Romain Caillet writes: Before leaving the central part of Homs, which was besieged by the Syrian army, ‘Abd al-Basit Sarut, the goalkeeper for the national football team nicknamed the “icon of the revolution” by Syrian activists, had called on Jabhat al-Nusra and the IS to come to the revolutionaries’ assistance. Several days later, despite the fall of Homs, Sarut raised the IS flag on a visit to the organisation’s camp, which distinguishes him from the other jihadist groups. While one should not over-interpret this incident, nevertheless it shows a radicalisation of a part of the Syrian revolutionaries, who were feeling abandoned by western democracies, the Gulf monarchies and moderate rebel groups. So for those who suffered defeat at Baba ‘Amru, the siege of Homs and the town’s fall into the hands of the regime, there was the temptation to join with those who seemed to embody the growing strength of the Syrian insurrection, despite the IS’s radicalism.
A close associate of ‘Abd al-Basit Sarut, the militant Badawi al-Mugharbil, more famously known as Abu Ja‘far, is also one of the key figures in the revolution in the city of Homs. Highly critical of most rebel bands, he now feels that the IS is the only coherent armed force that is capable of conducting large-scale offensives either in Iraq or Syria:
I am not a member of the Islamic State, nor have I shown any allegiance to the Caliphate, but one must recognize the truth: IS is the most highly organised force, with a truly unified command, unlike all the other groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra.
According to Abu Ja‘far, the IS currently now enjoys a certain level of popularity among the Sunnis in Homs, which can apparently be explained by its victories in Syria and Iraq, and also by the harshness with which it treats its combatants whenever they transgress its version of Islamic law:
Recently IS executed [crucified] one of its members for oppressing civilians in Raqqa. Do you know of any other band that applies this type of justice to its own men? No, and so let’s say that the Syrians pay attention to this type of thing.
This reputation for integrity enjoyed by the IS is confirmed by other sources, specifically an humanitarian aid worker working for a European NGO who travels regularly to the area around Idlib, from which the IS withdrew several months ago. While the inhabitants he met were very hostile to the IS, they nevertheless recognised that the only positive element in its presence was precisely its Islamic courts. What had originally been appreciated in the way the IS courts operated was their implacable nature, because they never hesitated to condemn members of the powerful, influential families from the region, which other courts, whether Islamic or non-Islamic, had never done. [Continue reading…]