In Focus | A reading into the statements of the general Jurist of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham
Abu Abdullah al-Shami, the general Sharia jurist of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), statements were published by the Swiss Newspaper Le Temps on September 3, 2020. The statements aligned with the general approach adopted by HTS as they were part of a longer article explaining the reality on the ground in northern Syria. The statements confirmed HTS’s endeavor to normalize relations with foreign countries, especially Western countries, and to be removed from the terrorist list.
The context of the statements combined with al-Golani’s previous statements demonstrate that HTS wishes to meet certain demands of Western states, most importantly:
• Removing HTS from the terrorist list: HTS pursues many methods to achieve this such as restructuring and consolidating its local elements into leadership positions with the aim of reinventing itself as a new organization. It has also sought to emphasize its local orientation through marketing itself as party that rejects “fighting any other [forces] than al-Assad's forces and his allies.”
• Supporting HTS politically: by formally normalizing relations with it and announcing that official channels of communication have been opened. This moves concealed communication and relations to the public stage and serves as a recognition of legitimacy.
• Recognizing HTS as an administrative authority in the Idlib regions in a semi-official manner by organizing the distribution of humanitarian aid via the Salvation Government which HTS oversees. In addition to pledging to give reconstruction contracts to figures and sites that are subordinate to HTS in in the northwestern region of Syria.
• Benefiting from HTS’s control over the foreign jihadists files as HTS controls their behavior and prevents them from negatively affecting international agreements. In addition to preventing them from becoming ideological and security threats that transcends state boundaries.
Practically: HTS is trying to emerge as the faction that is in tune with international trends. It affirms its rejection of the “globalization of jihad” and within this framework provides direct services to control the “globalized jihad” and the foreign jihadists file. It also emphasizes its rejection of ISIS’s behavior by comparing the ideological and living conditions of citizens in the areas controlled by the two factions respectively. Through these appeals, HTS justifies that they should be removed from the terrorist list and that it should be approached as an administrative authority similar to the Autonomous Administration in the region east of the Euphrates.
Despite these efforts, the issue may not be realized in the manner that the HTS is seeking especially as HTS currently plays a functional role in the conflict which requires it to continue in its current approach. Once HTS changes, its fate will unknown although HTS is seeking answers about that future fate at this time.
Unit of Religious Movement - Jusoor for Studies