Terrorism |

Syrian artist faces threats from Tahrir al-Sham

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

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Syrian artist Ahmad Khalil al-Jalal is being pursued by Tahrir al-Sham for his criticism of the extremist alliance. [Photo courtesy of Ahmad Khalil al-Jalal]

The Tahrir al-Sham affiliated al-Iqab (punishment) brigade has been going after activists who oppose it and detaining or assassinating them, a Syrian artist who is being pursued by the extremist alliance told Diyaruna.

Al-Iqab raided the home of Syrian artist Ahmad Khalil al-Jalal in the Idlib province city of Kafr Nabl in an attempt to detain him, al-Jalal said, and he has since been staying out of sight.

Al-Jalal is known for drawing the illustrations and writing the banners raised in demonstrations, as he has done since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution.

Demonstrators hold a banner written by Ahmad Khalil al-Jalal during a protest in the Idlib city of Kafr Nabl condemning the assassination of activists who opposed Tahrir al-Sham. [Photo courtesy of Ahmad Khalil al-Jalal]

Tahrir al-Sham has been pursuing Ahmad Khalil al-Jalal for creating protest banners like this one from November 30th which calls for al-Qaeda remnants to leave. [Photo courtesy of Ahmad Khalil al-Jalal]

His recent banners have strongly denounced Tahrir al-Sham and al-Qaeda.

"The extremist alliance has been persecuting activists in Idlib because its fighters adhere to a different ideology than that of the activists," al-Jalal told Diyaruna.

Tahrir al-Sham sees the conflict as an ideological one, he said, adding that its actions are to be expected, because those who adhere to a totalitarian ideology "do not accept others and try to eliminate them".

The assassination of ideological opponents is not new for Tahrir al-Sham, he added, noting that the alliance's fighters pursued activist Raed al-Faris for two years before finally succeeding in killing him.

'I am a Muslim and proud of it'

According to al-Jalal, some mediators had tried to persuade him to soften the tone of his criticism of Tahrir al-Sham, in the hope that they could reach an agreement with the alliance to let him be, but he refused.

The situation in Idlib is very difficult, he said, for civilians are fearful of the alliance, which is tightening its grip on the region through al-Iqab brigade.

"Most of the free voices who initiated the demonstrations against the regime in 2011 have been arrested or liquidated by the regime and extremist groups," he said. "I do not expect civilians to put up a decisive reaction."

Al-Jalal said the illustrations he drew were a direct and explicit attack on Tahrir al-Sham, and that he had expected to receive threats from the extremists.

Although his own assassination is a distinct possibility, he said, he vowed that his tone would not soften, saying he will continue to confront Tahrir al-Sham with his banners.

"Some may think I am secular and anti-religion, and that is why I attack extremist Islamists, but they are wrong," he said.

"I am a Muslim and proud of it, and my duty towards my religion (the religion of mercy) is to defend and protect it from those who try to distort it," he said.

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