Jabhat Fatah al-Sham rebrand continues with video showing group’s court system

Published September 11th, 2016 - 01:38 GMT
Nusra Front fighters south of Aleppo. They now go by the name Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)
Nusra Front fighters south of Aleppo. They now go by the name Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)

Jabhat Fatah al-Sham is on a mission to rebrand itself. Since changing its name from Nusra Front and formally cutting ties with Al-Qaeda in July, they have sought to portray themselves as a legitimate member of the Syrian armed opposition. The rebel group still maintains connections to the militant network, but their new strategy is not going unnoticed. A recent Arabic-language propaganda video detailing Jabhat Fatah al-Sham’s court system provides a glimpse into the legal structure in their territory, and the group’s desire for acceptance.

On September 3, the clearing house for jihadist material Jihadology released a video by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham discussing their legal system in the greater Aleppo area. It originally came from YouTube. Placing the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham’s legal system in the context of the Syrian revolution, the video boasts of the new “law of God” implemented in their territory.

“The regime (of president Bashar al-Assad) didn’t govern by the law of God, it governed by man-made and French law. There was a lot of favoritism...” said a legal scholar in the video.

"Our laws seek to foster cooperation between the people...in our state, we seek to solve problems.”

To this end, the video shows a conversation between a seemingly local man and a judge over a financial dispute. The scholar’s use of the word “our state” demonstrates that like Daesh (ISIS), Jabhat Fatah al-Sham seeks to establish an Islamic state in its territory.

The video is far from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham’s only media play as of late. Last month, Mostafa Ahmed, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham’s director of foreign media relations, gave an interview to The Intercept's Murtaza Hussain on the group’s goals, battlefield activities, relationship with Al-Qaeda and other topics. He’s also extremely active on Twitter.

Many will remain unconvinced by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham’s media campaign, and several of the powers that be have not changed their tune on Nusra Front’s successor. The US and Russia, for example, both still consider Jabhat Fatah al-Sham a terrorist group.

Moreover, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham’s alleged participation in massacres like at Adra in 2013 as Nusra Front has yet to fade from the memory of their critics and enemies.


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