First Christian Unit of FSA Forms

by Darth Nader on September 19, 2012

In the midst of reports that Christians are forming their own militias to keep the Free Syrian Army out of their neighborhoods in Aleppo, and that a brigade in Idlib has named itself after the murderous dictator Saddam Hussein (probably for sectarian reasons), a new video has emerged that undermines the sectarian dynamic in Syria.

On Tuesday a video was posted to YouTube announcing the formation of a new battalion in the Free Syrian Army in the Damascus countryside composed entirely of Syrian Christians.

Crosses and Free Syria flags decorate the room as the rebels read their proclamation to the camera.

After posting the video, a friend of mine was nice enough to write out the entire translation of their statement:

“Glory to God in the heavens, and peace on earth, and happiness to the people.

We the youth of the revolution who adhere to the Christian faith hereby proclaim the formation of the ‘Supporters of God’ Battalion in Rif Dimashq, [literally the Damascus countryside, which is one of the 14 governorates of Syria], thus becoming the loyal soldiers and defenders of our land alongside our Muslim brothers and partners, in this country that does not know division or sectarianism, except when uttered by the tongue of this corrupt regime.

This regime does not attribute to God the glory that is His, and [this regime] bears no relation to peace whatsoever. Consequently, we have taken an oath not to return to our churches that have been defiled by the regime until our land is liberated from this tyrannous gang.

We ask God to make us pure of our mistakes, and we ask the Syrian people to be loving and forgiving to each other in order for victory to be our ally. Long live Syria, free and proud!” (Chants of ‘long live Syria, free and proud!’)

More coverage of the Syrian revolution from The North Star:

  • Brian S.

    Interesting news. But under present circumstances I think everything coming out of Syria needs to be taken with one or more pinches of salt. The story of the “Saadam Hussein batallion” seems odd – although the people posting it on YouTube look legit. As Darth Nader says, the only plausible explanation would seem to be a sectarian one.

    I don’t know if people have seen this report of the events in Daraya from the Guardian: its the first in a series of Skype interviews they’ve been carrying from an informant in the city (scroll down to 16:06 BST Interview with a resident of Darayya
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2012/sep/06/syria-aleppo-rebels-fight-on-live
    This account is fuller and more nuanced than any I’ve seen elsewhere, and has the ring of credibility for me.
    I think the sort of interaction it describes between civilians and the FSA is important: it makes it clear that the civilian opposition is still playing a significant role, and that they have some hope of getting the FSA to correct their errors. They are a very inexperienced force and clearly need to learn from their mistakes.
    On another note, Agence France Presse (in my view the most reliable western media source) has confirmed that the helicopter which “crashed” according to Syrian government accounts, was in fact shot down by the FSA. Whether this was just a lucky shot or the first sign that the rumoured shipment of anti-aircraft weapons has started to arrive, remains to be seen.

  • Brian S.

    A Roundup of some recent important news features:
    Those of you in the States may have seen this excellent PBS/Frontline programme: but in case you missed it or for those of you elsewhere, check out:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/foreign-affairs-defense/battle-for-syria/syria-the-crisis-the-rebels-the-endgame/
    It provides an excellent review of the key issues in the current situation (nature of the FSA, jihadist influence, sectarianism, situation in the Alawite community, prospects for resolution) provided by two of the sharpest journalists who have been on the spot (Anand, Gopal; Time’s Rania Abouzeid) and a clutch of passably intelligent analysts.
    The programme itself doesn’ seem to be viewable in the UK (so probably not outside the US) – but there is a full transcript.
    The same site also has a really powerful report from Ghaith Abdul-Ahad on the Aleppo frontline, which both gives a feel for the texture of the revolt and important insights into wider, strategic issues. It contains some very interesting information on arms supplies, and some worrying information about the growing salafist influence.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/foreign-affairs-defense/battle-for-syria/behind-rebel-lines-ghaith-abdul-ahad-on-syrias-war-of-attrition/

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      Nir Rosen has a great piece on the Alawi side of the revolution: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n18/nir-rosen/among-the-alawites

      • Brian S.

        Yes – I got it this morning in the post: I didn’t mention it because I thought it might be behind a paywall: but great that you can access it.

  • Arthur

    The Syrian and Iraqi Baathists really hated each other. Despite that, lots of Iraqi Baathists ended up fleeing to Syria. The Iraqi regime drenched itself in Sunni religious sectarianism towards its end (and after) as well as having been secular Sunni chauvinists all along. Not surprising that they would form a sectarian brigade.

    The Christian brigade is certainly a more positive development!

    (Unfortunately both the numbers and the fact that they are ALL masked confirms that they are still an isolated minority among Chrisitans).

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      “(Unfortunately both the numbers and the fact that they are ALL masked confirms that they are still an isolated minority among Chrisitans).”

      No, it confirms that, as Christians, they would be very easy to identify by the regime. Showing your face pretty much guarantees your extended family ends up in a ditch chopped up in pieces. No thanks!

      Furthermore, masks and costumes have a long history in the revolutionary movement. The original Tea Party threw private property overboard in full disguise in part to protect their identities.

      • Arthur

        Nope. There are lots of similar videos of (much larger) brigades announcing themselves with similar group shots. Generally the large majority are unmasked (even the Sadaam Hussein brigade, which would not be especially popular). Presumably the minority who are masked are identifiable and have families living in communities where the regime is able to get them, whereas the majority who are unmasked are less afraid of identification and retaliation against themselves and families.

        The fact that ALL the Christian brigade are masked suggest that NONE of them are in that situation of not fearing retaliation, ie none of them live in a community not dominated by the regime, ie that they are still an isolated minority among Christians.

        That of course is well known from all other indications. The newsworthy item is the fact that there now IS a Christian brigade. There is nothing controversial about noting that unlike the Sunni brigades it represents an isolated minority in Christian communities.

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

          “The fact that ALL the Christian brigade are masked suggest that NONE of them are in that situation of not fearing retaliation, ie none of them live in a community not dominated by the regime, ie that they are still an isolated minority among Christians.”

          They are in a suburb of Damascus, within striking distance of a regime stronghold. It would be suicide to be unmasked for this reason, regardless of how much support they might have among Christians.

          This is a sign that the Assad regime’s popular base among minority communities is fracturing. There are rumors of disputes at the top of the Alawite community as well: http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/09/18/238771.html

          • Arthur

            Yes, it is a sign of fracturing. But unfortunately not yet a sign that it is fractured. There are not yet any communities of Christians that are dominated by rebels rather than regime supporters. Even less fractured for Alawites. Kurds still seem to be staying out of it all. Avoid illusions that this could be over quickly. It looks like a long war.

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