Idlib: New committee to facilitate communication between protesters and Tahrir al-Sham

Members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham clashed with protesters demanding the overthrow of faction leader Abu Mohammad al-Jolani in the city of Binnish, east of Idlib - May 17, 2024 (Omar Haj Kadour/Facebook)

Members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham clashed with protesters demanding the overthrow of faction leader Abu Mohammad al-Jolani in the city of Binnish, east of Idlib - May 17, 2024 (Omar Haj Kadour/Facebook)


The Revolutionary Movement Gathering in Idlib announced the formation of a committee to communicate with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its political umbrella, the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG), following assaults on protesters and the deployment of military forces to the streets.

The Gathering stated on Saturday, May 18, that it formed a committee to engage with official and public entities in Idlib to discuss the affairs of the movement, following calls from activists, lawyers, engineers, and teachers to restore rationality and withdraw the military from the roads.

The director of the Emergency Response Team, Dulama Imad Ali, who is among those seeking dialogue between the two sides, said the committee was formed in response to demands for reconciliation, urging the start of a new phase to prevent exclusion, cancellation, and absolute negation.

The Gathering was established on May 8, including the Association of People of Knowledge in Northern Syria, the Coordination Unions, and the Dignity Initiative Assembly.

The Gathering has several goals, including the peaceful overthrow of Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, the dissolution of the General Security Service, clearing the prisons of the wronged, and forming a genuine Shura Council that considers accurate representation of community segments, upholds the rule of law, ensures the independence of the judiciary, and bases the administrative institution on legal foundations with participation from all competencies.

The Gathering does not represent all those involved in the popular movement in Idlib, and calls for reconciliation and negotiation did not prevent demonstrations from continuing, following incidents of assault on protesters on May 17.

On the same day, Tahrir al-Sham detained Dr. Mohammad Farouk Keshkesh, one of the movement’s coordinators and members of the Gathering, and released him hours later.

After his release, Keshkesh stated through a voice recording that security personnel in Tahrir al-Sham arrested him, took him to a center, and discussed the popular movement with him.

Escalation or negotiation

On May 17, the cities of Binnish and Jisr al-Shughour in the Idlib countryside witnessed assaults by elements affiliated with Tahrir al-Sham on protesters, during their demands to overthrow the faction leader, al-Jolani. This was preceded by the forceful dispersal of a sit-in and the removal of a protest tent in central Idlib three days earlier.

These incidents received broad interaction and condemnation, reminiscent of the practices of regime forces with peaceful demonstrations in Syria at the beginning of the revolution in 2011, and were met with a different narrative from Tahrir al-Sham and the Salvation Government, alleging that the protesters started the aggression initially.

In an earlier conversation with Enab Baladi with a researcher in jihadist groups, Orabi Orabi, he said that the situation in Idlib is heading towards complexity, and the insistence of both sides on their positions will lead to further disturbances. He added that the movement’s leadership is pushing for confrontation and wants escalation to increase friction and public pressure on Tahrir al-Sham.

Orabi believes that al-Jolani relies on the scenario of people’s sympathy and solidarity with the military personnel, opposed to damaging the region or plunging it into a “battle of conflict.” He pointed out that the HTS wants to put the movement’s leadership under this pressure.

Orabi proposed another scenario, which is negotiation and agreement between the two sides, where al-Jolani would retain some powers in exchange for relinquishing others.



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