December 8, 2013
On Saturday, the newly formed Islamic Front flexed its muscle, seizing control of the Bab al-Howa border crossing –within hours of intervening to protect the Free Syrian Army from the takfiri militants of Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham.
Since its coalescence two weeks ago, the Islamic Front has emerged as one of the most powerful armed elements within the opposition to date. The coalition merges seven disciplined and motivated rebel groups, some formerly affiliated with the FSA. The Islamic Front’s constituents generally adhere to a Salafi school of thought, but the formation explicitly excludes Jabhat a-Nusra and ISIS. In a charter issued a few days their formation, the group set out its aim to remove the Assad regime and establish an Islamic state in Syria.
Syria Direct’s Abdulrahman al-Masri spoke to Ali Amin al-Sweed, a member of the General Authority for the Syrian Revolution, about the Islamic Front and their charter. Founded in July 2011, the General Authority for the Syrian Revolution is a political media entity that aims to provide reliable and independent information on the civil war and to represent the voice of the Syrian revolution. The 45-year-old was a former political member of the FSA’s Revolutionary Command Council in Idlib province and is now based in Kuwait.
Here, al-Sweed tells al-Masri why he believes the Islamic Front’s divisive charter means nothing unless the group is powerful enough to topple Bashar al-Assad.
Q: Do you think the Syrian people will accept the Islamic Front?
A: The Syrian people will accept anyone that topples the regime and protects them.
Q: You are a member of General Council for the Syrian Revolution – do you agree with their charter?
A: Their charter is not a real charter; it just contains vague ideas and it is inconsistent. Now there are new disagreements between the founders of the Islamic Front. I do not agree with [the charter] and I believe it creates more divisions within the oppositions and the rebels.
Q: What do you think about the leadership of the Islamic Front and how would you judge their military capabilities?
A: The leaders are loyal, respectful people but, as the charter shows, they require greater military and diplomatic expertise. Regarding their military prowess, I think they are strong, but they will not win on their own.
Q: What do you think about the notion of forming an Islamic state in Syria?
A: Before the revolution Syria was an Islamic country, even if the regime did not follow our religion. All laws were compatible with Islam. The corruption in Syria affected these laws, but they already existed.
Regarding an Islamic or a secular country, it is not the right time for this decision because we are still engaged in fighting with the regime. There is a possibility that the regime will win the war or we might win. [The political future of Syria] will be decided by the Syrian people after we win.
Q: The charter of the Islamic Front said that they will respect all minorities, and that the minorities have a role to play in the rebuilding of the country. Do you think that is really what they want?
A: The way that they wrote it was very weak – weak in education, in Shariaa law and in diplomacy. In all aspects it was not applicable [to the Syrian people].
One of their claims was that “the minorities will have rights…”. Their charter sets out that the Front will be in control and will generously grant rights to the minorities. I reject this language, because the front itself does not own these rights they wish to grant. Secondly, in Syria there are no so-called minorities, there are only Syrians!
These statements they have made are outdated, especially on citizenship, and this comes from their lack of awareness and education.
Q: What vision of the future do you have for Syria?
A: I want a state governed by the rule of law – a liberal democratic state – that protects the rights of all people and their freedom.
Q: What do you know about the Islamic Front?
A: I know their main battalions and I read their charter. They have yet to clarify some things.
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