September 4, 2014
Mudar Hasan, an activist living in Damascus, began a Twitter campaign in late August titled #Weinun (#wherearethey) to raise awareness around the thousands of Syrian soldiers who have gone missing since the start of the revolution, either killed in battle or languishing in the prisons of hard-line Islamist groups.
Air force intelligence arrested Hasan last Friday.
A poster asking for the return of Mudar Hasan, reading in part: “Not a traitor, not an agent, not a terrorist.” Photo courtesy of Wienun.
The Weinun campaign has since gained momentum among Syria’s Alawite minority sect, coreligionists of President Bashar al-Assad.
The campaign is not a monolithic movement. Many have used the Weinun campaign to criticize Syrian military authorities deemed responsible for the missing soldiers, while asserting their loyalty to President al-Assad.
Some have taken a more radical approach: the official Weinun Facebook page posted a sharp condemnation of the president himself on September 2:
“You [Assad] present our sons as sacrifices to your chair [i.e. to preserve your rule]…al-Assad is in his palace and our sons are in their graves.”
What various factions of the group seem to agree on is the need for answers about soldiers who have gone missing or been killed in battle, particularly after the executions of up to 250 Syrian officers and soldiers by the Islamic State following their victory over the regime’s Taqba military base.
The soldiers’ executions, with photos and videos of them presumably walking to their deaths, stripped down to their underwear, outraged pro-regime Syrians who demanded the firing of the Defense Minister.
The remaining leaders of Weinun also took up the cause. “As for the responsibility for the airport’s rapid fall into IS hands, that rests on the defense ministry,” a spokesman for the group in Damascus who asked not to be identified tells Syria Direct’s Mohammad al-Haj Ali.
Q: How was Mudar Hassan—who launched the Weinun campaign— arrested? Who arrested him?
Air force intelligence arrested him in Damascus after contacting him to request a meeting to coordinate efforts around publicizing and gaining intelligence concerning the soldiers of Tabqa airport.
Q: Talk about the purpose of the Weinun campaign.
The Weinun campaign was organized by young people afraid for the soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army. We lost thousands of them over the last two months, in A-Raqqa, Qalamoun, Mleiha and Jobar.
The campaign was launched from a humanitarian perspective, so we might learn the fate of the lost soldiers and reassure their families and loved ones.
Q: Have you been in communication with any official or non-official agencies concerning the arrest of Mudar Hassan?
Official communications fell under Mudar’s purview, he was the essential actor in the campaign. After he was arrested we couldn’t communicate, as we never announced our real names and in order to contact any official body you need to give your real name. We’re relying on the political leadership to get involved and secure Mudar’s release.
Q: In your opinion, who is responsible for killing those 250 soldiers from Tabqa airport?
Of course responsibility falls first and foremost on the criminals who killed them, the terrorist organization the Islamic State. As for the responsibility for the airport’s rapid fall into IS hands, that rests on the defense ministry and the military leadership that headed up the operation rooms.
Q: What do you think about the government’s silence in the face of the soldiers whom IS captured?
To be honest, it’s a cold-hearted response towards the hundreds of mothers who yearn for any news of their sons.
Q: What is your response to the government backing off its promise to exclude the defense minister from the new government? Will you continue to support him?
If you mean the president, that’s a given [i.e. our support for him], the president is a symbol that cannot be touched. As for the Minister of Death al-Freij, I assume that sooner or later he will be shuffled out of the government, or even brought to trial.
Q: Who do you think is fit to be the new defense minister of Syria? What are the steps that he needs to take in order to protect Syrian army soldiers?
We consider Colonel Suhail al-Hassan (nickname The Tiger) the best fit for the ministry of defense in this period. We want a man on the ground, we don’t want a minister who jut sits in his office, and whenever a battle is won through martyrs’ blood he goes to take pictures with the bodies.
As for the steps a minister should take: We think that the priority is to reconcile with the Syrian opposition—Syrians only. We should work to close ranks among all Syrians against the shared danger, which threatens us and threatens the opposition and threatens all of Syria.
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