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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

Syrian revolution,

many will be

reminded once

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

security forces.

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

Syrian Police?

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


LGERIA’S Islamist

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

up arms.

The “black decade” of violence that

followed created divisions that last to

this day.

Joining forces

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.

— AP


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

their fortunes.

Political scientist Rachid Grine said

that since Bouteflika first came to power

in 1999, Islamist parties had been nearly

wiped out.

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

fragmented movement.

Islamist leader Abdallah Djaballah,

Ennahda’s founder who later set up the

FJD, agreed.

“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

their years.

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

each city.

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

coming from?

Soueid says that in the beginning,

there was no formal financial

support, so they depended on

individual donations to sustain

their work.

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

and Denmark.

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.