New rebel coalition aims for ‘apolitical’ stance

March 13, 2014

Over the past three years, the struggle for a single, unified front has plagued Syria’s opposition as it takes on President Bashar al-Assad’s army.

Recent months, though, have witnessed a marked trend of unification, at least among armed groups on the ground.

In December 2013, the Islamic Front formed the largest coalition to date, bringing together a range of Islamist groups with power bases ranging from Damascus into northern and eastern Syria. In early 2014, several other groups followed suit: the Syrian Revolutionaries’ Front swallowed a number of independent groups that had previously fought under the Free Syrian Army’s banner, while Jaish al-Mujahideen coalesced from dozens of Islamist-leaning groups, primarily in Aleppo.

On Tuesday, the newly announced Legion of the Sham, comprised of 19 groups from Aleppo, Idlib, Homs and Hama, added to the wave.

Syria Direct’s Osama Abu Zeid spoke with Abu Omar from the Legion of the Sham’s just-opened media center. The Legion is totally apolitical, Abu Omar says, and is solely focused one goal: “liberating Syria completely” from the Assad regime.

download The formation of the Legion of the Sham in rural Aleppo province on March 10, 2014. Photo courtesy of the Legion of the Sham.

Q: Why now? Why was the battalion announced at this point?

The announcement didn’t come at a determined time, it came for a specific goal and aim. It came at the moment the brigades agreed to work together and in unity, amidst the ongoing pressures on multiple fronts. It’s a military legion exclusively: it does not follow any political side. It aims for a single goal, and that’s liberating Syria completely, from whatever form of enemy.

Q: There’s no political office for the Legion itself?

Now, and in the current period, the Legion has only a military council working for unification and coordination between groups rallying under its flag.

Q: What is the Legion of the Sham’s position toward the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham?

We, as a newly formed battalion, do not have any problems between us and any other groups except the Syrian regime. But we will stand against any group that infringes on [the rights of] the Syrian people, practices injustice and insults the goals of our revolution.

Q: Who is the military leader of the group? Does it have any liaison with the [Free Syrian Army’s] Joint Command?

 Abu Abd al-Rahman [is our leader.]

We work to coordinate fighting in Syria with all fighting brigades that aim to bring down the regime, and the Joint Command is one of them.

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