Saudi Gazette, Saturday, January 21, 2017
Algeria’s economic and social difficulties would mean
growing public opposition to the government. That could play
in the Islamists’ favor, and experts suspect
that if the MSP does well, it could join the
next government alongside the FLN.
Emergence and rise of
the Free Syrian Police
By Leila Alwan
S the world nears
the six-year an-
niversary of the
many will be
again of the atrocities committed
by the regime against its people.
It was in July 2011, a few
months after the revolution began,
when the Free Syrian Army was
born as several soldiers from
Bashar Al-Assad’s army could no
longer blindly follow orders to
shoot their own countrymen.
At the time, it was widely
reported that the regime’s police
force began blackmailing people,
accepting bribes in exchange for
leaving them alone. This is when
Syrians like Mohammed Abdo
from Idlib began seeing the need
to organize their own police and
In 2014, the “Free Syrian Po-
lice” was born. “The Free Syrian
Police works to protect our rights
and help us during difficult times.
They are very different than
Assad’s police forces for sure,”
Abdo told Al Arabiya English.
Who are the Free
Brigadier Fouad Soueid and chief
of the Free Syrian Police told Al
Arabiya English it was his men
who Assad began using as a first
line of defense when he wanted
to suppress protests that were
quickly turning into a revolution.
Soueid said that they were
ordered to shoot and detain peace-
ful protesters and when they op-
posed, they were either detained
or worse, killed.
“Of course the noble and
patriotic among the policemen
refused to take such actions
against the people, so they started
defecting,” he said.
The Free Syrian Police, which
serve mainly in the rebel-held
areas of Idlib province was
established in 2014. There was a
need to establish civil institutions
to serve those areas which were
Algeria’s Islamists unify ranks ahead of April elections
parties are joining forces
ahead of April parlia-
mentary elections in
hope of reversing a long
political decline and
having a greater say in the future of the
North African country.
But they face a firmly anti-Islamist
government and an electorate with bitter
memories of violence between militants
and the state in the 1990s, which left an
estimated 200,000 people dead.
The vote comes amid growing
security and economic challenges along
with speculation around who will suc-
ceed 79-year-old President Abdelaziz
Bouteflika — although experts say the
real decision lies in the hands of the
country’s secretive elite.
Three leading Islamist parties — El
Binaa, the Front for Justice and Devel-
opment (FJD) and Ennahda — said in
December they were forming a “strate-
gic” alliance for the election, ahead of a
full merger later in 2017.
In early January, the Movement for
the Society of Peace (MSP), which has
links to the Muslim Brotherhood, and
a splinter group, the Front for Change,
said they would reunite.
That could bring Algeria’s frag-
mented Islamist movement together into
just two parties ahead of the April poll,
the exact date for which has not yet been
“They do not expect great successes
in the next election, so they are trying to
gather themselves and form a common
force,” said political scientist Rachid
Islamist parties in Algeria have real-
ized that political Islam in its various
forms has lost public support, he said.
Moderate Islamists have been forced
to negotiate a difficult balancing act
since the violence of the 1990s.
A radical movement, the Islamic
Salvation Front (FIS), had been poised
to win a parliamentary election in 1991
when the army stepped in to cancel it,
prompting many FIS members to take
The “black decade” of violence that
followed created divisions that last to
The Islamists’ previous experience
shows that joining forces in elections is
no guarantee of success.
At the last parliamentary election
Daesh destroys part of Roman theater
Daesh (s-called IS) group militants destroyed a landmark ancient
Roman monument and parts of the theater in Syria’s historic town
of Palmyra, the government and opposition monitoring groups
said Friday. Maamoun Abdulkarim, the head of Syria’s antiquities
department, said the militants destroyed the facade of the second-
century theater along with the Tetrapylon, a cubic-shaped ancient
Roman monument that sits in the middle of the colonnade road
that leads to the theater. Abdulkarim told The Associated Press that
reports of the destruction first trickled out of the Daesh-held town late
in December. But satellite images of the damage were only available
late Thursday, confirming the destruction. The imagery, provided by
the US-based American Schools of Oriental Research, show significant
damage to the Tetrapylon and the theater. The ASOR said the damage
is likely caused by intentional destruction from Daesh but they were
unable to verify the exact cause. Abdulkarim said only two of the 16
columns of the Tetrapylon remain standing.
Settlers rescued from Palestine area
Four Israeli settlers were rescued from angry Palestinian villagers
in the occupied West Bank on Friday after they entered in unclear
circumstances, Palestinian officials said. The four armed settlers
entered the village of Qusra, sparking a confrontation with residents,
municipality head Abdul Azeem Al-Wadi told AFP. Villagers surrounded
them but Palestinian security forces stepped in to detain the four for
their own safety, he said. “Israeli officials have been informed and
will come and take them.” A Palestinian security source said the four
were later moved to the outskirts of the village, from where Israeli
forces took them to safety. The Israeli army said it was looking into
the incident. Some 430,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank
alongside around 2.75 million Palestinians. Some 200,000 more live
in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
Hopes fading for Iran firefighters
Iranian officials said Friday they were losing hope of pulling any
survivors from the rubble of a collapsed Tehran high-rise where
around 20 firefighters are feared to have lost their lives. Rescue
workers, soldiers and sniffer dogs were still frantically searching
through the wreckage of the 15-story Plasco building in downtown
Tehran, which collapsed on Thursday after a four-hour blaze. But
smoldering fires and smoke were complicating the search, and so far
no survivors or bodies had been found. “It is very unlikely that we
will pull anyone out alive from the rubble,” the head of Tehran’s crisis
management centre, Esmail Najjar, told the ISNA news agency. “Our
goal is to recover the bodies of these martyrs without causing any
damage to the bodies,” he added.
40 militants killed in Syria airstrikes
More than 40 fighters of former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh Al-Sham
Front were killed in airstrikes on their camp in northern Syria late
on Thursday, a monitoring group said. The Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights said it could not immediately specify who carried out
the strikes in the western part of Aleppo province. A US-led coalition
as well as the Syrian government and its ally Russia have carried out
strikes against Fateh Al-Sham targets in recent weeks. “Warplanes,
which may have been Russian or coalition aircraft, struck a Fateh
Al-Sham camp in Jabal Al-Sheikh Suleiman,” the Britain-based
observatory said. The militant group, formerly known as Al-Nusra
Front, is not party to a Russian- and Turkish-brokered ceasefire
that went into effect on Dec. 30 and has sustained major losses in
airstrikes in recent weeks. Around 100 of its fighters have been killed
since the start of the year, according to the monitor.
in 2012 following Arab Spring-inspired
street protests, Islamist parties hoped
they could replicate the gains of their
peers in Egypt and Tunisia.
The MSP, which was part of the
government, left it and joined forces
with Ennahda and El Islah to fight the
But they suffered the worst electoral
defeat in their history.
A coalition led by Bouteflika’s
National Liberation Front (FLN), which
ruled Algeria under a single-party system
from independence in 1962 until the
early 1990s, kept its grip on power.
When Bouteflika controversially
stood for a fourth term in a 2014
presidential election, Algeria’s three main
Islamist parties boycotted, calling it a
But the boycott did little to improve
Political scientist Rachid Grine said
that since Bouteflika first came to power
in 1999, Islamist parties had been nearly
However, “if the elections are hon-
est, the Islamists will be... among the
winners,” he said.
MSP head Abderezak Mokri, one of
the country’s most senior Islamist lead-
ers, told AFP that taking part in the April
poll was imperative.
He said his party would not call for
street protests or a boycott.
“We refuse to throw oil on the fire
because we want a peaceful political
transition in the interest of Algeria,” he
He said Algeria’s economic and
social difficulties would mean growing
public opposition to the government.
That could play in the Islamists’ fa-
vor, and experts suspect that if the MSP
does well, it could join the next govern-
ment alongside the FLN.
Mokri said the challenge facing
Islamist parties was to become less of a
Islamist leader Abdallah Djaballah,
Ennahda’s founder who later set up the
“Union is a necessity”, he told AFP.
“We will meet the MSP soon and see
what we can do together”.
liberated from regime control over
Soueid says many residents
were in dire need for necessary
services after the regime bombed
many of the cities’ infrastructures,
mainly buildings belonging to
education, health and electricity
sectors. Those demands were made
possible again because residents
were able to organize themselves
into local caretaker councils in
As many of the police officers
defected, Soueid says these men
then united to created police sta-
tions and serve people in liber-
ated areas. While a shortage of
policemen was evident early on,
many civilians started training and
joining their ranks.
The Free Syrian Police is now
believed to consist of around 6,000
men. Roughly 1,200 of them were
those who originally defected from
the regime’s police academy. The
force serves under 150 ranking
Soueid says that some of them
get paid very little, while others
volunteer since there is not enough
financial support to pay them.
Assisting the White Helmets
Their duties vary from making
sure traffic is controlled and free-
ing up the roads during snow or
aerial bombardments to facilitate
the work of the civil defense units,
ambulances and firefighters.
“It is important we help the
rescue teams when areas are being
bombed by making sure every-
thing is run smoothly and people
know where to go, and deaths and
injuries are documented,” he said.
They play the role of media-
tors in the absence of the judiciary
by helping resolve differences and
reconciling issues when it comes
to agriculture, civil rights and
other disputes. They also inves-
tigate crimes, including murders,
theft, counterfeiting, forgery, abuse
cases, trafficking, and the manu-
facturing of illegal drugs.
Where is the support
Soueid says that in the beginning,
there was no formal financial
support, so they depended on
individual donations to sustain
At the end of 2014, interested
external parties were briefed on the
Free Syrian Police, and a certain
budget was agreed on.
These were foreign ministry
representatives from the US, UK
The FSP receives financial as-
sistance from these governments,
including training, logistics sup-
port, equipment, wardrobe and a
basic monthly salary for the police.
There are two police training
centers in Idlib today, in the north
and south. Some members also
receive training in Turkey.
Difficulties FSP face
According to Soueid, the con-
tinuous bombardment creates
obstacles for the policemen trying
to carry out their duties.
Many police stations have been
bombed in the past several years,
including one in the village of Has.
The attack on Has left one police
officer dead and scores injured.
Soueid said another problem
is the displacement of a large num-
ber of populations from the prov-
inces of Aleppo, Homs, Damascus,
Hama, and Latakia that come into
Idlib as a result of the constant
— Al Arabiya English
Some of the police force get paid very little, while others volunteer themselves since there is not enough financial support to pay them.
— Al Arabiya photos
The police duties vary from making sure traffic is controlled and freeing up the roads during snow
or aerial bombardments to facilitate the work of the civil defense units, ambulances and firefighters.