Jihadists losing Syrian support amid mounting abuses
A rebel fighter points his gun towards pro-government forces' positions during clashes in the Salaheddine district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo (JM Lopez / AFP)
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Hardline Islamist rebels in Syria are facing a backlash from moderate groups and the Syrian population amid increasing reports of power abuses.
“Out, out, out, the [Islamic] State [of Iraq and Syria] must get out,” protesters shouted at a rally in the northern town of Manbij this week, as quoted by AFP.
A number of rebel groups espouse political Islam of one kind, whilst two Iraqi groups are aligned with Al-Qaeda. The Al-Nusra Front, one of the strongest operators,is independent, whilst the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a front for Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Whilst the FSA coalition has received funding and weapons from Gulf states, the Islamist groups are backed by private donors.
With a steady stream of funding, Islamist groups have managed to oust forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad from a number of urban centers.
However their extreme interpretation of Islam has alienated the populations in some towns.
In Raqqa, the Al-Nusra Front stands accused of imprisoning dozens of men.
“My father has been held for a month by the Front. They think they're Islamic... I want my father to be free,” cries a little girl in a Raqqa protest, footage of which was posted online.
“We reject this oppressive brand of Islam... We are Muslims. You're just fakes,” a woman protester cried in another video from Raqqa, calling on Nusra to release the men.
Reports emerged on Wednesday that a Raqqa-based activist who has documented the uprising against Assad since its early days has been detained by ISIS.
“The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria detained the media activist Mohammad Nour Matar on Tuesday evening outside its base... after he stood alongside a woman who tried to stage a sit-in,” Matar's brother Amer told AFP.
In the northwestern Idlib province, dozens of moderate rebels were killed in a battle with ISIS this week, according to opposition-aligned watchdog, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The chief of the [Free Syrian Army-affiliated] Hamzah Assadullah Brigade and his brother were both killed” in the fighting, the Britain based NGO reported.
“We haven't seen many such battles, but it is clear the anger against the Islamic State and other jihadists is on the rise across Syria,” said its director Rami Abdel Rahman.
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