In the early hours of Saturday morning, 22 September Hay’at Tahrir as-Sham arrested Yaser Saleem, a lawyer from Kafranbel. That small city became famous in the early years of the conflict in Syria as the citizens took to the streets with banners in English, often even with a cartoon appealing to a western public.
Yaser has been a leading revolutionary figure there, with very strong values and principles and an important message of justice and unity. He participated in the demonstrations in Kafranbel last Friday and carried a cartoon calling for the release of the people from Suweida kidnapped by ISIS. In July, ISIS fighters taken out of South Damascus to the eastern desert by the Assad regime committed a massacre against the Druze population in Suweida and kidnapped a group of women and children who remain in the hands of ISIS until today.
Earlier last week, Yaser had posted on Facebook that he hoped the people of Foua and Kefraya would return to their homes.
Foua and Kefraya are two shia villages in Idlib that have been under siege from opposition groups for years and were forcibly displaced in July at the end of the siege (See our latest Siege Watch report). Yaser also posted a message in support for Kurdish rights.
As we feared, these anti-sectarian messages confronting the divide-and-rule logic of the Assad regime and radical armed groups were not appreciated by HTS and on Friday night HTS raided Yaser’s house and arrested him and Abdelhamid Bayoush, who was visiting him. Abdelhamid was released on Monday, but Yaser remains in detention. Activists in Idlib like Yaser are under a double oppression, they are wanted by the Assad regime and wanted by radical islamic armed groups.
On Tuesday 25 September, people in Suweida, on the other side of the country and under the control of the Assad regime, went out in a call for Yaser’s release.
Last year researcher Haid Haid wrote a study about Hay’at Tahrir as-Sham in which he explains how people like Yaser resist in a peaceful way the jihadi group.