The article below reports an extremely important development in Syria. Within days of the announcement of the formation of the “Islamic Front” by six major Islamist (non-jihadist) groups (some of which are themselves coalitions, like the Islamic Army, which includes one major and 40 minor militias), we have this formation of what is basically its secular equivalent, a bloc of 106 revolutionary military and civil groups with an explicitly secular, democratic program.
As the Islamic Front itself is made up mostly of groups that have a good working relationship with the secular FSA, and are hostile to the main global-jihadist group (ISIS), these two new large coalitions should not be seen so much as rivals but as allies, who however have ideological differences. Arguably this clearer coalescence around two large clearly defined allied formations will be a strength for the revolution.
This formation, with the impressive list below, clearly makes minced meat out of the imperialist propaganda, first spread by the New York Times back in April (but then lapped up and spread further by pro-Assad leftists who thought they were being anti-imperialist), that there were no secular armed groups in Syria, only varying shades of Islamists. I have already dealt with the issue of the FSA and secular armed resistance a number of times (eg, https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/empowering-the-democratic-resistance-in-syria or https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/report-on-relative-strength-of-armed-rebels-in-syria), while this development spells the facts out yet again.
That is not to say that the secular armed resistance hasn’t weakened in relation to the mild Islamist resistance and the hard-line jihadist groups. This has occurred, largely due to the better funding of Islamist groups, whether from governments or wealthy private individuals from the Gulf, whereas to date, “the West,” which claims to support “moderates,” has supplied the FSA with some night goggles, some flak jaks, ancient radios, and some inedible “ready meals,” and a few tents. As none of these are very useful against either the massive heavy weaponry and high tech slaughter by the regime, or even against the middle-range weaponry of ISIS which spends most of its energy attacking the FSA in the back rather than fighting the regime (and vice versa), there has naturally been a trend, rooted in material reality, for fighters to join better equipped and resourced middle Islamist outfits.
Vast amounts of evidence suggests that this does not, for the most part, indicate a change in the basic motivations of the fighters, rooted mostly in poor peasant and poor working class families, whose aims remain fighting for the original democratic goals of the revolution. There will of course be contradictions in many cases between such goals and the goals of some of the leaders, but more so in the more clearly jihadist fringe. But it is wrong to judge every “Islamist” outfit in an Islamic country as crazed fundamentalists, terrorists and sectarians in full Orientalist fashion; at this stage of the revolution, they largely represent the more traditionalist urban and rural poor who never really took part in the secular project of the bourgeois nationalist regime, and even less so in its neo-liberal period since 2000.
All that said, however, it remains important to know that he more explicitly secular resistance, both civil and armed, remains a major factor in Syria and is now trying to organise on the ground better.
For a Civil, Secular State: 100+ Groups Unite in the Union of Free Syrians
[Translation by Ahmed El-Khatib and Sam Charles Hamad.]
On October 13, 2013, about 106 military, media, and civil formations have assembled at Anatolia café in Elrihania city on the Syrian-Turkish border to form a conglomerate that is considered the biggest of its kind- according to some participants – to form what is called (Ahrar Syrian Union [Free Syrian Union]). The thing that is so special about this union is that it includes military units, civilian organizations, media people, and rescue squads, so it includes all aspects of revolutionary work. The members of the union say that they acknowledge the revolution’s flag that the protesters held in the beginning of the revolution. They believe that the 1950 constitution is the suitable one for the new Syria and they will do their best to adhere to the laws and international treaties after the breakdown of the regime. They also talked about the separation of legislative, executive, juridical authorities.
Oh free sons of Syria:
We announce the formation of our union (Ahrar Syrian Union) that is the fruit of recent continuous efforts amongst many of our politicians, media people, revolutionists, and military fighting formations in the struggle. The summary of our deep discussion concerning the revolution and the current situation was that they all shared a common vision to announce a new formation to contribute with other revolutionary forces to achieve the revolution’s objectives: to end the criminal regime of al-Assad; to work on building a nation of dignity, freedom, law, fair, and justice among its all people based on a modern constitution that grants the freedom and justice to all Syrian people regardless of their national affiliation or religion; to establish the separation of the legislative, executive, and juridical powers; to create a Syria that is dedicated to ensuring civil peace and security to all citizens; to develop Syria economically, scientifically, and culturally; and to keep regional and international peace.
Members announced that the union was born due to difficult circumstances and the necessity of having a new formation that contributes with other formations to all aspects of the revolution toward the break down of the regime.
The heads of the conference have agreed to a statement called “The Founding Statement for the Free Syrian Union”:
Oh free sons and daughters of Syria:
Our national revolution was launched under the flag of peace to build a state of justice and equality. The al-Assad criminal gang insisted on standing against the nation’s will and used inhuman tools to stop everything. The result so far has been hundreds of thousands of martyrs, detainees, and injured people and more than seven million became homeless and refugees.
It was very clear to all countries of the world that the ruling terrorist gang is practicing genocide against our people, relying on external allied forces to break the nation’s will and attack the revolution in spite of all the Arabic and national attempts and efforts and the insistent will of the Syrian peaceful to find a peaceful solution that achieves the revolution’s goals and saves Syria from the international interference that will destroy the remaining building blocks of the country.
The commitment to all international agreements and treaties is not opposition to national sovereignty. In the current situation we believe that our commitment to the revolutionary force that raised the independence flag that is it is acceptable to rely on the 1950 constitution until the preparation of a new constitution that reflects the whole of Syrian society.
Oh free Syrian people, oh revolutionists in the battle field:
We swear to Allah and promise you that we are committed to the revolution and honor our pure martyrs’ blood. We urge you to work together for the sake of our union with all means and powers through widening the political, media, military, and revolutionary base and the submission of all forms of support to achieve our revolution’s goals of freedom and respect.
Mercy to the souls of our martyrs.
Freedom to the arrested and the recovery of the injured.
For the return of our sons to their families and homes.
Victory to our people and its blessed revolution.
In a private meeting with media activist Khalid Abo Elfida – one of the participants in the union – said:
“Thank Allah we have just finished uniting 106 brigades all from the inside of different Syrian cities. Where they are agreed to be one hand and hold one line working for the breakdown of the criminal regime in Syria and building the new independent Syria. And a founding statement has been declared that explains the principles that unites all revolutionary figures. We hope Allah guides us regarding the goal we are all agreed upon.”
He added: “some of the most important forces that participated in this union are:
- Division 77 — Northern Region
- Third Division — Qalamoun
- Brigade Lightning Victory — Rural Idlib, Hama
- Brigade 90 — west of Damascus
- Brigade Dawn — Gota Bank
- Brigade Saif al-Sham — Gota Bank
- Brigade Umayyad — Damascus and its countryside
- Brigade Martyrs Badia — Idlib
- Brigade Peace in the Levant — Idlib
- Brigade Soldiers Rahman Idlib and Abu Aldhor
- Brigade Raya — Abou Aldhor
- The Banner of Jesus Christ — Damascus
- Brigade Omar Mukhtar — Idlib countryside and mount corner
- Brigade Beloved Prophet; Brigade Billah –Idlib
- Brigade Abu Bakr — Aleppo
- brigade Hussein Harmoush — Lattakia
- Brigade Sincere Promise — Lattakia
- Brigade The Martyrs of Islam and the Al-Sham — Aleppo and Homs fronts (one of which was destroyed at Wadi Barada)
- Unity and Liberaton Front including six brigades in al-Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor and EZ
- Brigade Muawiyah — Rastan
- Brigade Martyrs of Islam — Qalamoun to Oaabdal Sham destroyed and Wadi Barada
- Brigade Hamzah — BaradaValley
- Brigade Martyrs of Dignity — BaradaValley
- Brigade Martyr Samir Aldhak — Rastan
- Brigade Eagles
- Brigade بيارق Islam
- Brigade Saifullah Maslool
- Brigade Dawn of the Mujahideen
- Brigade Hittin
- Brigade Flag — Khanasser
- Brigade Soldiers Rahman — Aleppo countryside
- Brigade Martyr Mazen Missile Defence
- Brigade Martyrs Secretariat — Hama
- Brigade Martyrs Dignity — Khan Shaikhoun
- Brigade Victory in God — Khan Shaikhoun
- Brigade 533 Commando — Hama Northern
- Brigade 633 Infantry — Khan Shaikhoun
- Brigade Caliph — Ma’arrat Nu’man
- BrigadeHawksMountain — MountHhacbo
- Battalion Hill Pottery — Aleppo countryside
- Battalion Tasks — Damascus Madaya
- Brigades Punishment — Qalamun
- Brigade Rebels — Khan Shaikhoun
- Regiment 465 Martyrs — Khan Shaikhoun
- Brigade Martyrs — Mount Hermon
- The Banner of Free Rural Western Brigades, Revolutionary Military Council — Damascus”
The original Arabic statement below was taken from All for Syria.