Here, Nura al-Basha, alias of an activist with the Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union, talks to Moutasem Jamal about how the Druze of Suwayda are dealing with reports that the Islamic State has designs on the area.
Two weeks ago, 40 young men from the Aal Naeem family formed the Biraq Aal Naeem brigade which aims to protect the Druze sect from “any aggression and from any party that tries to cross into Suwayda province.”
Q: Can you describe for us the ‘Biraq Aal Naeem’ group? When were they formed and what is their mission?
“Biraq Aal Naeem is a name that references the Naeem family, considered one of the first families to settle in Suwayda city. All the fighters in this brigade are from the Naeem family.
It was formed officially on May 15, 2015. Its stated goals involve, first and foremost, protecting the Druze sect from any aggression and from any party that tries to cross into Suwayda province. They announced their allegiance to Sheikh Waheed al-Balaus, and that they would fight with his men. They came to his house and announced their allegiance.”
Q: What types of weapons does the Biraq Aal Naeem brigade possess and how are they trained?
“The brigade consists of around 40 young men. Their weapons are simple—AK-47s, light machine guns and grenades. As for the training, they received that during their service in the regime’s army before the revolution, and through on-the-ground experience.
We haven’t seen them fight in a battle on their own, rather they fight with Sheikh Waheed al-Balaus’ group. If I wanted to describe them, I would say they primarily fight for the sake of their religious doctrine.”
Q: What’s the general atmosphere in Suwayda, especially now that there’s a lot of talk about a possible IS attack on the province?
“Residents of Suwayda province are afraid, especially in the absence of a single armed brigade that brings together all of the armed forces in the province under the banner of country and protecting the Hill [i.e. Suwayda province].
People are not particularly afraid of IS invading the province, but rather conducting hit-and-run operations on the eastern villages and undertaking criminal acts inside those villages.
From another angle, there’s fear that if IS took control of the Damascus-Suwayda highway, it would cut off the province’s lifeline.”