Newsweek reports: Mohammed Al-Saud is under no illusions. “In 2011, the majority of the current ISIS leadership was released from jail by Bashar Al Assad,” he said. “No one in the regime has ever admitted this, or explained why.” Al-Saud, a Syrian dissident with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, left Syria under threat of arrest in 2011.
Others were not so lucky. In 2006, Syrian Tarek Alghorani was sentenced to seven years in jail for the contents of his blog. Since his amnesty in 2011, he has been an active opponent of the Damascus regime. “There were around 1,500 people in there,” he recalls, outside a sleepy midtown café in Tunis. “There were about ten of us bloggers, around one hundred Kurds and the rest were just normal people. I’d say that, when they went in, around 90 percent were simply normal Muslims.”
“The situation in there was like the middle ages. There were too many people and not enough space. There wasn’t enough water to drink. There wasn’t enough food to eat and what there was would have been ignored by dogs in the street. Torture was an everyday reality. After years in there, all of those people became Salafists and in a bad, bad way.”
His fellow prisoners were members of ISIS. “Abu Muhammad al-Joulani, (founder of the Jihadist group, Jabhat al-Jabhat al-Nusra) was rumored to be there. Mohammed Haydar Zammar, (one of the organisers of the 9/11 attacks) was there. This is where the Syrian part of ISIS was born,” he said.
Alghorani is convinced that members of ISIS were released strategically by Assad. “From the first days of the revolution (in March 2011), Assad denounced the organisation as being the work of radical Salafists, so he released the Salafists he had created in his prisons to justify the claim … If you do not have an enemy, you create an enemy.” [Continue reading…]