Syrians creating vigilante forces to defend against IS

Syrians creating vigilante forces to defend against IS
Politics: Villagers are creating their own forces as the Syrian army suffers defeats and is unable to counter the Islamic State group, writes Absi Smeisem.
2 min read
27 May, 2015
Syrians have lost faith in the regime's capacity to defend them [Anadolu]

Syrians are forming local self-defence units as the regime's army retreats from defeats and that has left areas unprotected.

IS recently captured the strategic city of Palmyra, and is inching closer to villages and towns inhabited by religious and ethnic minorities in Suwayda province and the eastern Hama countryside.

     Many Syrians have been left with the choice of fleeing or establishing special forces to defend themselves.

The National Defence Forces militia, a branch of the Syrian armed forces, has repeatedly fled from areas before they are attacked by IS. The NDF has also reportedly looted homes in areas after IS has withdrawn. Many Syrians have been left with the choice of fleeing or establishing defence units for protection.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed
visited the town of Aqarib al-Safia in the countryside to the east of Hama province.

"Locals residents felt threatened after IS attacked the nearby town of Mabuja. Some young men brought light weapons and formed a self-defence unit not linked to the regime to defend the village," said Kamel al-Salmouni, a civil servant.

A member of the NDF from the town, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the self-defence unit was created after hope was lost in the NDF's defensive ability, and after its members assaulted and stole from civilians.

A number of activists in Suwayda province, including some affiliated to the opposition, have called for youths to be armed to protect the province from IS.

A number of Druze religious leaders, led by Sheikh Hammoud Hinnawi, have made similar calls. In a meeting of religious elders on Sunday, Hinnawi said: "Self-defence is a legitimate right sanctioned by God. Suwayda is a model for national unity and self-defence, and it will remain a good example in morals, values, religious awareness, and patriotism."

Many believe Hinnawi's statement was a call to arm the province's youths to fight IS.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.