Introduction by the editor and translator: To preface, I am well aware that the opinion line taken in this guest post will come across as very controversial. That said, I would urge those who claim they want to listen to local Syrian voices about the situation in Idlib to take seriously this guest post, written by a friend from the village of Qalb Lawze in the Jabal al-Summaq area of north Idlib province. The current status quo in Idlib may well be better than the alternatives, but one should also recognise the costs at which it has come. Among other things, Uyghurs who have no business being in Syria have seized and occupied homes of many of the original inhabitants of Qalb Lawze. The original Druze inhabitants of Qalb Lawze who have remained were long ago forced to declare conversion to Sunni Islam, and even so the Uyghurs, who belong to a jihadist faction called Katibat al-Ghuraba' al-Turkistan, have treated them with disdain and hostility, and their abuses have not been held to account.
Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, the faction responsible for administering Qalb Lawze and the wider area, has made much of its supposed transformation, inviting foreign journalists and researchers to tour the region of Idlib and its environs. Some of these journalists and researchers have touched on the small remaining Christian minority in places such as al-Ya'qoubia, but conspicuously absent is discussion of the region of Jabal al-Summaq and the originally Druze villages like Qalb Lawze. This is no surprise: the reality is that Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham imposes a blanket ban on reporting about the situation in Qalb Lawze, which was also the site of a massacre in 2015 committed by members of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham's predecessor Jabhat al-Nusra.
If Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham is serious about moving on from its past and improving its image before the world, it should do the honourable thing and restore the confiscated homes to their original owners, evict the Uyghur occupiers from them and revoke the forced conversion policy imposed on the original Druze inhabitants of Jabal al-Summaq.
If an American citizen were to hear from the media of his state that the Chinese government engages in oppression against the Uyghur minority (the Turkistanis) in their country, it would leave with him feelings of pity and sympathy with these 'oppressed people.' And I as a simple citizen from the people and inhabitants of the village of Qalb Lawze in Syria: I lived with these 'oppressed people' in my village for around four years before migrating to Damascus: I migrated from the oppression of these 'oppressed people' and their gathering. I say to you, oh American citizens, your media are lying. True, I have not witnessed what is happening in China to these 'oppressed people', but I say that the oppressed person does not oppress others.
After the massacre of my village of Qalb Lawze on 10 June 2015, more than half of the inhabitants of the village migrated to the capital Damascus, and before the passing of 10 days from the massacre, the Turkistanis (Uyghurs) came down to settle as heavy guests upon my beautiful village. The yellow race came down to settle such that they came to constitute a plurality in the ethnicities of people in my Chinese village. We said: guests. But we were surprised that they were new inhabitants and occupiers who came claiming jihad in the path of God, declaring takfir on all the inhabitants of my village and group: among them elderly, among them youth, children and women. Their hair was long and their moustaches trimmed, and their beards long. They were wearing the well-known al-Qa'ida-clothing, following in that leader the Sunna of the Messenger in clothing and form; they were bearing weapons in all their types. They came to inhabit the homes of the people of my village who fled from death. They said about them: they are Shabiha supporters. And they said about them: they are disbelievers. These homes upon which their owners worked hard such that they built them and purchased their foundations. And the Uyghurs (Turkistanis) said: this is by the grace of God. God has provided us with entire homes: these are spoils of war, praise be to God.
The people of the village would meet them in the streets of the village and would say the salam greeting to them, but they would not reply salam, considering the people of the village to be disbelievers, and it is not allowed to reply salam to the disbelievers. And after four years some still do not say salam and do not reply salam to the people of the village. And after the homes, they seized the agricultural lands of the poor people who migrated to Damascus, even as it should be noted that their brothers and fathers are present in the village and are more entitled to use these lands. Even so, they said: these are spoils of war, and praise be to God.
They said: smoking is forbidden and it is not permitted for any one of the people of the village to smoke in the streets. So they were and still are directing the most horrible words and they threaten to hit all who smoke in the street, young or old. And that happened with an old man of around 80 years old as they directed at him the most horrible words when he was openly smoking, even as it should be noted and affirmed that some of them secretly smoke. Their children are transparent glass: it is not allowed for anyone to go near them, so our children used to play in the streets of the village which were a stadium and playground for the children of my village who are precious to my heart, but their children have and still hit the children of my village and prevent them not only from playing but also from passing through the streets of the village, and this is from in front of the eyes of their Turkistani fathers and mothers, while we cannot defend our children at all, and I affirm that this conduct from their children is by education and directive from their Turkistani fathers and mothers.
It is not only our children who are exposed to beating from the children of the Turkistanis but also our elderly and women sometimes, for sometimes they have directed at us some words like: disbeliever, Taghut. And we cannot direct one word at them, and if someone does that, he will receive what he does not wish. This is what happened with one of the men of the village around two months ago, whose age is 65 years old. When he directed some words at a Turkistani child who was causing sabotage in the stable of this man, the calamity came after the dark set in. The boy's father came and with him around 20 masked Turkistani armed men to the front of his house, so they called on him and when he came out they beat him violently without pity and they beat his wife and sister when they wanted to free him from their criminal hands. This happened without anyone holding them to account.
Also there is another story that occurred around two years ago. One of the Turkistanis, with his companions, attacked by night the house of one of the men of the village who refused to keep the cigarette away from him when this Turkistani demanded that on seeing him smoking. So they broke the door of his house by kicking with the legs. He fled to the village from the window and the screams of the wide and children were high and heard in the corners of the village, but no one of the people of the village dared to go out in fear of the force of these oppressed people: only two brothers of the man came out to the village, so their lot was to receive the strongest types of beating from these beasts, which required them to go to the doctor as well. The 'oppressed' Turkistani Uyghurs have not received any accounting from anyone. Indeed many of the Turkistani men have married Syrian women, of course from people besides those of the village, claiming that the have earned reward from God for their marriage, in consideration that they are marrying spinsters or widows. If this is their intention, why do they pay thousands of dollars to marry young and beautiful girls? Indeed they are liars, indeed they are the oppressors, indeed they are scoundrels, indeed they are beasts.
And at the end of this article I direct a message to the peoples of the West: you will regret these stances of yours. There will come a day in which a torrent is formed: no wall will be steadfast before it. It will destroy, sweep away, cause destruction, smash to pieces and harvest the souls in your land. Today you have the strength to disperse this torrent. As for tomorrow, you will not be able to do so.