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Security apparatus sifts preachers and imams of Daraa’s mosques to domesticate religious establishment 

Giving a Friday sermon in one of Daraa’s mosques - 19 December 2020 (Daraa’s Islamic Waqf)

Giving a Friday sermon in one of Daraa’s mosques - 19 December 2020 (Daraa’s Islamic Waqf)

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Enab Baladi – Daraa

The security services have worked in cooperation with the Islamic waqf in Syria’s southern province of Daraa to domesticate the religious establishment and weave a fabric of preachers consistent with the goals of the Syrian regime and its head, Bashar al-Assad, making sure that sermons delivered in mosques, their content, and orientation are restricted to the “state plan.”

Daraa’s Islamic Waqf has published, over the past months, through its official Facebook page, seminars, speeches, and sheiks’ visits to the mosques of the city, as a part of what it called “the Faith and National Orientation Program.”

Dismissal of mosque preachers who refused to join a training session

After the head of the Syrian regime, al-Assad opened the “Sham International Institute for Counter-Terrorism and Extremism,” Daraa’s Islamic Waqf asked the preachers to join a training course in Damascus. However, Daraa’s Islamic Waqf issued dismissal reports of the preachers who refused to join the training course (Enab Baladi got several copies of them). The reports indicate that the preachers are banned from delivering sermons in mosques on charges of refusing to attend the training course.

Media activist Anwar Hariri said, in his speech to Enab Baladi, that the aim of forcing the preachers to attend the “International Islamic Center for Combating Terrorism” course is to carry out a screening process of preachers and imams of mosques and know who are still adopting revolutionary ideas, in order to expel them and create a domesticated team of preachers at the governorate level, that it takes orders from the security apparatus. 

This policy is establishing for the return of the stage, where blessing prayers are read over al-Assad in Friday sermons, preparing the souls of worshippers to accept this matter sought by the security apparatus. The security apparatus attempts to teach the mosques preachers what to say in Friday sermons.   

The mosques preachers and imams had a prominent role in the revolutionary movement in Daraa. It is worth mentioning that the first preacher who calls for a peaceful demonstration in the city was Ahmad al-Sayasnah

 The preachers and imams have a prominent civil role during the years of the revolution, the most important of which was the establishment of the Court of Justice headed by Sheikh Osama al-Yatim and  Esmat al-Abssi, the activist Basil Ghazawi told Enab Baladi.

Amer Hourani, the spokesperson of Horan Free League, told Enab Baladi that the Syrian regime banned 34 mosque preachers from working, under the pretext of not attending the “International Islamic Center for Combating Terrorism.”

The Syrian regime tried to assassinate the preachers and imams whom it could not exclude, because they were mosque preachers and imams in “the settlement” areas which are out of its control: al-Yadudah, Tafas, Daraa al-Balad, Muzayrib, and the whole of the western region.

The Syrian regime is accused of assassinating Muslim preachers and imams

In February 2019, unknown gunmen assassinated Alaa al-Zubani, imam of a mosque in the town of al-Yadudah, in the western countryside of Daraa, after he was shot with a silenced pistol. 

Al-Zubani is one of the religious leaders who refused to take part in the “International Islamic Center for Combating Terrorism,” a non-holder of the “settlement” card. Al-Zubani was delegated by the factions of al-Yadudah to negotiate with the Russian side during the recent military campaign of the Syrian regime forces.  

“Horan Free League” published a video, showing what it described as the confessions of a person named Raafat al-Nahhas to kill Imam,  Alaa al-Zubani, at the request and direction of the “Air Force Intelligence.”

Raafat al-Nahhas said in the video that after he killed al-Zubani, the security services asked him to assassinate Sheikh Mahmoud al-Banat, a member of the “central committee” in the western countryside of Daraa, and the leaders “Abu Ubada al-Masri,” and Mowaffaq al-Ghazzawi, who was also assassinated in the town of Muzayrib.

In June 2019, Sheikh Musa al-Hariri was assassinated in the town of Busra al-Harir by an explosive device near the town’s mosque, and Sheikh al-Harir was known for his attitudes against the Syrian regime, the Iranian role, and the expansion of Iranian ideology in the region.

Sheikh Raed al-Hariri was assassinated earlier. Besides, many preachers and imams in areas outside the Syrian regime’s control, such as Youssef al-Bakkar, an imam in one of Tell Shihab’s mosques and Fadi al-Asimi, a preacher of a Tafas mosque, were the target of attempted assassinations.

The activist Basil Ghazawi considered that the anti- Iran position of the preachers and imams of the revolution, the Syrian regime’s domination over the region and their role in influencing the popular base, made them a target of the Syrian regime’s security apparatus, either through assassinations or banishment.

Ghazawi ruled out the success of the security services’ project in controlling the popular base through mosques because the people of the area enjoy the right level of awareness and knowledge of the seriousness of the Iranian role. 

Daraa’s mosques used as media platforms

The security services have used mosques’ platforms and loudspeakers to inform the residents of the regime’s decisions twice since the beginning of this June.

First, the security apparatus called defectors and evaders of the compulsory military service through the mosques of Inkhil, Nawa, al-Hirak, Dael, and others in the western countryside to surrender and re-join the Syrian regime forces, with assurances, that they would not be held legally accountable or prosecuted by the security forces under an amnesty decree released by the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, last March. 

The security apparatus asked them to register their names with the party teams, municipal leaders, or mukhtars.

A defected soldier, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, told Enab Baladi that despite the regime’s calls through loudspeakers to re-join the military units, he does not trust the guarantees granted to the defectors. The security services are above the law, many of his fellow dissidents surrendered under the previous amnesty, but their fate appears to be unknown to this day. 

Second, the loudspeakers of mosques were used after the Syrian pound has collapsed against the US dollar, and the business owners, especially owners of large stores, became unable to continue buying and selling. 

As a result, the business owners closed up their stores, which disturbed the authorities of the Syrian regime, which issued a report via loudspeakers, calling on all business owners to reopen them immediately, under legal accountability. The authorities shut down and sealed the closed stores with red wax. 

The Syrian regime made calls from the loudspeakers of mosques along with the city council, asking the business owners to reopen their stores immediately, and threatening them with punishment if they did not respond. 

Daraa has been subject to the influence of the Syrian regime since July 2018, according to a “settlement” agreement signed with the opposition factions with a Russian guarantee. Still, it did not firmly take control of the entire province. However, the Syrian regime has been trying to tighten its grip recently by increasing the spread of its forces and subjecting the negotiating parties militarily and socially.

 

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