Al-Jolani’s brother stirs controversy in Idlib

The head of the Syrian Salvation Government, Mohamed al-Bashir (right), and Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, during Eid gathering with some displaced residents in Idlib - April 10, 2024 (Amjad media)

The head of the Syrian Salvation Government, Mohamed al-Bashir (right), and Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, during Eid gathering with some displaced residents in Idlib - April 10, 2024 (Amjad media)


News circulated by news websites and leaders who defected from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which holds military control in Idlib, reported that Abu Mohammad al-Jolani’s brother, Maher Hussein al-Shar’a, is currently serving as the Deputy Minister of Health in the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG), and his presence contradicts government decisions, as he was working in areas under the Syrian regime’s control until 2020.

A former sharia adviser in Tahrir al-Sham, Abu Yahya al-Shami, said that Maher Hussein al-Shar’a currently controls the health portfolio in Idlib as the Deputy Minister and works in the University hospital in the city specializing in urology, and is nominated to take on larger responsibilities, albeit not openly but behind the scenes, according to him.

Al-Shami mentioned that Dr. al-Shar’a had a clinic in Khan Arnabeh town in Quneitra on Hader street until the end of 2020, then he left for the UAE, then Russia until the summer of 2022, and then smoothly and easily entered Idlib through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey.

The former sharia advisor added that the regime and its Russian ally did not target Dr. al-Shar’a until 2022, even though al-Jolani had announced his identity and affiliation to Hussein Ali al-Shar’a since 2016, and international intelligence agencies knew him even before this date.

Salvation Govt clarifies

The Salvation Government explained to Enab Baladi that since its establishment in 2017, it has focused on caring for skilled professionals and expertise and attracting them to build the institutions of the area, especially medical professionals and rare specialties.

It added that among these professionals is Dr. Maher al-Hussein, born in Damascus in 1973, and in 1999, he obtained a doctorate in medical sciences majoring in gynecological surgery, infertility treatment and assisted fertilization, oncological surgery, and cosmetic surgery, and a diploma in health systems management.

It mentioned that he worked in Syria at the Ministry of Health as the head of the obstetrics and gynecology department from 2004 until 2012, and was arrested by the regime’s forces in 2012, and after leaving prison, he fled from the regime’s oppression.

According to the Salvation Government, the doctor moved as a consultant in gynecological surgery between several regional Arab and Western countries, and recently worked in northern Syria between 2022 and 2023, including during the earthquake period.

In light of international neglect to respond properly to the region and the shortage of professionals in some medical specialties, the Salvation Government significantly valued attracting experienced Syrians living abroad to bolster its medical sector, according to the government’s explanations.

Therefore, it continued to communicate with many doctors for entering northern Syria, provided facilities for their entry, and among the doctors who entered the opposition-controlled areas following the earthquake disaster was Dr. Maher al-Hussein, who performed many critical surgeries.

The Salvation Government stated that Dr. Maher declined many attractive offers from major hospitals outside the country and returned to the north to contribute to building the health-related institutions, transferring to them his work experiences of over 25 years.

After the launch of the Salvation Government in its eighth session, Dr. Maher was appointed as a consultant to the Minister of Health.

According to the Salvation Government’s explanations, Dr. Maher was not the only person who returned to the north, as Dr. Marwan Shaaban from Canada, and Dr. Muayid Ghazlan from Spain, also returned, and the north continues to be prepared for the return of the Syrian elite to contribute to the process of building and development, as per the Salvation Government.

Dr. Maher Hussein al-Shar'a (Medikey)

Dr. Maher Hussein al-Shar’a (Medikey)

Without denial or confirmation

The Salvation Government neither confirmed nor denied the validity of the relationship of Dr. Maher Hussein al-Shar’a with the leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, as it avoided clarifying whether he worked in areas under the control of the Syrian regime until 2020.

According to the Russian ‘Prodoctorov‘ website for doctor reviews, and according to the CV of Dr. Maher al-Shar’a, he worked as a consultant in artificial insemination at Orient Hospital for Assisted Reproduction and Genetics in Damascus from 2008 to 2013, and worked at Abha Hospital for Maternity and Children in southwest Saudi Arabia from 2014 until 2018, and worked at Es Class Clinic, a medical center in Russia, in 2018.

According to the site, the doctor is a graduate of the Voronezh State Medical Academy in Russia in 2000.

Who is al-Jolani

Abu Mohammad al-Jolani currently leads Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and is Ahmad Hussein al-Shar’a, hailing from the Golan area in southern Syria, born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1982, and returned to Syria in early 1989.

Al-Jolani grew up and resided in the Mazzeh district of Damascus in the Eastern Villas area, where his Islamic tendencies were almost non-existent. Influenced by the Palestinian Intifada in 1999 and 2000, someone advised him to go to the mosque, pray there and commit to praying at the mosque, according to what al-Jolani said in an interview.

He went to Iraq after the American invasion in 2003, and rose through the ranks of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and reportedly became a close aide to its leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

He was captured and detained by the US army in Camp Bucca, and after his release in 2008, he worked with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq at that time (before his death), then was appointed head of the Pakistani Intelligence Service in Ninawa province.

Al-Jolani returned to Syria in 2011, and founded Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) as a subgroup of the Islamic State.

In 2013, he refused al-Baghdadi’s instructions to dissolve al-Nusra Front as an independent group and make it part of the Islamic State, and pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and its leader at the time, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

He was listed by the United States as a specially designated global terrorist in May 2013.

In 2016, al-Jolani announced that al-Nusra Front had changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and severed its ties with al-Qaeda.

The cutting of ties was not accepted by the international community, and in May 2017, the FBI offered a $10 million reward for information leading to the identification or location of al-Jolani.

In early 2017, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham announced the formation of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and in October 2017, Hashim Sheikh (Abu Jaber)’s resignation as the general leader of Tahrir al-Sham was accepted, and al-Jolani was tasked with managing the faction’s affairs.



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