Recently some western and Gulf Arab circles have been bringing up the idea to „reconsider“ the Nusra Fronts (Jabhat al Nusra) status as terrorist organization. They attempt to sugarcoat Nusra as „moderate Islamists“ who are supposedly the arch enemy of ISIS and therefore sort of „not that bad“.
The argument is totally flawed as the Syrian army is also fighting ISIS in places such as Qalamoun, eastern Homs (Palmyra), Deir al Zour and Hasakah to name some of the battlefronts, not to mention that ISIS is fighting pro Assad factions in the Yarmouk camp of Damascus, where – interestingly – it was al Nusra who let ISIS enter the camp.
To destroy any myths about Nusra being „moderate“ or otherwise „non-terrorist“ I refer to this comprehensive article, but it´s noteworthy to read some very recent news about al Nusra AFTER the Al Jazeera interview with the groups leader al Jolani. The aim of the interview was to advertise for Nusras „rebrandishing“ by allowing al Jolani to portray the group as one that not only has no plans to attack the west but also respects minorities, is non-sectarian, almost liberal one should think…
Here are some stories featuring the Nusra Fronts actions in the last weeks:
„“There was a garrison of 40 of our men in one battle in Idlib province, and 14 were killed in the fighting and the other 26 were captured,” General Ghassan says. “They executed them one by one, going from one man to the next to shoot him in the back of the head so that the others in the row would know what was about to happen to them.“
„the Islamist gunmen picked off the Syrian checkpoints around Jisr al-Shugour, firing at ambulances taking the wounded to hospital, creating panic among civilians who poured into the centre of the town – much as the Muslims of Bosnia had fled for their lives under Serb attacks into the towns of the Drina Valley almost 25 years ago. “
„Some men who showed they were alive were immediately shot.“
„At least 20 Druze villagers have been shot dead by the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front in north-western Syria“
With regards to the killing of the members of the Druze minority, especially this part of the BBC article should draw attention for many reasons:
„Wednesday’s shooting occurred after a Tunisian al-Nusra commander tried to confiscate a house belonging to a Druze man who he claimed was loyal to the Syrian government…the al-Nusra commander accused the Druze of being „kuffar“ (infidels) before ordering the mass shooting.“
This is exactly the point: Nusra harbors key non-Syrian radically sectarian elements, going from the Chechen commander Muslim Shishani to the Saudi Salafi „field ideologue“ Abdullah al Muhaysini.
There have been dozens of cases of similar mass executions of „non-aligned“ civilians, including many Sunnis, by simply declaring them „loyal to the Syrian government“, as if this in itself is a grave crime.
The international media has for years been very receptive and tolerant for Syrian rebel crimes as soon as the victims were defamed as „Shabiha“ or otherwise dehumanized. „Shabiha“, „Assad supporter“, „regime loyalist“, these and other negatively colored terms have been the standard vocabulary of Syrian rebels and their media mouthpieces when it came to justify terrorism and crimes against humanity.
Finally, the following article about Nusra and whether they really deserve reconsideration and „rehabilitation“ is highly recommendable:
„The Nusra Front, concluded HRW, was „responsible for systematic and widespread violations including targeting civilians, kidnappings, and executions„.
Like ISIL, the group has „committed systematic rights abuses, including the intentional targeting and abduction of civilians“ with „repeated claims of responsibility for lethal car bombing attacks that have targeted civilians in Syria„.
The Nusra Front, HRW added, has – again, like ISIL – „imposed strict and discriminatory rules on women and girls and they have both actively recruited child soldiers„.
So, a moderate or pragmatic group then? Not by any stretch of the imagination….
This notion that JN [the Nusra Front] isn’t as violent as [ISIL] is wrong; both groups follow the extremism of bin Ladinism, though the former uses a bullet while the latter prefers a blade – or worse“