria’s northwest, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham is fighting the FSA and its allies in a village-by-village turf war.

The Kafr Nabl Media Center, known by supporters as the “conscience of the revolution,” has gained renown outside Idlib province where it is based and beyond Syria for its English-language commentary on the war using pop-culture references [read our interview “Inside the Workshop” here.]

KafrNabl AliensThe poster that brought ISIS to the Kafr Nabl Media Center last month.

In the last week of December, the Kafr Nabl activists photographed themselves holding a sign spoofing the poster for the film “Aliens” that depicts ISIS as an alien invader.

At 9:00am on December 28, ISIS knocked on the media center’s door.

“Four men pointed their rifles at my head and ordered me down on the ground,” says Abullah al-Saloum, a member of the media office. “Their emir ordered them to remove everything from the office – nothing was left,” al-Saloum says.

KafrnoblOffice - Courtesy of Raed FaresThe Kafr Nabl Media Center after armed gunmen from ISIS ransacked it on December 28, 2013.

The armed men from ISIS took al-Saloum and five others, not only from his office but also the pro-opposition Fresh Radio, located in the same building. They were taken to a nearby ISIS safe house, given dates and tea, and questioned for several hours about their work as journalists.

“They were asking about who is painting these paintings? Who is writing them? Who is giving us the ideas for them?” al-Saloum said. They were not harmed during the questioning, he added.

Kafenobl Activist - Courtesy of لافتات كفرنبل المحتلةActivists and supporters of the Kafr Nabl Media Center in Idlib province, December 2013.

ISIS was able to reach the office because of the lack of security in Kafr Nabl, activists said. Though controlled by the FSA, ISIS had a foothold in the town and had already provoked the FSA by attacking one of their sites and stealing weapons, said Hassan Hassaki, 35, another member of the Kafr Nabl media center who was not among those kidnapped.

The FSA retaliated by attacking the ISIS site “and forcing them to leave,” Hassaki said.

Though ISIS continues to captures towns in and around Aleppo, Hassaki and al-Saloum say Syrians reject their harsh rule.

“I don’t think they have a future here in Syria because Syrians do not want them,” al-Saloum said.

By attacking the opposition, al-Hassaki says, ISIS is alienating Syrians hoping first and foremost to bring down the Assad regime.  

ISIS “are parasitical, they came for a hidden reason and not to liberate Syria,” al-Hassaki said, echoing a common sentiment among moderate pro-opposition Syrians.

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