Thursday, January 17, 2013

Your friends in Jabhat An-Nusrah

"Over the past two months al-Nusra has felt emboldened enough to step from the shadows. It has opened shopfronts in most towns and villages, from Aleppo to the Turkish border, and has even set up a headquarters in plain sight in the centre of the city, alongside the base of a regular Free Syrian Army unit, Liwa al-Tawhid.  A simple black Islamic banner, the same one adopted by al-Qaida in Iraq, from where many of al-Nusra's members hail, hangs at each of the outposts.  In these hubs al-Nusra cadres receive residents who come to them to resolve disputes and seek aid. Men with notebooks sit inside chronicling complaints and sometimes giving out vouchers for food or fuel.
Throughout history Syrians have sought out patrons, usually tribal sheikhs or chieftains, for assistance in all manner of things, from mediation to marriage. In some cases al-Nusra is now filling these roles.  "Where is the Jabhat [al-Nusra] base?" an elderly man carrying a plastic bag of medication and a handwritten letter asked as he walked along the verge of a main road in Aleppo.
"What do you want from them?" another man said.  "They are good people," he replied. "They can fix problems. I'm very tired of all of this suffering."" (thanks Fatima)