As the Syrian government commenced major military operations in the northwest of Syria earlier this year, the insurgent-held areas saw the establishment of an initiative called the 'Popular Resistance Brigades' (Saraya al-Muqawama al-Sha'abiya). Headed by a Supreme Committee, the Popular Resistance Brigades have established contingents in a variety of localities in Idlib and its environs, while also calling for donations to equip fighters.
The 'Prepare a Raider in the Path of God' campaign launched by the Popular Resistance Brigades. According to the advert, a donation of $200 can equip a fighter entirely.
To learn more about the Popular Resistance Brigades, I interviewed Majdi al-Omar, the director of media relations for the Popular Resistance Brigades. This interview was conducted on 16 September 2019. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: When were the Popular Resistance Brigades formed and what was the idea behind them?
A: The Popular Resistance Brigades were formed in the middle of last Ramadan, and that is the result of a popular movement to support the mujahideen and aid them on the fronts in all the murabitun [fighters who man the fronts] need, so it was the case that the General Shura Council in the Liberated Areas announced a Supreme Committee to organize and frame this popular movement.
Q: In how many localities are the Brigades present and in which battles have they participated?
A: Popular Resistance Brigades have been formed in most of the towns, localities and villages of the liberated area, and their role is fortifying and tadshim [meaning strengthening fortifications through building up dirt mounds etc.] for the rear lines of the fronts.
Fortification work (including tadshim) by the Popular Resistance Brigades in the Jabal al-Zawiya area in Idlib province.
Q: What are the current responsibilities of the Brigades?
A: The work of the Popular Resistance Brigades focuses on supporting the mujahideen on the fronts: in ribat [monitoring the fronts], works of fortification and assistance in battles of resistance and liberation.
Q: Are the Brigades affiliated with any side? For example it is said that Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham is behind the project. Is this true? Have any factions supported you on the ground? From where do you get support?
A: The Brigades are not affiliated with any side and do not receive any external or internal support, and they rely on self-efforts and donations from the people. And they are equidistant from all the military factions in the liberated areas.
Q: How do you assess the current situation in the north today?
A: Despite the intensity of the battles, matters give tidings of a great good, for today we see the mujahideen in one rank and one operations room, and this unity has increased by our kinship with them in our popular efforts.