Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Jihadists in Syria: Little in Common with the Spanish Civil War.

with 4 comments

More in common with the Condor Legion that Spanish republicans.

A couple of days ago Channel Four had this report,

British Muslim Iftikhar Jaman died fighting in Syria. He has gained a cult following and his death is being eulogised by some in his community.

Last summer, Jaman left his job in a call centre and signed up with the deadliest rebel group in Syria. Isis are accused of savage atrocities – and yet, Jaman’s death is now being eologised by some British Muslims. For the first time since he was killed, Channel 4 News has spoken exclusively to his family.

His brother Mustakim told us: “He died protecting the people. He fought for his God and the people itself. In our religion, there’s nothing better you can do than to fight in the path of Allah. His martyrdom is such a noble way to go out and just the best way someone can go out.”

Isis has been accused of carrying out savage attacks of civillians and on other rebel fighters. The group have posted hundreds of videos online. The images are used by recruiting sergeants, to lure foreign fighters to their ideological cause.

Jaman’s family admit he did spend hours online, but they deny he was brainwashed. In fact, they say he made an informed decision to help the oppressed. It is an argument that some in the commuuity will have sympathy with and presents a huge challenge for the security services.

His brother Tuhin said: “I would say that he’s done an honourable thing … he’s sacrificed his life, he’s done something for the oppressed people.”

A common refrain is that Syria is a present-day Spanish Civil War, attracting to idealistic Muslims, or as    says, “Just like the Spanish civil war in the Thirties, the Syrian conflict has all the makings of an international cause célèbre, with well-intentioned volunteers willing to risk their lives fighting to defeat a dictator.”

There is not the slightest doubt that Assad and his regime are murderous thugs.

It is a bloodthirsty tyranny, that the Syrian people tried to change by democratic means.

But, as the war has developed, the battle lines have become increasingly  religious and sectarian and Jihadists and the Islamist far-right have taken the lead in the clashes.

The sectarian element gets ignored by those praising, or condemning, Jihadists.

It is doubtful if Channel Four would give a similar sympathetic airing  to, say, the family of a member of Hezbollah, or the Shiites who have gone to Syria to fight Iftikhar Jaman, and, amongst others, Isis.

ISIS is so vile that  Al-Qaeda has disowned it, states the BBC.

This is the group,

Torture, flogging, and summary killings are rife in secret prisons run by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an armed group that controls large areas of northern Syria , said Amnesty International in a briefing published today.

ISIS , which claims to apply strict Shari’a (Islamic law) in areas it controls, has ruthlessly flouted the rights of local people. In the 18-page briefing, Rule of fear: ISIS abuses in detention in northern Syria , Amnesty International identifies seven detention facilities that ISIS uses in al-Raqqa governorate and Aleppo .

“Those abducted and detained by ISIS include children as young as eight who are held together with adults in the same cruel and inhuman conditions,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa .

Some of those held by ISIS are suspected of theft or other crimes; others are accused of “crimes” against Islam, such as smoking cigarettes or zina, sex outside marriage. Others were seized for challenging ISIS ‘s rule or because they belonged to rival armed groups opposed to the Syrian government. ISIS is also suspected of abducting and detaining foreign nationals, including journalists covering the fighting in Syria .

Several children were among detainees who received severe floggings, according to testimonies obtained by Amnesty International. On one occasion, an anguished father had to endure screams of pain as ISIS captors tormented his son in a nearby room. Two detainees related how they witnessed a child of about 14 receive a flogging of more than 90 lashes during interrogation at Sadd al-Ba’ath, an ISIS prison in al-Raqqa governorate. Another child of about 14 who ISIS accused of stealing a motorbike was repeatedly flogged over several days.

We learn today that Jubhat al-Nusr group (also known as Al-Nusra)  member has become the first Briton to kill himself in a suicide attack,

A British man fighting in Syria is thought to have become the first to be killed in a suicide attack after he blew himself up during a raid on a prison.

Known only by his nom de guerre, Abu Suleiman al-Britani, who belonged to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jubhat al-Nusr group, died yesterday during the storming of Aleppo’s central prison.

This group has also been accused of atrocities, against Alawites, Shiites, Kurds and Christians.

The BBC states,

Although the group may prefer to downplay its true ambitions, the message is clear: this is not a fight for democracy, but for the creation of Syria as an Islamic state ruled under Sharia.

Alleged members of al-Nusra usually display the black flag that is associated with global jihadist groups, particularly al-Qaeda in Iraq.

From this it can be seem there is a little to compare Syria with the Spanish Civil War.

The elected Republican government, backed by the left, fought a military uprising supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

Syria is not ruled by a democratic government, and nor are the Jihadists, which European Muslims are joining, democrats.

It is an insult to the beloved Republican Martyrs of the Spanish Civil war even to mention these people in the same breath.

If ISIS can be compared to anything it is to the  Condor Legion.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2014 at 11:47 am

4 Responses

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  1. I’m not sure that a parallel can be easily drawn with Spain. In Spain, in my reading, we had a military coup against the elected left/liberal government which in turn provoked a broad response that was increasingly radical and which was in turn held back from within by the Stalinists (both indigenous and imported) and right-wing social democrats and certain anarchist figures. The result was confusion within the republican camp, repression against the radicals, further demoralisation and military retreat and finally military and political defeat of the republican forces, with the victory of Franco and his nationalists and their ensuing white terror and decades of repressive government.

    In Syria, we had a broadly democratic upsurge against a repressive government, with the latter responding in a brutal manner in suppressing the upsurge, and over the intervening period the democratic opposition forces have been steadily marginalised by hard-line Islamist groups, some sponsored by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, some straightforward al Qaeda types both from within Syria and from outside. The future of Syria seems to boil down to a struggle between a very nasty regime and a range of extremely nasty jihadists. Those who talk today of a ‘Syrian revolution’ are merely kidding themselves.

    The volunteers who went to Spain to fight for the republic were left-wing and democratic in outlook, even if this was distorted by Stalinist politics; the young lads going to Syria today are hard-line Islamists, not at all democratic in outlook. Here Andrew is correct. But to equate them with the Nazi volunteers is to a fair degree to make an ahistorical parallel: contrary to certain what people think, the jihadists are not the tools of the big Western powers as the Condor legion was an agency of Germany. Their relationship with Washington, Paris and London is, as it’s always been between the big powers and Islamist guerrillas, a good deal more complex.

    Whilst risking the chance of also being called ahistorical, one might venture that the role of the jihadists in Syria is more akin to that of the Stalinists on the republican side in Spain: perverting a democratic struggle in the interests of a foreign power — then in favour of Moscow; now in favour of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And just as left-wingers who pointed out this awkward fact about the Stalinists were considered defeatists or liars or even agents of Franco, those today who point to the role of jihadists are considered to be defeatists or apologists for Assad.

    Dr Paul

    February 8, 2014 at 3:42 pm

  2. Paul, it is a hard to sustain comparison on many levels, but it’s frequently made in the media.

    Some people, and not only those who always excuse Islamism, have put it in those terms – very often in fact.

    To counter this I referred to the Jihadists murdering, killing and oppressing people wherever they have any power.

    Far from being idealistic, but misguided, they should, with the Assad regime, be tried as war criminals.

    Andrew Coates

    February 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm

  3. War without end. There is feuding between the Islamist groups and I don’t see how this can be resolved. Someone will always argue they deserve a larger share of the plunder. It occured to me that we are glimpsing the future of Afghanistan when the Western troops withdraw. Not that that is an argument for Western intervention. America believes that capitalism is the ‘natural’ state of society and one that guarantees harmoney and peace. Trouble is these people don’t want harmony and peace, and they oppose capitalism because it didn’t originate in the East.

    Sue R

    February 8, 2014 at 7:06 pm

  4. You reject the analogy based on confusing a trend within the struggle with the nature of the struggle itself. Jabhat al-Nusra has been accused of lots of things but there is only one documented instance of a massacre perpetrated against Alawis (none so far against Kurds, Christians, Druze) and local Free Syrian Army brigades were also involved in the atrocity. That’s not enough to make a broad generalization in terms of behavior nor is it proper to repeat ‘accusations’ without fact-checking them.

    Not George Sabra

    February 10, 2014 at 8:23 pm


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