Those who read the recent interview I conducted regarding the situation in the west Idlib countryside village of Arab Sa'id will have noticed that an important grievance that many of the local inhabitants harbour against Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is HTS' imprisonment of a person called Abu Omar Manhaj, who is a member of the al-Qa'ida-loyalist group Hurras al-Din and originally from Arab Sa'id. In this post I will present some further information and resources on Abu Omar Manhaj and issues related to Arab Sa'id. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Specimen A: Life of Abu Omar Manhaj
The life of Abu Omar Manhaj, may God free him.
Praise be to God alone and prayers and peace be upon the one after whom there is no prophet, his family, companions and whoso is guided by his guidance and tracks his trace until the Day of Judgement. As for what follows:
In order to grant the people their ranks, stand in the face of the oppressors, and in order to support the oppressed, we have written this short summary of the 'life and jihad' of the commander brother Abu Omar Manhaj (may God break his bonds and those of the rest of the prisoners of the Muslims).
Abu Omar Manhaj before the jihad in al-Sham was working in Lebanon like many of the Syrians who work in Lebanon, and he was known for his compliance in prayers, fasting and good ethics in trust and honesty (we reckon him as such and do not vouch for anyone over God).
And in the beginnings of the jihad in al-Sham, Abu Omar returned from Lebanon, directing his face towards the north of Syria, seeking to fight the enemy in defence of the religion, honour and land, so he joined the ranks of the fighters against the enemy at the time.
And among the strange aspects of the story of his mobilisation is that when he wanted to join Harakat Ahrar al-Sham that was on ribat upon the central prison before its liberation, one of the people on ribat in Ahrar told him: we lack arms (and there was a shortage in arms and ammunition, for every three fighters were sharing one weapon). So he determined to return to Lebanon and said: I will not return before I manage to obtain the price of weapons to wage jihad with them. And he returned to Lebanon and he worked sincerely and with effort while yearning filled his heart with longing for the fields of the tumult, and indeed after a short time Abu Omar Manhaj returned, carrying with him the price of the weapons by which he would wage jihad.
Aspects of Abu Omar and his moving about between the factions looking for the clear banner nearest to the truth:
Abu Omar began his jihadist life within the ranks of Harakat Ahrar al-Sham in the Katibat al-Darda' and its Shari'i amir was Abu Ali Kafr Ruhain. So he performed ribat in al-Raqqa, Kassab, Aleppo and most of the fronts. And Abu Omar from time to time would come to ask Abu Ali about matters of the field and ribat in particular and issues of the religion in general, as the two were connected by a relationship of close friendship and brotherhood.
And Sheikh Abu Ali Kafr Ruhain was convinced of the manhaj of the al-Qa'ida organisation (the Jabha) so he studied the manhaj of the organisation, its literature and its lessons. So Sheikh Abu Ali was able to convince Abu Omar Manhaj and his group to join Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qa'ida organisation) for its nearness to the truth first and because of the beginning of the appearance of the first signs of the deviation of al-Ahrar second.
And al-Ahrar offered Abu Omar wealth and weapons to stay with them and he rejected as he chose to join al-Qa'ida for what he learned of the purity of its manhaj and the steadfastness of its luminary symbols like Sheikh Osama (may God accept him).
His fighting with Jabha [Jabhat al-Nusra]:
Abu Omar Manhaj met with Abu Qudama al-Urduni (may God accept him) and Abu Qudama was at the amir of the city sector in the Jabha and there came with him Abu Hussein al-Urduni. And the meeting was in order for the two sides to discuss the means of transfer of Abu Omar and his group to the Jabha. So Abu Qudama said: we have no sponsorship, weapons or relief, and there is an obligatory Shari'i institute whose period is a month and a half, then there follows it a military camp. So Abu Omar agreed and transferred with his group to the Jabha.
And he began performing ribat with the Jabha around the Abu Zhuhur military airport and around the city of Idlib and he participated in multiple battles that the Jabha waged and he had fearless deeds in battle, among them:
- The battle to liberate Idlib
- The battle of Masibin: he was official for one of the operation axes and he was wounded in this battle.
- And immediately after he recovered from the wound, he went to assault along with his brothers the village of 'al-Bahsa' and he was amir for one of the assault axes.
- And he participated in the battles of south Aleppo countryside.
- And he participated in the battles of the Sahel in attack and defence and he was military commander in most of these expeditions.
And he participated in the battles of Hama (Ma'rdas- Sawran) and he was wounded again in the village of Kawkab in Hama countryside, and he participated in Sharq al-Sikka (and he was here here still with the Hay'a [Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham]).
The departure of Abu Omar from the Hay'a and his joining the Hurras al-Din organisation:
And in the late stages of Abu Omar's jihad with the Hay'a, the harassments began from Abu Osama al-Adani (amir of the al-Roj bloc) [NB: al-Roj refers here to an area of west Idlib countryside including Arab Sa'id], and Abu Obeida Shura the amir of the western sect, as the intense efforts were aimed at dividing Abu Omar and his group sometimes and distancing him from his support base and group at other times, and they offered him the position of amir of the expeditions in the western sector, in order to distract him from his village, support base and squadron, so he rejected.
So the irritation of the people against him increased, and by the admission of Abu Osama al-Adani when he left the amirship of the al-Roj bloc so he came to Abu Omar and said to him: 'Forgive me, oh Abu Omar. We did not work with you in creed. We tried to break up the squadron and distance you from it.'
So Abu Omar and his group moved to Jaysh al-Nusra previously (and known as Jaysh Abu Bakr al-Siddiq- Katibat Abu Omar Saraqeb currently) and its amir at the time was Abu Muslim al-Shami.
And after the Hay'a arrested Sheikh Abu Julaybib al-Urduni and Khilad al-Muhandis (may God accept them both) and Dr. Sami al-Oraidi, and after what he saw from the state of the Hay'a and its new policies from abandoning al-Qa'ida and inserting the Turks and fighting the factions for worldly perishable interests in political projects and their morasses, Abu Omar renewed his bay'a [allegiance] to al-Qa'ida and after it joined Hurras.
His fighting with Hurras:
Abu Omar completed with Hurras so he performed ribat in the Sahl al-Ghab and the Sahel.
And Abu Omar was exposed to a treacherous assassination attempt in his village and he escaped from it with a heavy wound and until this hour in which I write these words he is still suffering from that wound that caused for him disability in his leg but did not prevent him from completing the courses in the path of one of two good things: either victory or martyrdom.
And among the aspects that must be mentioned here: the Hay'a offered him wealth, weapons, authority and rank in order for him to abandon Hurras, in an aspect similar to what al-Ahrar offered him before, but he rejected despite his need and the need of his brothers in the Arab Sa'id squadron.
The stage before prison:
After the recent events that raged in this field (for which the space is narrow here to mention, consider their details, study them, analyse their catastrophic results, both now and future), and after the recent battle in Arab Sa'id and after the agreement on an independent judiciary judging between Abu Omar and his group on one side and the Hay'a on the other side, Abu Omar handed himself over to the Hay'a following this agreement.
And finally Abu Omar has still been in the prisons of the Hay'a for around 35 days despite the promises his family, relatives and the notables of the village received for his release.
And by God's permission we will write what happened in this stage (the recent problem and the stage of imprisonment and interrogation) in a more precise sense after Abu Omar and his brothers get out by the power and force of God.
And our last call is praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds. No enmity except against the oppressors, and the outcome in certainty is for the pious, and prayers and peace be upon the best of the prophets and those sent.
Written by: one of his brothers close to him and going with him on the path.
Specimen B: Statement released by Abu Omar Manhaj's mother
Statement from the mother of the brother Abu Omar Manhaj (may God free him)
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds and prayers and peace be upon the most noble of those sent, our sayyid Muhammad the unlettered prophet, and his family and companions and whoso has followed them with ihsan to the Day of Judgement. As for what follows:
There has come upon us during the past time difficult days, for after I lost my husband in bombing by the disbelieving savage regime and my son has been imprisoned for nine years by the regime also while I know nothing about him until now, then there have come the recent events after the Hay'a assaulted Arab Sa'id and arrested my son, And his confinement in the their prisons took a long time until I was able to visit him recently so I found that he had been in solitary confinement for two months and there had only been one interrogation with him for a short time during this period.
So I ask you by God: is this pleasing to God (Almighty and Exalted is He), that any person should remain for two months in isolation without accusation or trial???
Where are your promises and pledges that you have broken before the notables after you informed them that Abu Omar is exonerated judicially??
Is this the justice of Islam for which we came out??
Indeed you in the leadership of the Hay'a know well who is my son Abu Omar who did not leave a battle without fighting it, for the battles of Idlib and its countryside bear witness to him as well as his wound in Masibin- I ask God to accept from him- and after his recovery from his wound he participated in the battles of the Sahl al-Ghab, and he moved from them to the battles of the southern countryside and Kabbani in the first Russian campaign. And after that he participated in the battles to break the siege of Aleppo and then the battle of Hama when he was wounded again in Kawkab, and after that he participated in the battles of Sharq al-Sikka also. And after he left the Hay'a, he was exposed to an assassination attempt committed by an unknown person. He was wounded as a result of it in his leg such that it impeded him from natural movement and he still suffers from it until today. And he did not abandon after that the jihad but rather he participated with his group in the al-Turkoman battle and in resisting the recent Russian campaign on the liberated areas. And this is my son Abu Omar whom you have imprisoned in isolation for two months without trial or accusation, and God is the One whose help is to be sought.
I say to you: fear God in yourselves, indeed you are standing before God on the Day of Judgement. And it is a difficult position, not easy. So fear God and release the detainees from your prisons without trial or you should bring forth the accusation against them publicly with lines of evidence and proofs so they may deserve what they are in from imprisonment without interrogation or trial in solitary confinement for two months. Otherwise, the continuation of their imprisonment is a continuation in oppression.
We ask God to comfort our worry and calm our alarm and to make right our circumstances and those of the Muslims and take revenge on every tyrannical haughty oppressor and every violator of the pledge. Oh God, ameen.
The mother of Abu Omar Manhaj.
Specimen C: Statement issued in name of people of Arab Sa'id to the Turkistanis (Uyghurs)
Message from the people of Arab Sa'id to our Turkistani brothers
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Praise be to God who says: 'Indeed those who have believed, migrated and waged jihad with their wealth and lives in the path of god and those who have given refuge and supported: those people are allies of each other.' And prayers and peace be upon the one who brought brotherhood between the muhajireen and ansar. As for what follows:
To our brothers and apple of our eyes the Turkistanis, you were a third party in the agreement that was contracted to prevent bloodshed in Arab Sa'id between the 'So Be Steadfast' operations room and Abu Hafs Binnish. And it was agreed to form a judicial committee to decide on the soundness of the claims of the Hay'a against some of the sons of the village. And until now the Hay'a rejects the formation of the judicial committee to decide on the matter of the brothers detained among the Turkistanis (as a third party the brothers are with them). And our sons are still detained among you without any response from the Hay'a to form the judicial committee that was agreed to be formed directly, in a loathsome postponement and clear wrongdoing, particularly with your rejection of the request of the families to visit their sons arrested among them since two months.
So we call on you by God (Almighty and Exalted is He)- and we specify in mentioning Sheikh Abu Omar Kawthar and Abu Muhammad al-Turkistani- to release our sons detained among you after the Hay'a nullified the agreement and engaged in rejection and postponing of the formation of the judicial committee. And more than two months have passed since the detaining of the brothers without claim or proof and we consider you to be above obtaining a guaranty in this current oppression from the Hay'a.
And we remind you of the days of Sharq al-Sikka when the sons of the village sought with you (and among them those detained among you today) side by side in the battle of Umm al-Khalakhil and al-Mashayrafa and other places. For our sons are not- as some of the agitators claim- refraining from the jihad and other false accusations. We also call on you to sit with the notables of the village and families of those detained among you to place you in a complete conception about the circumstances of the case, far removed from the distortion that some engage in.
And finally we ask God to make you a cause in removing the oppression from our sons and we say God forbid that you should be partners for the oppressors.
Sons of Arab Sa'id
NB: statement issued 5 September 2020 via the Telegram channel 'The Popular Movement in al-Roj.'
Specimen D: Statement issued in the name of the notables of Arab Sa'id
From the notables of Arab Sa'id
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Praise be to God and prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of God. As for what follows: we the notables of Arab Sa'id after the assault on the village by the amnis of the Hay'a and its arresting of some of the sons of the village and seizing the base of the local council that was offering the services to the peoples of the village and converting it into an amni base for its personnel and its placing an amni checkpoint in the middle of the village in a densely populated area:
After all those violations we contacted the leaders of the Hay'a and we sat with them multiple times, one of those occasions being with the commander Abu Mariya al-Qahtani and all affirmed to us- including among them Abu Mariya- that our sons are innocent judicially and the matter is only final procedures to release them. And we have waited for a long time, such that our sons have been in the detentions of the Hay'a for around three months without any fulfilment of the promises that Abu Hafs Binnish, Abu Mariya al-Qahtani and others besides them affirmed. And after that we declared to our people we could no longer vouch for the Hay'a to fulfil its commitments and we were absolved of this matter. So the people organised the peaceful demonstrations to which the Hay'a responses with a new campaign of arrests and some of the other harassments, and therefore we announce the following:
1. We hold the Hay'a completely responsible for any escalation that occurs after what occurred yesterday from opening fire and arresting a number of the sons of the village yesterday and today.
2. We warn the Hay'a against any assault on houses or violating their sanctity and we hold it responsible for the consequences of that. For we as the sons of the defiant tribes cannot accept the likes of that scoundrel behaviour and infantile conduct from whoever it may be.
3. We renew our demands to the leadership of the Hay'a to respond to our just demands that are represented in releasing all of the detainees and restoring the local council building and removing the checkpoint from the middle of the village to outside it.
4. We repeat and declare to the people that we are from now on do not vouch for any promises or commitments that the Hay'a has previously offered, and they have the complete right to do what they consider appropriate to release their sons in a peaceful manner.
This is so and God knows best and God's peace and blessings be on our Prophet Muhammad, his family and companions.
Notables of Arab Sa'id
Monday 14 September 2020
Specimen E: Chants of demonstrations in Arab Sa'id against conduct of Turkestan Islamic Party and Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (mid-September 2020)
'Turkestanis, fear God, Turkestanis,
Oh God, Turkestanis have done us wrong.
Oh Hay'a, fear God, oh Hay'a.
God is greater upon the oppressor.'
Specimen F: Strike demonstration in Arab Sa'id (mid-September 2020)
Specimen G: Abu Omar Manhaj freed today (26 October 2020)