October 8, 2015

Additional Notes on the Druze of Jabal al-Summaq

The al-Omari mosque in Kaftin renovated for religious use (photo from a local sent to me).

The process of editing a piece often leads to oversimplification for the sake of word limits and the like. Here is some original content that did not make it into the final piece I co-wrote with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross for Foreign Affairs on the issue of the Druze of Jabal al-Summaq in Idlib province and jihadist interactions with them, both historically and following the Qalb Lawze massacre: 1. The Druze of Idlib have issued two statements renouncing their original faith. The first came in … [Read more...]

The Archivist: Unseen Islamic State Financial Accounts for Deir az-Zor Province

Islamic State
Wilayat al-Kheir
Diwan Bayt al-Mal
Bayt al-Mal Administration
15 Rabi' al-Thani 1436 AH
5 February 2015

The question of where the Islamic State [IS] acquires its funding has been a subject of much discussion. Though ideological partisans often see a private Gulf Arab funding hand behind IS, the general consensus now seems to accept that IS is not dependent on foreign donors in any meaningful way, and thus largely acquires its revenues from resources within the territories it operates, including taxation, sales of oil and gas, antiquities and the like. Thus, the majority of the debate now focuses … [Read more...]

Repentance: Financial Income for the Islamic State

Pro-IS source Omar Fawaz

The concept of repentance (tawba in Arabic) is key for the Islamic State (IS) whenever it takes over a new area and aims to consolidate control. Whoever undergoes repentance under IS successfully is issued arepentance ID document that stipulates the person has abandoned his/her apostasy and is to be treated like the rest of the Muslim populace under IS rule (Specimen 3V). The repentance process has two main applications. First, it is used to subdue people who had been affliated with rival … [Read more...]

Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa al-Ansar’s Allegiance to Jabhat al-Nusra

Ali Saber, a Jabhat Ansar al-Din media office activist linked to Harakat Fajr al-Sham al-Islamiya, tweet from September 22, 2015: "Jabhat Ansar al-Din will continue its jihadi activity and now comprises Harakat Fajr al-Sham al-Islamiya and Harakat Sham al-Islam," while wishing Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa al-Ansar all the best in its pledge of allegiance.

Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa al-Ansar was arguably the largest contingent of the 'third way' Jabhat Ansar al-Din jihadi coalition of northern Syria, having absorbed a component of the coalition- the Green Battalion- last year. Linked to the Caucasus Emirate through its amir Salah ad-Din al-Shishani, Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa al-Ansar had been reluctant to advocate openly denouncing and confronting the Islamic State [IS] on account of an anti-fitna stance, even though such a position is not tenable … [Read more...]

The Archivist: Unseen Islamic State Fatwas on Jihad and Sabaya

Islamic State fatwa document: "The Purpose of Jihad"

Islamic State [IS] fatwas are the product of the Diwan al-Eftaa' wa al-Buhuth (Fatwa Issuing and Investigation Department), which is also responsible for the production of Islamic State training camp textbooks such as the basicMuqarrar fi al-Tawhid ("Course in Tawheed"). The Diwan al-Eftaa' wa al-Buhuth was founded following the declaration of the Caliphate and is illustrative of the wider trend of more complex IS government organization since the Caliphate declaration embodied in the diwans, … [Read more...]

Liwa Shuhada’ al-Yarmouk: History and Analysis

Initial emblem of Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk

Establishment and Beginnings (2012-2013) Initial emblem of Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk (The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade) was formed in the summer of 2012 initially using the name Katiba Shuhada' al-Yarmouk and based primarily in southwest Deraa province. The group first came to prominence with the capture of UN peacekeeping troops in March 2013 in the Jamla area near the UN patrolled portion of the Golan Heights. In the initial statement on the hostage taking, Liwa … [Read more...]

Liwa Thuwar al-Raqqa: History, Analysis & Interview

Liwa Thuwar al-Raqqa's first emblem. On top: "Allahu Akbar." Beneath that: "There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God."

History and Analysis Liwa Thuwar al-Raqqa (the Raqqa Revolutionaries Brigade) was initially formed in September 2012 as a merger of several local rebel groups in Raqqa provincefollowing on from the Assad regime's loss of the northern border town of Tel Abyad, at a time when the regime was forced to pull back from large swathes of northern Syrian border areas to focus on defending more vital areas- in particular the provincial capitals. Liwa Thuwar al-Raqqa declared its loyalty to a … [Read more...]

The Assassination of Sheikh Abu Fahad al-Bal’ous: Context and Analysis

Fadi Nu'aim in front of his militia's banner.

Last month at this site I profiled the main new Druze militia factions that have emerged in Suwayda province and how they are competing for influence: on the one hand, the clearly pro-Assad Dir' al-Watanled primarily by Sheikh Jerbo and Nayef al-Aqil, and on the other hand Sheikh Abu Fahad Waheed al-Bal'ous' faction Rijal al-Karama, whose aim could be characterized in short as critical of the regime but not desiring to overthrow it, seeking instead islah ('reform') of the system. Until … [Read more...]

Overview of Some pro-Assad Militias

Emblem of Liwa Suqur al-Quneitra: "Quwat Dir' al-Watan" (Homeland Shield Forces)

At this site I have previously profiled several pro-Assad militias, such as theMuqawama Suriya, theCoastal Shield Brigade and Dir' al-Watan. Below are profiles of five more pro-Assad militias. Liwa Suqur al-Quneitra Emblem of Liwa Suqur al-Quneitra: 'Quwat Dir' al-Watan' (Homeland Shield Forces). Translating to 'Quneitra Falcons Brigade', this formation appears to comprise local pro-Assad militias to support the Syrian army in the remaining regime-held parts of Quneitra governorate, such … [Read more...]

The Archivist: Critical Analysis of the Islamic State’s Health Department

Islamic State (IS) Health Department document: Diwan al-Siha
Medical Sciences University
Caliphate on the Prophetic Methodology
No. 766
Date: 1 Dhu al-Q'ida 1436 AH [16 August 2015]

The Islamic State's [IS] health department (Diwan al-Siha) is probably most familiar to UK readers, who will recognize the 'ISHS' (Islamic State Health Service) branding as a spin-off of the 'NHS' (National Health Service). The ISHS was promoted in an official Raqqa province video featuring two muhajireen medical personnel, the first of whom (originally from Australia) urges Muslim medical personnel from around the world to join IS, saying: "Muslims here are really suffering from not … [Read more...]