October 09, 2013
Syria: How The 'Tiny Minority of Radicals' Took Azaz From the FSA and Kurdish Fighters
A guest post by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi.The banner in question?
The northern border town of Azaz in Aleppo Governorate recently came to the forefront of media attention in light of clashes in the town between the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) and the local FSA-banner battalion called Northern Storm. So what is the full story behind this conflict?
The ISIS presence in the town can be observed as far back as the beginning of July, when I detailed ISIS’ expansion into rural northern Syria with particular focus on border areas. At the time, the entry of ISIS members with an apparent intention to establish headquarters in Azaz provoked both protests and counter-protests.
Local activists in Azaz and/or those connected to such people have set up a number of Facebook pages, including two by the name of ‘Shabab Halab_Azaz’ (SHA: one which has always been against the ISIS presence in Azaz and has been deleted; another whose stance is more ambiguous), ‘Ahrar Azaz’ and ‘Azaz Media Center.’
The latter two groups originally hosted the ISIS banner on their pages but have recently removed them following multiple denunciations of ISIS. In an interview with those behind the anti-ISIS SHA, I asked about the presence of ISIS banners on Ahrar Azaz and Azaz Media Center’s pages and whether this meant that they were originally sympathetic to ISIS. They denied that this was the case, affirming that “at least 90% [of people] don’t know the meaning of the banner.”