Terrorism

Idlib residents reject Tahrir al-Sham's attempts to legitimize presence

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

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Civilians from the city of Idlib gather in front of a Tahrir al-Sham headquarters to denounce the arrest of youth after the group seized full control of the city last month. [Photo courtesy of Sumaya al-Adnan]

Tahrir al-Sham -- an extremist alliance dominated by the former al-Nusra Front (ANF) -- is promoting the establishment of "civilian rule" in the areas under its control in northern Syria, a local activist told Diyaruna.

The group's latest move is meant to protect itself by using civil rule as a cover up for its terrorist actions, according to Sumaya al-Adnan, a social activist from the city of Idlib who asked to use a pseudonym.

She told Diyaruna that shortly after Tahrir al-Sham seized full control of Idlib, the group began to promote civil rule in the region.

Several meetings with influential figures were held, most recently on August 20th, where Tahrir al-Sham elements instructed Idlib figures to put forth the establishment of a separate government for northern Syria.

"However, after these meetings, the real purpose of this project was exposed," al-Adnan said, as it became clear Tahrir al-Sham wanted to use it as a cover to hide behind after worldwide calls for the elimination of the group grew louder.

Al-Adnan said Tahrir al-Sham elements directed affiliated media activists in the city to promote the separate government as a civilian initiative that has nothing to do with the group.

Proposal rejected

"The proposal put forth by the group stipulates that the so-called Jaish al-Shamal [Army of the North] assume the military task of protecting the territory [in Idlib]," she said.

But that army mainly consists of Tahrir al-Sham elements, she said.

Similarly, the group stipulated that the work of committees and organisations in the area be under the direct supervision of specialised departments, which are overseen by figures affiliated with the group, she added.

"As for the judiciary, the proposal calls for the reinstatement of civilian judiciary and sidelining the [group's] court system," said al-Adnan.

However, those in charge of the civilian judiciary would be the same people in charge of Tahrir al-Sham's courts, who are overseen by ANF's extremist religious officials, she said.

The rejection of this proposal was "near unanimous", al-Adnan said, "but the pressures exerted by Tahrir al-Sham on some of the influential figures in the city to come up with a civilian formula to give the group a cover present an obstacle".

"The city of Idlib formed a civilian council to administer its affairs on January 18th, and there is no need for the formation of another entity regardless of the reasons and motives," she said.

Idlib residents reject Tahrir al-Sham's presence and rule, she said, adding that the group is still carrying out arrests against all its opponents.

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