Friday, November 22, 2013

Mordechai Kedar: The New Kid on the Block in Syria: Daash

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in the original עברית
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)
Read the article en Español (translated by Shula Hamilton)
The name “Daash” is an acronym for “Dulat al-Islam fi al-Iraq wal-Sham” – “the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria”, and it is a Sunni Salafi organization affiliated with al-Qaeda. 

The organization was founded in Iraq in 2004, with the name “The Islamic State in Iraq”, with the goal of establishing an Islamic state in every area that was liberated by the al-Qaeda organization, meaning that they will assume sovereignty and take political and diplomatic control, after the jihadist organization of al-Qaeda has finished liberating the territory from the enemies of Islam, or Shi’ites or even Sunnis if they don’t establish Islamic religious law down to every last detail.

The Iraqi government, which represents the Shi’ite majority, has been conducting an all-out attack against the organization ever since it was established, and this war was conducted with American support until the United States soldiers withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2010. However, despite the persecution, the organization still exists  underground and has gained in popularity among the Sunni minority, which is politically and economically marginalized in Iraq.

In March 2011, when the civil war broke out in Syria, the al-Qaeda organization also became involved in the fighting against the regime, supporting the local Salafi jihadist organization, Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahal al-Sham – The Front to Aid the People of al-Sham. “Al-Sham” is the geographic area of “Greater Syria” that includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Land of Israel. The Salafi organizations do not relate to these modern states because they were established by British and French colonialism, and therefore are not considered to be legitimate states. 

At the end of 2012, the Jabhat al-Nusra people  began to feel that the al-Qaeda operatives were giving themselves credit for successes in the battlefield, and there were ups and downs in the relations between the two organizations. Al-Qaeda brought fighters from the four corners of the Earth, and established units with traditional Islamic names. The northern city of Aleppo and its surroundings were liberated by al-Qaeda fighters, and today an al-Qaeda coalition rules in northern Syria under the name “The Islamic State In Iraq and al-Sham” – an expanded version of the organization that was founded in Iraq –with the acronym “Daash”.

Several Islamic courts operate in the city, imposing Islamic Shari’a law according to its strictest interpretation: women are required to cover their faces when they go out in public, and there are reports of amputation of the hands of thieves. In accordance with passages from Islamic oral tradition, Daash has imposed a tax on the olive growers, requiring them to hand over to Daash 611 kilograms of olives or oil per grower, according to their choice. The Daash morality police raids wedding parties sending the musical groups and the singers away, because music is against the Salafi tradition. In one case the morality police demanded that the father of the bride learn parts of the Qur’an by heart as educational form of punishment. 

The organization is expanding its area of operations by forming alliances with tribal heads in the area of Aleppo, who understand that at this point, the organization is a strong power, and there’s no point in going against it. Daash enjoys financial support from the Saudis: just lately, Saudi Arabia has allocated 300 million petrodollars to reconstructing the civil infrastructure of Aleppo, with Daash as the contractor. Every few days disagreements break out between Jabhat al-Nusra and Daash, mainly because of the involvement of the “immigrants’” – the jihadists who have come from the four corners of the Earth – in managing the Syrians’ lives.

The Salafi organizations’ takeover of northern Syria causes many Syrians in other areas to return to the bosom of the Asad regime, not out of their great love for Asad or nostalgia for the oppression that they suffered under his rule, but because they do not wish to be at the mercy of the Salafi foreigners, who rule in the name of radical Islam and are financed by Saudi money. Perhaps this provides an explanation for the successes of Asad’s army – which is supported by Hizb’Allah and forces sent by Iran – in dealing with jihadists in a number of areas in the south of the country during recent months.

The regime is conducting a large offensive these days in the Qalamoun Mountains, between Lebanon and Damascus, an area that is controlled by the rebels and through which the rebels receive logistical support. If Asad wins in the Qalamoun area, it will draw nearer the day when he will be able to declare victory over al-Qaeda terror and its political subsidiaries. The gnashing of teeth in the Saudi regime will be able to be heard from afar, because the Salafi Saudis’ rage will be as great as their investment in the rebellion in Syria and their disappointment from its failure.

It seems that the Iranian regime is about to prevail in two important fronts: Syria and the sanctions, and when the Iranians and their satellites win, the world loses.


Dr. Kedar is available for lectures

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by SallyZahav with permission from the author.

Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the author.

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