Rebel Groups That are Fighting in Eastern Ghouta: Profile with Ideology

Eastern Ghouta, Syria 2018. Image Courtesy: Nino Fezza via Twitter

The Eastern Ghouta region of Syria, almost 10km from central Damascus is now the only region where the rebels have their control. Demanding the fall of President Bashar Al-Assad, the rebel group have been fighting against the joint forces of the government and their Russian ally. Interestingly, there are several rebel groups in the area with different ideology though they have more or less the same mission.

Eastern Ghouta, Syria 2018. Image Courtesy: Nino Fezza via Twitter

Here we share the name, aim, ideology, founders of the rebel groups in Eastern Ghouta that are fighting with the Bashar Al-Assad regime –

Jaysh Al-Islam

The Origin – It was formed in 2011 as Liwa Al-Islam or Brigade of Islam by Zahran Alloush (died 2015) until more units collaborated with them and formed a large faction in November 2013 after which they renamed the group as Jaysh Al-Islam. Currently headed by Essam al- Buwaydhani, it is the largest rebel faction in the area and the group has both Islamist and Salafist units involved in the Syrian Civil war. The political leader is Mohammed Alloush (father of Zahran), the Saudi based religious scholar who was imprisoned for his Salafi activism and was later released in mid-2011

Ideology – Though they started with sectarianism, their ideology past August 2016, is a combination of Syrian nationalism and Salafism. Their aim is to throw the Assad regime and replace it with a government on Sharia or Islamic law.

Incidents – The Damascus bombing of July 2012 that killed Assistant Vice President, Defence Minister and Deputy Defence Minister was carried out by this rebel group. A video posted by Shaam News Network (November 1, 2015) showed how this rebel group locked up the civilians in cages to use them as human shield against the government air strikes.

The group had used chemical weapons on 8th April 2016 against Kurdish militia and civilians in Aleppo. A year later, the fighters even opened fire on demonstrators who demonstrated and called for an end to the rebel infighting.

Estimated Members – 10,000 to 15,000

Allies – Going by various sources and reports in media, Jaysh Al-Islam is backed by Saudia Arabia and Turkey. They are also supported by other rebellion groups – Free Syrian Army and Ahrar ash-Sham.

Faylaq al-Rahman

Origin – Faylaq al-Rahman or al-Rahman legion is the second largest rebel group in Eastern Ghouta. It is affiliated to the Free Syrian army and was formed in November 2013. The main leader of the group is Abu Nasr aka Abdul al-Nasr Shamir, a captain who defected from the Syrian army in 2012.

Ideology – The group calls itself as a revolutionary military group whose main aim to bring down the Assad regime. Unlike Jaysh Al-Islam they do not wish to turn Syria into an Islamic state.

Incidents – The group have had clashes, both, with the government forces as well as the rival rebel factions mainly Jaysh Al-Islam. From February to March 2017, the military operation of the army Qaboun Offensive targeted the group where the group clashed with the government forces in Jobar. The government successfully captured the Ayn Tamara valley from the group.

 In August 2017, the group signed a deal with Assad ally Russia to join the de-escalation area in eastern Ghouta but a month later there were reports of clashes between them and the government forces. The current military operation of February 2018 (Rif Damashq) too targeted this group.

Estimated Members – 2,000 – 3,000

Allies – Qatar. The group fought alongside Arhar al-Sham in the battle of Harasta (Between 14 and 25 November, 2017 and December 29, 2017 to January 18, 2018) in Eastern Ghouta against the Syrian forces.

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Ahrar al-Sham

Origin – Founded in 2011, Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya is the second most powerful rebel group fighting against the Basshar Al-Assad regime after the Free Syrian army. Over the years the rebel group had multiple leaders. The current leader is Hassan Soufan (Abu al-Bara).

Ideology – The group’s objective is to throw the Assad regime and create an Islamic state under the Sharia law.

Incidents – From first battle of Idlib (2012) to the ongoing Idlib Governorate clashes, this rebel group have been active all the while. Interestingly, the group was involved in every major rebel victory over the Syrian forces from September 2012 to June 2013.

Asset – Currently, they are the most powerful rebel faction in the Syrian Civil War as they progressed from using explosive devices to using anti-tank guided missiles, mobile artillery, grenade launchers which they procured from the Syrian forces,

Estimated Members – 18,000 to 20,000

Allies – The group has allegedly received funds from Saudia Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar. Their rebel group allies include Jaysh al-Islam and Free Syrian Army. Its main rival is Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.

Also Read: The History of the Religion Islam – Part 1 

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Deepti Verma is a Political/Social Writer with an opinion on almost everything! Follow @universal_rover