PHOTO: Kafranbel protesters denounce Islamic State of Iraq, January 3, 2013
The activists of Kafranbel in Idlib Province have been prominent, with their posters and videos, in the challenge to the Assad regime since the beginning of mass protests in March 2011.
On December 28, fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham stormed the media office in Kafranbel, stealing computers and equipment and briefly abducting six activists.
The incident and other ISIS abuses prompted protests in Kafranbel — part of national demonstrations last Friday — denouncing the group.
Abdullah al-Saloum, one of the detained staff, describes the raid and the aftermath to Syria Direct:
Q: Tell me about the incident, what did ISIS do during the abduction?
Al-Saloum: I was sitting with another member [of the media office], Hamoud al-Jnaid, in the office. We were talking with someone via Skype, and we had two guests who were using Skype too. We heard a knock on the door. I went to open it to find a group of armed men. Four men pointed their rifles at my head, ordering me to set down on the ground. The rest of them entered to the office. They asked me “where are they?” Before knowing who they wanted, I answered, “Inside.”
After they entered, they stood us against the wall with our faces to it. They asked us about the journalists, whether they were there or not, and where they were.
They searched and did not find anyone. Then their emir ordered them to take everything. They did not leave anything in the office.
Q: Who are the journalists they asked for?
Al-Saloum: Beneath the media office there is Fresh Radio, and they also arrested six of its members and took everything. They were asking about journalists in general.
Q: Where did they take you to?
Al-Saloum: They took us to ISIS’s site in another village.
Q: Can you talk about the circumstances under detention? How did they treat you and how long were you detained?
Al-Saloum: They took us to their office. They interrogated Hamoud and I about the journalists and the funding. They asked who was painting the banners? Who is writing them? Who is giving us the ideas for the banners? They gave us dates and tea to drink. After 4 hours, they took us back to the media office in Kafr Nabl.
Q: Did anyone from Kafranbel or its Military Council come to help you after the arrest?
Al-Saloum: A leader from Fursan al-Haq Battalion came.
Q: Is that Free Syrian Army-affiliated?
Q: Did ISIS try to assault you before the event?
Q: How do you think ISIS entered Kafranbel? Isn’t the city under FSA control?
Al-Saloum: There are no checkpoints in Kafranbel, for any battalion.
Q: Does ISIS have any presence in the city?
Al-Saloum: No, they are not here anymore.
Q: As a Syrian from Kafranbel, how would you describe the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant? Do you think they have a future in Syria?
Al-Saloum: I do not think they have a future here in Syria, because the Syrians do not want them.
Q: We see many Syrians are taking the extremists’ side lately. Do you think ISIS can stay by force?
Al-Saloum: No. If this is about a weapons arsenal and military strength, Bashar [President Assad] would stay.
Q: How would you describe ISIS?
Al-Saloum: It is a group that wants to carry out an agenda in Syria in God’s name. But I don’t know what their agenda or project is.