Following on from my previous post here at Syria Comment on the National Ideological Resistance in Syria (a 'Syrian Hezbollah' militia brand primarily based in Tartous and Hama governorates but also operating militarily at least in Aleppo province as well), below is an interview I recently conducted with the group's leader: Sayyid Hashim Muhammad Ali.
Sayyid Hashim Muhammad Ali, who is based in Tartous.
Some things to note in particular about this interview:
1. 'Syrian Hezbollah' brands at the grassroots level- whether or not actually set up by Hezbollah- with propagation of Iranian-aligned Shi'ism among Syrian Alawites predate the onset of the civil war in Syria, if the Sayyid's testimony is true.
2. As ever, a contrast exists between what is stated here in this interview and what is propagated as open source social media advertisement. For example, in the case of extent of military operations, little from open source advertisement points to operations in Quneitra or Deraa.
3. It is interesting that the Sayyid says there is no connection with the Muqawama Suriya, even as the latter claims a media office branch in Masyaf (Hama province), for instance. This may indicate tension between the two despite the public advert 'brotherology' here (cf. his reference to Ali Kayali as 'brother').
Muqawama Suriya: Masyaf Branch
Q: When was the National Ideological Resistance in Syria [NIR] established?
A: In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. The NIR was established in the beginning in mid-2009 before the events in Syria, as a resistance movement from within the components of the Syrian people against the Zionist enemy: nationalist, of the people (ideological), and [established] without intervention or support from any state or any other faction. We began with a small, limited number [of members] and we undertook special training sessions to undertake martyrdom missions against the Zionist soldiers. But [because of] our very weak capabilities...we undertook a number of simple missions...and we continued lying in wait for any opportunity to be offered to us to undertake a mission against the Zionist soldiers, in any case. And before the beginning of the crisis in Syria we perceived the danger and visited some of the oppositionists in a number of provinces and our weapons were the freedom of speech we possessed and we always expressed our opinions even if they were against the government, and we did not fear the truth...
Thus we were before the events and thus we still are, and thanks to God, we managed to connect with some of those who thought that what is happening in Syria is a revolution and a number of them joined our ranks, either transmitting information to us or participating in battle. The resistance was established in the mosque of Sayyida Zahara' (peace be upon her) in the village of Namriya in the Sheikh Badr region of Tartous.
Q: How many 'martyrs' does NIR have?
A: We have 27 great martyrs of righteousness and men of our Lord the Companion of Time [Imam al-Mahdi] (peace be upon him). We also have, thanks to God, around 70 wounded...and the wounds among them are serious and light, thanks to God.
Q: Does NIR support Ayatollah Khomeini's wilayat al-faqih*?
A: With regards to your question about wilayat al-faqih, allow me to respond to your question with a question: are we able to be in the presence of one knowledgeable in religion to guide us? And why should we become confused in our matter so long as the sayyid and knowledgeable one is present? And we are the ones working for our Lord- the Companion of Time- to accept us in his army,** so as long as our work is pure to the face of God- Exalted is He- so it is obligatory for us to be bound by the program of the Commander of the Faithful and our impeccable imams. And we must embrace the original Islamic religion of Muhammad.
Q: What are your relations with Hezbollah in Lebanon?
A: On the question of our relations with the heroes and mujahideen of Hezbollah, we say with total pride that they are our model, whose manners, commitment, faith and power- which are from trust in God and Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah (may God protect him)- we imitate. Their cooperation with us gives us power, constancy, and faith in the divine victory.
Q: What are your relations with the Muqawama Suriya led by Ali Kayali?
A: On our relations with the brother Ali Kayali, sadly we are not connected by any relation because we work on internal fronts in Aleppo, Hama, Damascus, Deraa and Quneitra, but not in Latakia. So we don't meet with them but in any case we respect all the honourable ones in this crisis and we are completely ready to cooperate with them within the ethical framework and direction of the Ahl al-Bayt [Muhammad's family revered by Shi'a in particular] (peace be upon them).
*- Iran's ideological system of governance.
**- Whence NIR's 'armed wing': Jaysh al-Imam al-Mahdi
Update (17 October 2014)::
1. 'Sahib az-Zaman' (Companion of Time, as I translated here) is probably better rendered 'Master of the Age': as in, the one who guides the era.
2. My colleague Joshua Landis suggests that my interviewee's answer on the question about wilayat al-faqih may be a case of Alawite religious dissimulation.