The role of the “Muslim Brotherhood” in the Syrian uprising

“Muslim Brothers” is one of the oldest Islamic movements and Syria were the most fully represented in the modern political history of the country. They attracted the greatest attention of the West, as many experts believed that it was “brothers” will play a leading role in postasadovskoy Syria. At the same time their contribution to the Syrian revolution was actually quite modest and limited, and their relationship with other units of the Syrian armed opposition were far from unique.

The difficulty in determining the real power and influence of this organization in the Syrian crisis, due to their long absence in the political life of the country after the suppression of the famous uprising in Hama in 1982. During this period, the movement was in a state of armed confrontation with the ruling regime. In this regard, the Syrian authorities have tried to actually eradicate the movement in Syria, was jailed and physically destroying tens of thousands of its members and supporters, and the survivors were forced to go abroad. In 1980 he was adopted by a well-known law №49, according to which only the very affiliation provides for the death penalty. The adoption of this law served as an attack “to fight the avant-garde” – undercover unit “brothers” in the military barracks in Aleppo (Aleppo) in 1979. After the adoption of the law department of Damascus “brothers” actually disbanded, and was engaged in preaching and educational activities, moving away from the armed struggle against the regime. Some members of the organization joined the “vanguard of the battle,” the other went to Aleppo. However, due to the secrecy many members of the organization and could not be “calculated” by the Syrian intelligence services and at the same time continued to remain on the territory of Syria.

Since its inception, the movement in Syria has suffered from a number of inconsistencies on the on the basis of geographical location between Aleppo and Hama management and regulation of their activities, as well as on a number of ideological, wavering between extremist and moderate direction.

In fact, on the eve of the revolution in Syria, the organization suffered from internal divisions, dispersion of its members in various countries of the world, the lack of explicit and illegal groups in Syria, the lack of recruitment into the organization of the youth in Syria and abroad and weak leadership. This led to a weakening of the position of the organization in the Syrian society, especially among young people, the erosion of its organizational structure. Statements and meeting “brothers” to reflect the actual recognition of the unstable state of the organization. They understood the “foreignness” of their movements within Syria, as the majority of young people (especially those who were born after the 1980s) had little idea about the organization, its activities in the 1980s,

Indeed, over the last decades before the start of the Syrian revolution, the movement was torn by contradictory trends. So in the 50-ies of XX century movement led an active political work, to participate in elected bodies and even was represented in the government under the leadership of its leader and founder, Mustafa al-Sibai. However baasistkaya Revolution in 1963 opened a new chapter in the military and political confrontation “brothers” with the regime. This in turn helped to create a deep chasm between the “brothers” and broad conservative layers of Syrian society. Correctional movement of 1970 and the rise to power in Syria, Hafez al-Assad was a turning point in relations between the “brothers” with the regime. The old conflict between “brothers” and the regime was also a religious color.

For decades, and until the late 90-ies of XX century in the movement did not stop a sharp struggle between the younger and older generations, members of the organization. At the same time in this period was in motion created undercover unit “Fighting Vanguard”, which conducted a series of military operations in the late 1970s and early 1980s. against the regime, which increased confrontation “brothers” with the authorities. A number of members of the “Muslim Brotherhood” denied his affiliation to the “vanguard of the fight” and did not want to have anything to do with him. After the massacres of members Tadmurskoy in prison and a series of armed clashes with the regime, “the Muslim Brotherhood” has adopted the so-called “Charter of armed Islamic Revolution.” Despite the fact that the Charter include a reference to the creation of a pluralistic and secular Syrian state, proclaimed the principles of change of power and respect for minority rights, the document as the main strategy to fight the regime adopted a method of warfare. In 1980 on the territory of neighboring Iraq movement established combat training camps, where flocked members of the organization.

Despite this Guide “brothers” remained differences on the question of whether it was necessary to join forces with other political forces and secular movement in Syria. However, the difficult situation in the manual “brothers” and attempts to eliminate a number of their leaders abroad have led to the fact that the organization has seen an armed way to combat mode as the only alternative.

However, by the end of the 1990s, political statements and actions of some organizations began showing signs that established certain transformations within it. Under the leadership of Ali al-Sadraddinov Bayanuni (2006-2011) on the move strengthened the reformist tendencies, and there was some openness in relation to other political forces in Syria. The coming to power of Bashar al-Assad in the SAR and its policies in the country dubbed “Damascus Spring” contributed to a strengthening of such reformist attitudes and openness, which allowed a number of opposition movements to the surface in Syria, and some increase their activity and social mobility.

This new orientation is reflected in the form of documents, which were adopted by the organization, as well as in the development of several projects, the implementation of which it has participated, together with other opposition forces, as was illustrated by the “Damascus Declaration”, which is focused on peaceful political methods reform. It contained calls for the continuation of the democratic process, party pluralism, the abolition of emergency law, an end to the monopoly of the party “Baas”, etc. Simultaneously, the “brothers” were to participate in the “Front for Salvation”, which was founded in 2005 escaped to the West by the former vice-president of CAP AH Khaddam.

The most important document was adopted by the “brothers” in 2004. It reflects the views of the organization on a future Syria. The document reflected a gradual shift in the ideology of the “brothers” in the direction of democracy, pluralism, the turnover of power, freedom, protection of minority rights, respect for human rights and civil liberties organization’s commitment to religious principles. Many researchers link to the commitment to religious principles in this document was interpreted as a mandatory element, as in a number of programs of other religious organization Levant.


Along with other groups and organizations acting in Syria, which, one way or another, linked to the “brothers” there, the so-called “Syrian Ulema Association”, headed by one of the most respected in the country and abroad Muhammad Ali religious leaders as- Sabuni. The Association takes the position of moderate Islam, and engaged in educational activities, issuing fatwas. She held various kinds of public events in support of the revolution. Another important institution was the literary association “Al-Sham” (which included only male authors), headed by Abdullah al-Tantawi. She was on the internet site, which published materials in support of the revolution.

One of the most important public institutions of Syria, the activities of which have always been the subject of speculation as to its relations with the “brothers”, was the organization of “Al-Watan”. This non-profit civil society groups has been registered in the UK. It also announced its plans to open branches in different parts of Europe, Turkey and the United States. “Al-Watan” denied having engaged in political activity. It consisted of several different organizations and committees, such as, for example, “Al-Ryan” (which was engaged in the creation of charitable and humanitarian work in Syria), “Jabal al-Hurrayya” (organization of training courses based on human rights and civil liberties) The Syrian center freedoms “Huriyyat” (humanitarian action), the Syrian center for education, Syrian business center, the Syrian national information center, center of charity “Al-Hare”. “Al-Watan” was one of the most important companies specialized in the organization of charitable and volunteer activities to help Syria.

In 2013, “Al-Watan” led Muaz al-Sibai. Anas al-Sibai led the charitable societies “Al-Hare”. Ahmed Muhandis led the General Assembly, “Al-Watan”. They include a large number of Syrian immigrants and political activists. “Al-Watan” served as a link between immigrants and the organizations involved in humanitarian assistance in Syria. At the same time, some observers have considered, “Al-Watan”, as a center for recruiting in the “brotherhood”.

That remarkable role “brothers” have played in the political sphere abroad, it was not comparable with the modest and limited role they played in Syria and armed insurrection in particular. The experts did not see in this nothing surprising since the “brothers” after the events of 1980 very long absent from the political scene in Syria. Moreover, the sheikhs, who stood at the head of the movement refused to recognize the serious changes that have occurred in the country and society over the past decade. Third in the forefront of the struggle in Syria as it was pointed out earlier by representatives of the movements of the provinces and peripheral areas due to urban centers.

It should be borne in mind that, historically, the city in Syria have always been a stronghold of major popular movements. According to the assessment and recognition of the former member of the Board of “brotherhood” and an active member Mohammed al-Sayyid, an armed rebellion has achieved significant success is in the countryside, where it began, first in Daraa, spreading later to Homs, Jisr al-Shughour and Idlib. This fact to some extent hindered the definition of ‘brothers’ true role in the armed struggle.

At the beginning of the revolution “brothers” hesitated before to declare their participation in the Syrian protest movement. However, when the “brothers” to see that the situation is slipping towards a confrontation between society and the authorities, and the protest movement has not subsided, despite his cruel power suppression, the organization began to gradually move away from peaceful means of struggle against the regime and its involvement in the Syrian crisis has become more visible . The above differences between the various units of the “brothers” lasted until the beginning of the revolutionary events in Syria, when the head of the “brothers” instead of Ali al-Sadreddina Bayanuni stood Mohammed Riyad al-Shakfa. In 2011, a number of representatives of the foreign branch of the “brothers” got a place in the executive committee of the Syrian National Council (SNC), which later in 2012 came a few members as a response to the challenges of the Syrian revolution.

Protest activity “brothers”, which in the initial period of the uprising, was of generally peaceful, began in his youth media groups operating in the Syrian diaspora abroad. Most clearly it manifests itself in the information field. At the beginning of the conflict a number of young members of the organization set up a special website dedicated to the revolution. Later, their page on the Internet has become an important forum to discuss the latest news from Syria. One of these youth groups, which played an important role in the coverage of the Syrian uprising, was the group, which included Obadiah al-Nahass (director of «Orient Center in London») and Ahmad Ramadan, who left the organization after 2010 when the “brothers” took control on a branch in the city of Hama. In 2011, they created a forum called “National Action”, which were discussed on the pages of the ideas of the reformist and democratic content. They actively participated in the creation of the SNA in October 2011. Ahmed Ramadan and Mohammed Tayfur were elected members of the Executive Committee of the SNA. A number of foreign and Syrian opposition groups accused the “brothers” in an attempt to control the SNA that “brothers” has consistently denied. Indeed to the “brothers” the time had one seat on the Board, and 6-7 seats in the General Assembly of the SNA.

Later in Doha National Coalition revolutionary and opposition forces (NKORS) was established in 2012. This was the initiative of a number of “Friends of Syria” who sought a way to create a larger format for the organization, uniting several different currents in the Syrian opposition movement that reduced the representation of the “brothers” in the Syrian opposition structures, which over time has become very prominent in the SNA. Despite the fact that the “brothers” did their best to reduce their participation in the ranks of the Syrian opposition abroad, they are constantly accused of seeking to dominate in these groups. “Brothers” is also accused of supporting a number of opposition figures who had a reputation for secular leaders such as Burhan Latrine, George Sabra and Moaz al-Khatib.

In July 2012, the post of chairman NKORS was elected Ahmed Jabra, which was considered a person close to Saudi Arabia. His election reflects the changing balance of forces competing with each other forces at the regional and inter-Arab level, their impact on NKORS. It also meant undoubted victory CSA, which in principle was opposed to the “brothers”. This decision went against Saudi Arvii aspirations of Qatar and Turkey, which were the largest regional sponsor “brothers” in the revolutionary movement in the political, financial, propaganda relations.

From the very beginning of the Syrian revolution movement in his work and statements made emphasis on the fact that it does not own armed cell in Syria. The organization strongly emphasized that its members engaged exclusively in providing financial and logistical support to armed opposition groups that “brothers” more engaged in the reconstruction and reorganization of its movement and tends to focus on the provision of charitable and humanitarian assistance.

However, in respect of ‘brothers’ participation in the armed struggle and their links with other armed groups have always been some doubt. Such doubts are intensified when one of the prominent members of the movement M.Tayfur spoke about relations with the organization committees to defend the revolution. This paramilitary organization was set up in late 2012. At the same time the leader of the “brothers” Mohammad Riyad al-Sakva, stressed that the organization is not an official sponsor of the Committees, and they do not play a leading role in the armed Syrian resistance.

In order to compensate for their low participation in the armed Syrian uprising and the lack of its own large armed groups, “brothers” wanted to operate under the auspices of the well-known armed groups as “Brigades of al-Faruq” and other Islamist groups, united under the banner of “Syrian Liberation Front “that ideologically represented the most moderate wing close to the orientation of the” brothers “at the same time front united the different groups, some of which were similar in their political settings to the Salafis such as the Islamic front,” Dzhabhat en-Nusra “and” Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant “(LIH).

Despite the limited participation (financial and logistical) in the armed uprising “brothers” constantly exposed to attacks from the other fronts and movements. They accused them of that by providing financial and logistical support for “brothers” bodies of armed resistance, thus, tend to take them under its control or to impose their ideology, and win their loyalty.

Given the ideological vacuum has arisen in Syria, it was really difficult to determine the true extent of the impact of the “brothers” in the course of an armed uprising, the more their quantitative participation in it. The latter (the size of the fighting members of the organization) is a constant point of contention different experts. For some of them thought that the closest to the “brothers” and their detachment served as a reference point committees to defend the revolution. Committees really had a big conference in Istanbul in 2012 with the participation of many prominent members of the organization one of the most important of which was Ali Sadreddin al-Bayanuni. Their composition units were that were called “shields”. They had their offices in different parts of Syria. Their swords were emblem depicted a dove and branches. This symbol resembled the emblem of the “brothers” in which two swords separated Quran depicted. Committees ( “Shield”) proclaimed its goal coordination between various units and the creation of cells professional future of the Syrian army. They also advocated the creation of a democratic secular state, based on civic principles. These settings are really set them apart from other Islamist organizations, which supported the creation of an Islamist state in Syria.

According to the Syrian researcher member of SNA Alam Haj “brothers” in October 2012 created the “Assembly of the battalions of the world”, which included “The army Abdulfattaha Abu Hoods” who fought in the old quarters of Aleppo. They also support and other armed groups such as “Shield al-Shahba”, acting in Idlib, Aleppo and al-Raqqa. Part of “brothers” and other support groups in particular “Battalion of Faith”, in force in other parts of Syria, including the suburbs of Hama. Other experts felt that a number of members of the “brotherhood” were involved in the creation of group “Muaataz billahi” in Daraa in early 2013, some of whose members were previously abroad.

By the end of 2012, leaders of the “Muslim Brotherhood” began to seriously think about in order to resume the work of the organization on the territory of Syria, as well as working to resume the call ( “ad-Dawa”) to charity and volunteering, but on a new basis.

As already mentioned the leaders of “brotherhood”, part of its leading members inside Syria were divided into several groups and on several levels. Some members of the organization were the ones who in 1992 was released from prison under the regime of written commitments refusal to engage in political activities in Syria. The organization sought to reorganize the group of persons by updating the organization’s mission and its activities. The second group is represented by the old members of the organization, which has not been disclosed by the Syrian secret services operated in deep underground and maintained secret contacts with the members of the organization. The third group consisted mainly of those who lived abroad. At the same time, not all of the above members of the organization have an equal commitment to the organization and the same readiness to work with her. In fact, many of them went into the privacy and engaged in their families and businesses.

Since the beginning of the revolutionary movement, its development, escalating into armed struggle, the transition part of the territory under the control of insurgents “brothers” have adopted a new strategy to return to Syria, in order to revive the movement and adapt it to the new conditions. So at the level of leadership was established two offices one in g.Hama, more in g.Haleb, and was created by the Executive Committee. The composition of the Board includes 22 people (including 2 women), most of whom were between 40 and 60 years.

In early 2013, “brothers” decided to rebuild the organization from within. This support has been made on the old proven members, who were in hiding, and covert operations were chosen as a method of action. They were asked to renew the membership of the organization, and to initiate activities to spread the call. Starting to work, it was agreed among those whose relatives were killed or missing in prisons. On the foreign level, it was decided to intensify work among the members and their families and relatives. As a result, many managed to return to the organization, and its strength has increased markedly. At the same time, “brothers” attentive to recruitment of new staff taking into account their views, political activities, with respect to the “brotherhood” of its internal statutes and rules of operation. In August 2013 the first official branch of “Muslim Brotherhood” was opened in Aleppo in the presence of its leading members.

In the period of 2013 – beginning of 2014 the movement has worked on the creation of his new political party. The new name of the party “Waad” an acronym that means “homeland, justice, democracy.” In August 2013, Istanbul hosted the first congress of the party organization. Some believed that the “Waad” was supposed to be more liberal than Egypt Party of Justice and Freedom. The composition of the new leadership of the party included some members of the left-wing movement and a few Christians. One of the most prominent founders of the party was Hikmat Mohammed Walid, who was one of the prominent members of the organization. Perhaps one of the general ideas about the role of the “brothers” in Syria was of a collective image, which consisted of their historical past, current activities in Syria, views formed about them in the foreign media, relations with Qatar and Turkey, their weak position in an armed movement within Syrian society, their limited participation in the armed uprising and a very difficult relationship with the warring factions and troops of the Syrian political opposition. The main task today is to “brothers” is the restoration of unity between its internal and external branches. That’s what today is actively involved in the organization, both inside Syria and abroad through recruitment and other methods.

Indeed, the movement is experiencing a chronic threat to internal split, on the one hand, and the split between domestic and foreign affiliates, on the other. This was clearly demonstrated by the example of the relationship of its two branches in Hama and Aleppo. For guidance in Aleppo is doing everything possible to restore the activity of the city and to expand its presence on the Board due to attraction to women and youth. However, it is in this way have the most problems “brothers.” Along with this there are the hidden power struggle and disagreement within the branches of governance and the difficulties which it experienced leaders with involvement in a youth organization which has military experience behind him and is well represented in the political and media sphere. A number of active young members prefer to work individually. Therefore, one of the most complex problems of motion is not only to attract young people, but also her upbringing.

Despite these challenges, a number of aspects in the work of the organization in Syria continues to remain very strong. First of all, with regard to their position in the foreign media and the ability to attract overseas on his side of new members. Evidence for this was obtained by the example of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. They were able to quickly gain a position in society and to strengthen the grass-roots level. They were also able to successfully restructure the inside. Several members of the organization, despite the fact that they were acting on a personal basis, were able to achieve in these areas with some success, and continue to regard themselves as members of the organization. It is primarily a question of such prominent figures as the organization M.R.ash-Shakfa, Zuhair Salim, Muhammad Tayfur, Ali Sadreddin al_Bayanuni, Issam al-Attar, Obadiah al-Nahass, Ahmed Ramadan.

The ideological platform “brothers” is quite extensive. First of all, the “brothers” seek to overthrow the Assad regime and the restructuring of state institutions while strengthening their participation in political life and administrative activity in the state. They also want to strengthen their position in the Syrian society. They maintain military operations and want to create their own armed units. They seek to increase their political influence both within the country and abroad.

Currently, “brothers” in close contact with Turkey and Qatar. They are supported by the two countries in information and logistics plan. In addition, they receive support from other “brothers” organizations operating around the world.

Many groups supported or created by the “brothers” are involved in the military operations of the Syrian Free Army (FSA), as well as coordinate with other units in matters of security and military operations.

The basis of their ideological and political systems is the desire to return to the political life of the country. Since its inception in Syria in 1946, representatives of the “brothers” were actively involved in politics, sat in parliament and formed a political coalition with other political movements, including secular. In this connection, the movement has worked systematically over the past few years working to strengthen the democratic aspects of its ideological platform, which was reflected in their public statements and literature. At the same time, the organization also sent encouraging signals to Syria’s minorities, promising them his support and protection, respect for their rights. “Brothers” openly talked about the establishment of a democratic regime in Syria Islamic orientation, emphasizing the peaceful nature of the change of government, political, religious and cultural pluralism. However, part of the society, especially among religious minorities persist doubts about the sincerity of the “brothers” in the event of coming to power in Syria.

Source: March 24, 2015 | Author: Vladimir Akhmedov |MoscowArabist-Vostokoved( PhD).,worked Arab countries author12 books,300 articles Mideast politics,army,Islam