Syria Feature: PR War — Jabhat al-Nusra Gives Candy To Children


Earlier this week, EA reported how the Islamist insurgent faction Jabhat al-Nusra is putting considerable efforts into winning over Syrian hearts and minds through the provision of services, reconstruction and security to local people.

Beyond that, and beyond its military battles, Jabhat al-Nusra is also waging a public relations war — its “media mujahidin” are using social media and internet resources to disseminate their messages, ideology and branding.

A professionally-made promotional video for Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra, uploaded on Friday, provides an excellent illustration of this strategy. Created by a group calling itself the Hemm News Agency, the video tells the story of how Jabhat al-Nusra fighters are distributing vital food and humanitarian aid to grateful civilians in Taoum, Idlib during Ramadan.

The video opens with an establishing shot of a heavily-branded — via a distinctive flag and signage — Jabhat al-Nusra pick-up truck heading along a road. A caption tells us that the truck is distributing aid to Taoum:

Intro shot setting the scene

The truck stops in the village, which is clean and tidy, and shows no signs that regime forces have attacked, an indication that Jabhat al-Nusra are providing security.

Here, we are shown a series of very brief scenes: a Jabhat al-Nusra fighter gives bread to village children while someone holds up the Jabhat al-Nusra flag to ensure it is clearly shown in the shot:

JAN flag

JAN give kids bread

A family is shown carrying bags of food back to their home, a woman holding what appears to be cans of infant formula thank Jabhat al-Nusra:

woman gets baby formula

A Jabhat al-Nusra fighter hands out sweets to small children, one of whom (not shown in the still below) is holding a wooden gun:

JAN give kids lollipops

The video closes with the text of the 36th Hadith from Imam Nawawi’s Forty Hadith, Allah Helps Him Who Helps His Brother:

مَنْ نَفَّسَ عَنْ مُؤْمِنٍ كُرْبَةً مِنْ كُرَبِ الدُّنْيَا نَفَّسَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ كُرْبَةً مِنْ كُرَبِ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ

He who relieves the hardship of a believer in this world, Allah will relieve his hardship on the Day of Judgment.

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  1. Thanks for this analysis. Very slick opening station-ID as well.

    So this is the panem – now all they need is the circensus. I wonder what that could be under JAN rule …..

    • I think that could be the illusion of “security” — including by publicly punishing or even executing those who are deemed to have threatened that “security”. What was interesting from this video was the emphasis on JAN’s interaction with children — mostly boys though there did appear to be a small girl in the video as well.

      • That’s exactly what I was insinuating – public corporal punishments and executions. :-(

        But I don’t think the Syrian adult audience will be receptive to that kind of entertainment no matter how much bread they’re given. That’s why JAN’s working on the kids. They’re in it for the long term, as they have said in many statements.

        • Yes, and what was interesting about the video was how the kids were presented — as a group of young boys, at least one of whom was carrying a wooden gun — so for them JAN fighters can easily be role models.

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