Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi's Blog

The Islamic State's Account of the Life of Omar al-Shishani

While the Islamic State continues to release its Arabic-language al-Naba' newsletter on a weekly basis (with now more than 350 issues released online since 2015), it is in my view worth revisiting some of the older issues and translating some old 'classics' from the newsletter, particularly as so much of its content remains unanalysed and untranslated (in contrast with the excessive attention bestowed on the magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah by analysts and academics lacking research competency in Arabic).

One feature of al-Naba' I have been interested in as part of my academic research is the 'Life of a Martyr' series, which is a recurring feature of the newsletter and aims to tell the life stories of 'martyrs' of the Islamic State and its immediate predecessor. This series can be seen as an example of the most recent kind of historical narrative in the group's propaganda (i.e. most recent in terms of time period). Some of these biographies cover obscure figures who would probably otherwise have been unknown without an article devoted to their life. Others cover well-known and notorious ones. The article I translate here comes from al-Naba' issue 39 pp. 8-9 and was released in July 2016. It covers the life of Omar al-Shishani.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Sat, January 28, 2023  |  Permalink

Islamic State Report on Operations in Southern Syria: Translation and Overview

The Islamic State has hardly claimed any operations in the southern Syria region (Deraa, Quneitra and Suwayda' provinces) over the past two years or so, but this lack of claims should not necessarily be taken to reflect a decline in the group's activities in southern Syria. In fact, as in the Badiya regions of central Syria, I suspected that the group was likely underreporting its activities in southern Syria for reasons of operational security. Given what we currently know about the killing of the last Islamic State caliph Abu al-Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi in Deraa in October, underreporting for reasons of operational security should hardly be surprising.

Confirmation of this deliberate underreporting comes today in a report in the group's weekly al-Naba' newsletter, detailing claimed operations in the 'Hawran' region (in this case, encompassing all of Deraa, Quneitra and Suwayda').

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Fri, January 20, 2023  |  Permalink

US Visitor Visas and Suing for Mandamus: Advice from a Success Story

Today, I got my passport back via courier with a US visitor visa (B1/B2) stamped in it, valid for ten years. This now marks the end of a saga that has spanned more than 7 years in a bid to get a US visitor visa.

Problems began for me in September 2015 when my ESTA (the electronic system that allows 90-day visits to the US without a visa) was revoked. Although subsequent changes in rule regarding travel history mean that I would not be entitled to an ESTA today anyway, it was apparent that I had been placed on some kind of watchlist prior to those rule changes and so even before I first applied for a visa in January 2016, I knew it was highly likely that I would be placed into that vague category called 'administrative processing'- a term for extra processing time to determine eligibility for a visa, but the nuts and bolts of which are poorly understood, to say the least, whatever you might find written on the Internet about it.

I also knew, based on the experience of a friend who similarly had his ESTA revoked for apparent security reasons and had to apply for a visa, that it was likely that such 'administrative processing would take an extended period of time. Thus, as my friend put it to me after I informed him that the application (as predicted) had been put into administrative processing: "You can forget about going to that conference"- referring to an invite for me to attend a conference in the state of Georgia in February 2016.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Fri, January 20, 2023  |  Permalink

The Counterterrorism Force in al-Suwayda': Interview

As I have mentioned in my previous interview with the opposition faction Hizb al-Liwa' al-Souri that is based in the primarily Druze province of al-Suwayda' in southern Syria, the Counterterrorism Force (Arabic: Quwat Mukafahat al-Irhab) functions as Hizb al-Liwa' al-Souri's armed wing. Officially, the Counterterrorism Force dedicates itself to combating 'terrorism' whether in the form of criminal gangs that terrorise civilians or the Islamic State, as well as combating drug smuggling. The Force has become known in al-Suwayda' province for handing over an alleged drugs smuggler to U.S.-backed Syrian rebels in the Tanf area, and for its skirmishes with more loyalist forces in al-Suwayda' province such as the National Defence Forces.

In this exclusive interview conducted with the Counterterrorism Force's media wing on 17 January, we discuss the Counterterrorism Force's rationale for existence, the group's most notable accomplishments, the clashes with more loyalist forces, and the nature of the Islamic State threat and the problem of drugs smuggling in the province.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Wed, January 18, 2023  |  Permalink

مقابلة حصرية مع قوة مكافحة الإرهاب

كما ذكرت في مقابلتي السابقة مع حزب اللواء السوري الذي يتركز في محافظة السويداء ذات الغالبية الدرزية بالجنوب السوري، فإنّ قوة مكافحة الإرهاب تعمل كالجناح العسكري للحزب. ورسيماً تركّز القوة جهودها على مكافحة "الإرهاب" سواء كان يتمثل ذلك في العصابات المجرمة التي تروّع المدنيين أو تنظيم داعش، فضلاً عن مكافحة تهريب المخدرات. وأصبحت القوة معروفة بتسليم مهرب مزعوم للمخدرات الى القوات المدعومة من قبل الولايات المتحدة في منطقة التنف، بالإضافة الى مناوشاتها مع القوات الموالية في السويداء مثل الدفاع الوطني.

وتشرفنا بإجراء مقابلة حصرية مع المكتب الإعلامي لقوة مكافحة الإرهاب في تاريخ ١٧ يناير (كانون الثاني)، حيث ناقشنا سبب تشكيل القوة وأهم انجازات القوة واشتباكاتها مع القوات الموالية وطبيعة التهديد الداعشي ومشكلة تهريب المخدرات في المحافظة.

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By أيمن جواد التميمي  |  Tue, January 17, 2023  |  Permalink

"Dissertation On the Religion of the Galileans": An Account of an Alleged Sect in Lebanon

I have previously documented some of the dissertations written in Latin by the Swedish orientalist Matthias Norberg pertaining to the Druze and the character of the Prophet Muhammad, in addition to a dissertation he oversaw consisting of an Arabic account of the Yezidis, rendered into Latin. The subject of this dissertation (published in 1808 CE) and translated in this post is a Latin rendering of an Arabic account of a supposed religious sect that originated in the Galilee and migrated into Lebanon. The supposed sect, which seems reminiscent of the Mandaean sect of Iraq, claims John the Baptist as its founder, performs rituals with honey and locusts, and has feast days to coincide with key moments in John the Baptist's life and career.

The Arabic account in this case comes from Germanus Conti, a "Maronite" informant whom Norberg partly relied on in his dissertation on the Druze. As I noted in the introduction to that dissertation, it is clear that Germanus Conti knew Arabic, had grown up in the Levant and was familiar with Lebanon, but it has been said that he was of European descent by origin rather than an original Maronite.

In this case, I have translated the Latin rendering of the original Arabic account. As is the case with the account of the Yezidis, the Latin version seems to take considerable liberties with the original Arabic testimony.

Below is my translation of the dissertation.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Mon, January 16, 2023  |  Permalink

Extended Interview with Abd al-Nasir Qardash: Senior Leader in the Islamic State

Abd al-Nasir Qardash was a top-ranking figure in the Islamic State who has been detained by the Iraqi security forces for some years. Although Husham al-Hashimi published in June 2020 for the Newlines Institute an account of a conversation he had with Qardash, the fact is that the scoop on getting access to Qardash and then publishing an interview with him properly belongs to al-Arabiya and its sister outlet al-Hadath in May 2020. I translate this account of the interview in full.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Sat, January 14, 2023 5:54 PM  |  Permalink

The Curious Case of An Ex-Gitmo Detainee in Syria

Many years ago in tracking the jihadist insurgent scene in Syria, the issue of former Guantánamo Bay detainees turning up in Syria came to some prominence on account of the group called Harakat Sham al-Islam ("Sham al-Islam Movement"). The group, which is presently integrated into Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, was founded by Moroccan foreign fighters. Its leader was Ibrahim bin Shakaran, who was killed in the Kassab offensive in Latakia in north Syria in 2014. Other former Guantánamo detainees in the group's ranks included Muhammad al-'Alami (killed in 2013) and Muhammad Mizouz (who was identified in December 2013 and whose current status remains unknown). Following these revelations, interest in the subject died down as no further information became available.

There is however at least one other former Guantánamo detainee who made it to the insurgent-held areas of Syria. That detainee is....

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Thu, January 12, 2023  |  Permalink

شهيتو تي بخعة

Note for the readers: The following is a short post I have written in Western Neo-Aramaic. If you are a speaker of Arabic or another Semitic language I will be curious to see if you can work out the subject matter and perhaps even translate certain sentences. I have made the post fairly simple.

الى القارئ: هذا هو منشور صغير كتبتُه باللغة الآرامية الغربية المعاصرة. وان تكلمتَ اللغة العربية أو غيرها من اللغات السامية، فأود أن أرى ما اذا قدرتَ على معرفة موضوع المنشور وترجمة بعض الجمل. علماً أنّ المنشور بسيط بعض الشيء:

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Wed, January 4, 2023  |  Permalink

Interview with Hizb al-Liwa' al-Souri in al-Suwayda' Province

The southern province of al-Suwayda' in Syria (with a Druze majority) is under the formal authority of the Syrian government, but there are factions of a variety of orientations in the province. Some are loyalist in orientation, while others (especially the Rijal al-Karama faction) are 'third-way' in that they are neither loyalist nor opposition, and focus more on ideas of reform from within and defending Jabal al-Arab/Jabal al-Druze.

Hizb al-Liwa' al-Souri- a party founded in July 2021 and having its own armed wing called the 'Counter-Terrorism Force'- is opposition in its orientation, seeking a transition of power away from the current Syrian government. However, it does not call for achieving this transition via armed rebellion and insurgency against the Syrian government. The party- whose secretary general is Malik Abu Khayr (a journalist and activist based in Paris, France)- has worked to build influence in al-Suwayda' through its armed wing and through other activities on the ground.

Below is an interview conducted with the head of Hizb al-Liwa' al-Souri's media office on 29 December regarding the situation in al-Suwayda' and the party's efforts and political vision.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Sat, December 31, 2022  |  Permalink

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