Residents of Syria's Idlib protest against HTS policies, forced disappearances

Residents of Syria's Idlib protest against HTS policies, forced disappearances
2 min read
22 January, 2022
Residents of the village Deir Hassan rallied after weekly prayers against the rebel faction’s restrictions on political and media activity, and forced disappearances of dissidents.
HTS has clamped down on media and political activity in areas under its control [Getty]

Dozens of people took to the streets in a village in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib on Friday to protest against the hardline Islamist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) group which controls the area.

Residents of Deir Hassan rallied after weekly prayers against the group's restrictions on political and media activity and its "forced disappearance" of dissidents.

Protesters carried banners urging HTS to “release the detainees of the revolution” and others which slammed the group as “tyrants”, a source told The New Arab's Arabic-language service.

The source, who asked not to be named, said that many of the protesters were members of the pan-Islamist Hizb al-Tahrir group, whose members had recently been arrested by HTS.

HTS, which was previously affiliated to Al-Qaeda, formed a "National Salvation Government" to administer territories it controls in Idlib province in 2017.

The unrecognised "government" rivals the Syrian opposition's "Syrian Interim Government" which was formed by the more moderate Syrian National Coalition (SNC) in 2013 but has little authority on the ground.

In 2017, HTS severed all its links with Al-Qaeda and has recently tried to present a more "moderate" face. It is still, however, designated as a terrorist group by the US, the UK, and Turkey.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights said in a report in May that HTS had arrested and kidnapped at least 17 journalists and media workers since May 2020.

The rights monitor said the group had arrested a total of 146 people in 2020 alone, including a child and four women.