Guest post by DaveM
With the Syrian uprising/conflict entering its third year, with an estimated 70,000 killed and over four million displaced, above and beyond the usual grotesqueness things are starting to get a bit weird.
Both Al Arabiya (here in English) and Al Jazeera (here in Arabic) reported that Syrian State TV broadcast the Sunni Jihadist/Al Qaeda chant “We will embark on our battles with them”– which seemingly would be the last thing an Allowite dictatorship facing a Sunni uprising would do. The only analogy I can give which makes sense would be if the Orange Order played My Little Armalite at their annual general meeting.
After all Bashar Al Assad recently made a big deal about being the last bastion of secularism in his interview with the Sunday Times.
As Syrian TV has been kicked off the Arabsat Badr4 platform, and can no longer be picked up in Northern Europe, I haven’t been able to see any of this for myself or find any first-hand corroboration.
The internet had only one source of the alleged jihadi clip but it looks like somebody has overdubbed this Syrian news report from July 2011 with the jihadi chant, hoping it goes viral. It’s noticeable that the story hasn’t been picked up by any of the major news agencies.
It could be genuine. I don’t know. The Al Jazeera report threw me a bit. But after what happened before, I’ll err on the side of caution.
However this being Bashar Al Assad’s Syria things aren’t that cut and dried, and a statement from Syria’s Sunni Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun calling for holy jihad was read out on the state TV news on March 10. This clip has been subtitled into English and hosted on a pro-Assad Youtube page.
That the “last bastion of secularism” is broadcasting calls for jihad hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Mufti Badreddin Hasoun on Syria State TV: “Today this father beseeches his sons and says to them ‘Why have you forsaken me? I was the one who brought you up in the world as exemplars. And today Syria is a mother wailing….”
Al Arabiya: “From a regime which claims to be the last of the secular regimes in the region to a regime which announces that defending it is a religious duty and jihad for the sake of Allah.”
Syria TV news clip: “The Higher Ifta Council – defending unified Syria and the Syrian people is a religious duty.”
Al Arabiya: “The Higher Ifta Council said on Syrian State TV that defending Syria i.e. the Assad regime is a religious duty for Muslims, not just for Syrian Muslims but also for those in the Arab and Islamic countries. And a few days ago the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad spoke to one of the British newspapers desperately trying to convey a message that his regime was secular and that it didn’t nor wouldn’t exploit religion in its struggle against its people.”
[Baderddin Hasoun from 2011: "Lebanon and Syria, every one of its sons and daughters will set forth to become martyrs on the land......!"]
Al Arabiya: “Obvious contradictions were also apparent in what the Assad regime’s Mufti had previously said where he threatened the entire world with dispatching suicide bombers wearing bomb belts to strike any country which supported the revolution, which he didn’t consider being anything more than just extremist groups.
“The Syrian regime, which is striving to convince the international community that it’s a civil state facing terrorist groups, has begun to play the religion card since its announcement of the call to arms to rally whoever wishes to heed the call of jihad in order to maintain its survival.
“Assad’s regime has tried to play on that string in a number of different ways. It has appeared on different occasions participating in religious festivals until it has got to the stage where it’s calling for jihad against those who its media has habitually described as jihadists.”
The threat of conscription, along with the jihadist language, appears to have caused bafflement and panic amongst Damascenes. The loyalists know they can’t win, and those who are against Assad would take their arms with them and join the rebels.
Some anti-Assad Damascenes said a draft would push them to join the rebels.
“Bring it on. If Assad wants to entrust me with a gun, I’ll kill his troops on my first day,” said one man in his forties.
“I can’t tell you how many men there are, much younger than I, who are just waiting for the slightest excuse to pick up arms and join the rebels. Assad can’t be so stupid as to arm men who want to see him dead.”
I think he is, and it looks like I’m not the only one.
“Since when does our government issue a fatwa for jihad?” asked one elderly woman. “I think Bashar really is losing it. He has no connection to reality whatsoever.”
“I think (Assad) must be going nuts,” said a man in his forties who asked to remain anonymous. “He must really be feeling the heat to pull something like this. He must be feeling more and more isolated.”