Farouq Brigades

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Farouq Brigades
كتائب الفاروق
Participant in Syrian Civil War
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Active 2011–? (largely defunct)[1]
Ideology Sunni Islamism
Leaders Abdul Razzaq Tlass (October 2011 – 6 October 2012)
Osama Juneidi (Abu Sayeh) [2][3]
Taleb al-Dayekh[4]
Headquarters Homs
Area of operations Homs Governorate, Syria
Aleppo Governorate, Syria
Strength 14,000[2]–20,000[5] (own claim) (May–June 2013)
Part of Free Syrian Army
Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (2012-2013)
Originated as Khalid bin Walid Brigade
Allies Suqour al-Sham
Liwa al-Islam[3]
Liwa Thuwwar al-Raqqa
People's Protection Units[6]
Opponents Syrian Armed Forces
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Battles and wars

Syrian Civil War

The Farouq Brigades (Arabic: كتائب الفاروق‎‎), also spelt Farooq and Farook, is an armed rebel organisation formed by a number of Homs based members of the Free Syrian Army early in the Syrian Civil War.[7] The group rapidly expanded in size and prominence in 2012,[7] before suffering internal splits and battlefield reversals in 2013 that greatly reduced its influence.[8] By 2014 the group was largely defunct, with member factions joining other rebel groups.[1] The brigades were named Farouq after Omar bin al-Khattab, a Sahaba (companion) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the second Caliph.

Background

The Farouq Brigades emerged from the central city of Homs just months into the Syrian Civil War. Its beginnings are as a subunit of the Khalid bin Walid Brigade, a group of defectors from the Syrian Army that announced its formation in June 2011 and engaged in clashes with members of the Syrian security forces in Homs and Al-Rastan. During the second half of 2011, Farouq was active in Homs, particularly the Baba Amr neighborhood. It was led by a defector, Lieutenant Abdul Razaq Tlass, who was a nephew of the former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass.[9] The apparent success of Farouq in holding territory in Baba Amr lead to the Syrian government escalating their use of force in an offensive in early 2012, causing heavy casualties amongst the rebels and forcing their retreat into the Homs countryside and the towns of Al-Qusayr and Al-Rastan.[9]

In the following months, Farouq absorbed preexisting rebel units and formed new ones across Syria, from Daraa in the south near the Jordanian border to the Farouq al-Shemal (Northern Farouq) which controlled some of the border posts in the north with Turkey.[7]

In September 2012, a large number of Islamist rebel brigades, including the Farouq Brigades and the Suquor al-Sham formed the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, under the leadership of Suquor al-Sham commander Ahmed Abu Issa. Abu Issa claimed the new Front had more than 40,000 fighters and aimed to establish a state with an Islamic reference.[10] In May 2013, the BBC used an estimate of 20,000 fighters.[5] In November 2013 the SILF was superseded by a new rebel coalition called the Islamic Front, however Farouq was not a member of this grouping.[11]

Ideology and funding

Jeffrey White, a former U.S. defense intelligence officer with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Joseph Holliday, a research analyst with the Institute for the Study of War consider the Farouq Brigade to be “moderately Islamist” – that is, neither secular nor Salafis.[5] While many of their fighters wear Jihadist-style black headbands and beards, it is unclear how much of this is genuine belief and how much is to secure additional funding from Islamist donors.[12]

Farouq has their own public relations wing which film their battlefield operations and upload them to YouTube and Facebook with their groups logo. These clips are used for fundraising from Syrians, donors in Gulf states, western sources and Islamist groups.[13]

Controversies

In April 2012, the Farouq Brigade was accused of collecting jizyah, or taxes imposed on non-Muslims living under Muslim rule, in Christian areas of Homs province. However, the group denied this and the Institute for the Study of War said that "the accusation is likely from the Assad regime".[14] There were also reports that the group had expelled 90% of the Christian population of Homs City.[15][16] However, Jesuits in Homs disputed the cause of the exodus, and said that Christians were not targeted specifically, but fled the city on their own initiative because of the ongoing conflict.[17] According to interviews made by McClatchy Newspapers of refugees in Lebanon, there was no targeting of Christians because of their religion. Rather, a number of government-affiliated Christians were seized by the Farouq Brigades, which led to some Christians fleeing the area.[citation needed]

In August 2012, Lieutenant Abdul Razzaq Tlass, one of the Farouq Brigades top leaders, was implicated in a sex scandal when video was posted to YouTube appearing to show him having cybersex with a woman through Skype. Tlass and others claimed the video was a fabrication by the Syrian Government.[18] Nevertheless, by October 2012 Tlass was replaced as commander by Abu Sayeh Juneidi.[3]

In September 2012, the northern branch of the Farouq Brigades was accused of kidnapping and killing Abu Mohamad al-Absi, a Syrian Jihadist who led a group of foreign fighters. The local Farouq Brigade leader said the foreign fighters had ignored their demands to leave the Bab al-Hawa border post. He said that al-Absi had "raised the al-Qaeda flag, and al-Qaeda is not welcomed by us".[7]

In May 2013, a video was posted on the internet showing rebel commander Abu Sakkar cutting organs from the dead body of a Syrian soldier and putting one of them in his mouth, "as if he is taking a bite out of it". He called rebels to follow his example and terrorize the Alawite sect, which mostly backs Assad. Human Rights Watch confirmed the authenticity of the footage, and stated that "The mutilation of the bodies of enemies is a war crime. But the even more serious issue is the very rapid descent into sectarian rhetoric and violence". It said that Abu Sakkar appears to be a commander of the "Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade". The BBC called it an offshoot or sub-unit of the Farouq Brigades, saying that "the Farouq Brigade appears to be actually a complex of sub-units with a tangled pedigree".[5] Human Rights Watch said "It is not known whether the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade operates within the command structure of the Free Syrian Army". The incident was condemned by the FSA's Chief of Staff and the Syrian National Coalition said that the commander would be put on trial.[19][20] The rebel Supreme Military Council called for Abu Sakkar's arrest, saying it wants him "dead or alive". Abu Sakkar said that the mutilation was revenge. He claimed he found a video on the soldier's cellphone in which the soldier sexually abuses a woman and her two daughters,[21] along with other videos showing Assad loyalists raping, torturing, dismembering and killing people, including children.[22]

Decline

By November 2013, the Farouq Brigades was reported as having suffered a serious decline in strength and area of influence, with it having splintered into numerous smaller factions,[8] such as the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade and the Islamic al-Farouq Brigades.[23][24] The group's presence outside Homs was said to have declined after losing feuds with more hardline Islamist rebel groups like Ahrar ash-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, resulting in Farouq being expelled from Raqqa Governorate and losing control of the strategic border crossing at Tal Abyad.[8] By 2014, the rebel Hazzm Movement contained several groups that were formerly part of the Farouq Brigades.[1]

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "American Anti-Tank Weapons Appear in Syrian Rebel Hands (Updated)". Huffington Post. 11 April 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2015. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Aron Lund (17 June 2013). "Freedom fighters? Cannibals? The truth about Syria’s rebels". The Independent. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Lund, Aron (15 October 2012). "Holy Warriors". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  4. "FSA Denies Shelling Hizbullah Positions in Lebanon, Syria". Naharnet. 21 February 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Jonathan Marcus (14 May 2013). "Gruesome Syria video pinpoints West's dilemma". BBC. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "A new dialogue and collaboration in northern Syria between kurds and rebels". The Arab Chronicle. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Abouzeid, Rania (5 October 2012). "Syria’s Up-and-Coming Rebels: Who Are the Farouq Brigades?". Time Magazine. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Rebels, Inc.". Foreign Policy. 21 November 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Holliday, Joseph. "Syria’s Armed Opposition" (PDF). Institute for the Study of War. 
  10. "Syria's Islamist rebels join forces against Assad". Reuters. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  11. "Leading Syrian rebel groups form new Islamic Front". BBC. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  12. Ackerman, Spencer (16 October 2012). "Syrian Rebels Burn Down a Marijuana Field on Facebook". Wired Magazine. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  13. "Battle for Syria: on the ground with the Farouk brigade". Channel 4 News. 11 September 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  14. Holliday, Joseph. "Syria’s Maturing Insurgency" (PDF). Institute for the Study of War. 
  15. "Abuse of the opposition forces, "ethnic cleansing" of Christians in Homs, where Jesuits remains". Agenzia Fides. 21 March 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  16. "The Jesuits: "Christians have fled from Homs, not thrown out by Islamists"". Agenzia Fides. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  17. "Are Islamists targeting Christians in Homs? Catholic groups dispute cause of exodus". catholicCulture.org. 27 March 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  18. Marrouch, Rima (20 August 2012). "Syrian Rebel Leader Accuses Regime Of Fabricating Scandalous Video". NPR. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  19. "Syria: Brigade Fighting in Homs Implicated in Atrocities". Human Rights Watch. 13 May 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  20. "Outrage at Syrian rebel shown 'eating soldier's heart'". BBC. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  21. ""Exclusive: "We Will Slaughter All of Them." The Rebel Behind The Syrian Atrocity Video". Time. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  22. "Syrian 'cannibal' rebel explains his actions". The Daily Telegraph. 19 May 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  23. "Kata'ib al-Farouq al-Islamiya: A Key Armed Opposition Group in the Battle to Cut Assad Off from Damascus". Jamestown Foundation. 19 September 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  24. "Syria crisis: Guide to armed and political opposition". BBC News. 18 November 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 

External links