Arab nationalists take up arms in the battle for Syria

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Arab Nationalist Guard members in Syria. (Photo: Arab Nationalist Guard Facebook page)

By: Rana Harbi

Published Monday, May 5, 2014

Hundreds of Arab nationalists from across the region have formed their own volunteer militia force, the Arab Nationalist Guard (ANG), to fight in Syria on behalf of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“I was watching TV and my eyes fell upon an American flag fluttering amid crowds in, at the time, the opposition stronghold town of Hama,” Nidal, a 25-year-old Arab nationalist from Lebanon and subsequent fighter for the ANG, told Al-Akhbar.

“Can you imagine the humiliation and the utter disgust I felt when I saw the [American] flag waving in the breeze in Syria?”

As Nidal flicked the end of his cigarette into the ashtray, he recited Gamal Abdel Nasser’s, Egypt’s first president and pan-Arab leader, famous words: “If America is satisfied with me, know that I'm on the wrong path.”

With Syria’s red, white and black flag pinned to the upper left part of his shirt, Nasser, Nidal’s old friend and fellow ANG fighter, chimed in.

“In 2013 the US bluntly voiced its intention to attack Syria,” Nasser said. “At that moment it became clear that we, as Arab youth who tread the path of the revolutionary Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM), cannot and will not remain neutral in what we believe to be the battle of the survival or partition of not only Syria, but the Arab nation.”

The ANG was first created in May 2013 - following several Israeli air strikes on Syria - by Abu A’ed, a Lebanese citizen from the southern town of Jabal Amal. Abu A’ed, along with several of his comrades from the Arab Nationalist Youth Camp (ANYC), decided to establish the ANG in an effort to preserve the concept and ideology of pan-Arabism, which they felt was being destroyed through Western interference in Syria.

Abu A’ed, said to be in his mid-30s, maintains a very low profile, keen to avoid the Lebanese authorities, who have already detained and questioned him on several occasions regarding his activities in Syria. Lack of evidence led to his release on each occasion. He had previously fought in Iraq against the US invasion, but now spends most of his time in Syria.

The militia is made up of former and current members of the ANYC - a youth camp consisting of Arabs from a variety of pan-Arab parties and movements across the region, which was first set up in the early 1990s in an attempt to revive the concept of Arab nationalism. Today, the camp meets annually in different countries to discuss social and political issues.

The ANYC is a product of the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM), whose origins can be traced back to the 1940s led by Palestinian Marxist intellectual, George Habash. In the 1950s his group allied with Syrian intellectual Constantin Zureiq, and they became the ANM, which focused on a pan-Arab ideology that rejected imperialism and Zionism, and believed in the existence of a single Arab nation, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Sea, where all Arabs can unite and not live under any sectarian, ethnic, or religious extremism.

This movement greatly influenced the subsequent formation of pan-Arab political parties across the region.

“In May 2013, the ANG, in collaboration with the Syrian army, set up military camps in Mount Qasioun,” Nidal, Abu A’ed’s brother, explained. “And this is how we entered the battle.”

The ANG now includes four battalions bearing the names of fallen leaders: Wadih Haddad, a Palestinian and Arab nationalist fighter in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) responsible for organizing plane hijackings in the late 1960s and 1970s; Mohammed Brahmi, a secular Tunisian politician who founded the Arab nationalist and socialist People’s Movement after the overthrow of dictator Ben Ali in the Tunisian Revolution and was subsequently assassinated by Islamists in July 2013; Haidar al-Amali, a prominent modern Arab nationalist thinker and politician of Lebanese origin who was injured in the 2006 Israeli war and later died of his wounds; and Jules Jammal, a Syrian naval officer who sank a French ship during the Suez Crisis in late 1956.

According to fighters within the militia, the number of recruits, especially from Egypt and Palestine, increased significantly following the threat of US air strikes on Syria in September 2013.

ANG fighters cooperate closely with the Syrian army and the National Defense Forces (NDF), and they operate in a number of areas in Syria, including the Damascus, Daraa, Homs and Aleppo governorates. While the NDF is made up exclusively of Syrian neighborhood militias, the fighters in the ANG come from a variety of Arab countries, including Palestine, Lebanon, Tunisia, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen and Syria.

Fully-funded and trained by the Syrian army, the fighters have to undergo drills and fire-arm training in ANG or Syrian military camps in Damascus, as well as participate in political classes to adopt an understanding of Arab nationalism before they officially become guards.

As of now, the ANG has over 1,000 guards while the number of volunteers is unknown due to constant fluctuations depending on the location and sensitivity of the battles. Nine fighters in the ANG have been killed so far and more than 40 volunteers have lost their lives.

The majority of fighters are between 18 and 30 years old, with a few 16 and 17 year olds. Former chief officers from the Iraqi and Egyptian armies, and the Palestinian groups, are in their 50s, and their role is dedicated to training and cooperating with the Syrian army regarding military tactics, rather than playing a role on the battle field.

While the ANG has only been in existence for about a year, many of the members have fought in Libya, Palestine, and Iraq.

“As Arab nationalists we are not fighting for Assad’s survival, we are fighting for the survival of the Arab nation,” Nidal said. “Just like we fought in Libya against NATO through the Arab Defense Forces, and in Iraq against the US invasion, and in Gaza against the Israeli occupation forces through the Arab Resistance Brigades and of course the PFLP.”

However, according to the ANG members, their presence in Libya and Iraq was very limited and uninfluential due to lack of funding and arming.

“The Syrian army embraced us and provided us with the arms and training we needed,” Nasser added. “Neither the regime nor the army in both Iraq and Libya had the ability to do so.”

So far the ANG has participated in battles in Hatita al-Turkoman, Barza, Mazaraa al-Qasimiya, al-Bayyada, al-Sbeneh al-Kubra and the Shebaa suburbs of Damascus province.

It has also played a role in West and East Ghouta and in the offensive in the al-Qalamoun area. They have also fought in Saidnaya, the Quneitra countryside, Tal al-Jabyeh, Tal al-Hara and al-Dawayeh al-Saghira village.

Foreign fighters

While many still refer to the the Syrian crisis as a civil war, the presence of foreign fighters from all over the globe on both sides of the conflict proves it to be a global, not local, conflict between international forces with different interests and ideologies.

Dr. Jamal is a 36-year old ex-chief officer in the Egyptian army, who, according to his fellow ANG fighters, believes himself to be “an Arab first, an Arab second, and an Egyptian third.”

Dr. Jamal left the Egyptian army in June 2013 after Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated President Mohammed Mursi voiced his support for the Syrian opposition and called for international intervention in the crisis. He later decided to join the ANG.

For nationalist Egyptians, Bashar al-Assad and the Baath Party are facing a war similar to the tripartite aggression against Abdel Nasser.

Ahmed Osman, known as Abu Bakr al-Masri, was the first ANG Egyptian fighter to be killed in battle. According to the obituary published by the ANG, Abu Bakr, who was in the Jules Jammal battalion, fell in the battle to “liberate Qarra in the Al-Qalamoun province from Wahhabism,” in October 2013, and “kept his promise to the Arab nation and its people and joined the convoy of honor and pride in the battle to defend the unity and dignity of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

ANG’s youngest recruit is Fidaa al-Iraqi, a 16 year old from Iraq who is currently undergoing treatment in Damascus after he was injured in the battle of Tel al-Ahmar, a strategically important hill in rural Quneitra.

In addition to the Iraqis, Egyptians and Yemenis, there are also a number of Lebanese who have signed up to fight with the ANG.

“We fought with, and also against Lebanese fighters on the frontlines in Syria,” Arabi, a 25- year-old fighter from Sidon who returned to Lebanon following an injury in a battle in Daraa, told Al-Akhbar. “We fought side by side with Hezbollah and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) against other Lebanese fighters from different Lebanese provinces.”

According to Arabi, hundreds of Lebanese fighters [who fight on behalf of the Syrian opposition] have reformulated their loyalties in explicitly Muslim terms and prefer to think of themselves first and foremost as Muslims and not as Lebanese or Arabs.

“The Syrian opposition has now become mostly dominated by Islamist fighters and al-Qaeda-linked foreign jihadists who have always been in opposition to Arab nationalists and have long given up on the Palestinian cause,” Arabi said. “Abdel Nasser fought them in the past, and we are fighting them today.”

The ANG believes that the West, using Islamic extremists in the Arab world, orchestrated the Arab Spring to further partition the Arab World, exploit its resources, colonize its people and weaken its armies so that they are no longer capable of fighting Israel.

In Arabi’s opinion, the current Syrian opposition betrayed the Palestinian cause by cooperating with Israel and US in its attempts to overthrow Assad.

“On Tuesday February 18, 2014, Benjamin Netanyahu visited wounded Syrian rebels in Israeli hospitals and the Syrian opposition praised Netanyahu and expressed their sincere gratitude,” Arabi said.

“Soldiers in the Syrian army have died in tunnels while smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip,” he added.

Female fighters

Similar to the newly formed paramilitary force in Syria known as the Lionesses for National Defense (LND), which has more than 500 women fighters, the ANG has recruited about 70 female fighters between the ages of 19-35 from different Syrian provinces to guard checkpoints and carry out security checks in different areas.

Usually decked out in an army fatigue and armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, Dalal, a 22-year-old student from Raqqa, is one of the ANG female combatants.

“When the Syrian conflict began in 2011, there was a split among Arab nationalists,” Dalal told Al-Akhbar. “Was it a righteous revolution or a plot orchestrated by the West?”

At that time, Dalal was one of the early supporters of the opposition, keen to see the overthrow of Assad.

“I was mistaken,” Dalal continued. “I don’t regret opposing the regime, after all the regime has huge faults, but I regret supporting the revolution.”

According to Dalal, rebel warlords and Islamic extremists induced bitterness by looting and spreading terror and fear among the populace in opposition-held areas.

“After al-Qaeda supporters took over Raqqa they immediately started implementing their harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Shari’a courts were established and summary punishments were handed down,” Dalal said. “Women were forced to cover their heads and were forbidden from wearing makeup. Music, photography, cigarettes and even education were prohibited.”

Dalal said that witnessing a man getting beheaded in Idlib was the turning point for her.

“Chants of ‘God is Great’ accelerated while hundreds of people, including children, surrounded a chained hostage while the non-Syrian executioner, who had long hair, a red beard and wore a short beige robe, was getting ready. The executioner leaned down and slowly started beheading the prisoner with a small dull knife.”

Fed up with the increasing injustices against Syrians in general and Syrian women in particular, and motivated by her belief in nationalist ideals, Dalal decided to bear arms and fight with the ANG.

“I didn’t want to join the LND,” Dalal exclaimed. “ I’m not a ‘lioness,’ I’m an Arab nationalist.”

Comments

viva kabila

One reader asks why nationalism usually is not good, why it is not good to be proud of your own roots etc. Apart from the fact that there is no reason to be proud or to be ashamed of your own roots because you haven't done anything to have these roots and not other ones I think that that reader has a wrong notion of what "nationalism" generally implies. It implies 1. the idea that there are fundamental common interests between the exploited majority in any country and the exploiting and therefore ruling minority, 2. that one's own nation is somehow better than other ones. As for Arab nationalism in Syria e.g. this has meant for many decades to deprive the Kurdish people e.g. of their right to use their own language as an official one. Fortunately for the ASBP-regime today's enemies of Al-Assad are even worse in this respect, and this is why the Kurds in their majority have not joined these rebels in their futile fight against the Damascus government. Also the "antiimperialism" of "nationalist" regimes such as the one in Syria is more symbolic than real because they or linked to imperialism by their common basis in capitalism which cannot exist but in the form of powers of different strength. This of course does not rule out secondary contradictions. This said I welcome the fight of Arab nationalist against the most reactionary forces in today's Arab world, i.e the takfiri jihadists. The Assad-regime undoubtedly is the lesser evil.

You need to do better research before commenting regarding the Kurds and their policies of anti- Palestinians/Arabs
the Kurds have been in bed with the imperialists/zionists for decades so really lamenting that the Kurds are afforded on rights is absolute BS
the Kurds insane terrorism against Iraqis/Turkish people - another hideous zionist imperialist mafiosi policy
the FACTS are available
check it out
"The Assad-regime undoubtedly is the lesser evil." - washington speak BS

the facts are that what u have just said is complete crap. im a palestinian. the Kurds haven't been in bed with the zionists. PKK fighters fought against the israelis in the 1982 war. back before erdogan (who is against assad) turkey used to be israel's number one ally. the Facts are that these so called nationalists did suppress the kurdish right to speak their lanuage. im a TRUE nationalist in the regard that i can love my culture without supressing my muslim brother. the insane oppression of the kurds is the real terorism, which is why turkey has turned away from it, and is working for peace. this guy is abit outdated as the kurds and the rebels have formed somewhat of an allinace. and this arab nationalist guard (a mere 1000) is simply a slavery guard, trying to keep us arabs from overthrowing all the pro russian dictators (western imperialism, russian imperialism is all the same). the thing that makes me laugh is the fact that the dog assad uses the eagle of saladin, who was kurdish.

Guest

By chance I came upon a documentary on a small village school. The teacher, an attractive, young,Turk, was teaching primary school kids. I assumed they're Turkish especially when he spoke about the motherland Turkey & made them repeat this, & that Turkish is their language. Much, much later. the filmakers moved on to the parents and they were Kurds! Why were they made to repeat that Turkish is their language? They weren't allowed to learn their own language. Surely it's a fundamental right to be able to learn your on language in your homeland.

A Syrian Kurd told me it use to be forbidden in Syria too ( but then allowed).

I also recall another documentary where the gov't removed Turks & Kurds to flood an area for a dam. The Turks were adequately compensated, unlike the Kurds, causing them great hardship.

If we don't stop this injustice then what do we expect them to do? Of course they are going to fight for their rights because oppressed people have no choice. Unfortunately, the Zionists saw their opportunity to cause the Arabs & Iranians trouble & took it. Standard Zionist policy to destabilise Arab countries & Iran.

what a load of cod's wallop "Of course they are going to fight for their rights because oppressed people have no choice. Unfortunately, the Zionists saw their opportunity to cause the Arabs & Iranians trouble & took it. Standard Zionist policy to destabilise Arab countries & Iran."

Are you insinuating the the dumb stupid terrorists Kurds of Iraq, Syria, Turkey took to terrorism and Barzani's hag runs to hellis?
You want to have your rights live in a state and subjecting the state to TERRORISM, zionised mafia activities and expect to be "treated as a decent minority group who should have their "rights" recognised?
lol

many people removed their support & solidarity for the stupid Kurds because of their sicl vile helli ideology
the vast majority of people are decent and all they want is to LIVE IN PEACE
Violence will achieve more violence and war - profiteering the Kurds barbaric masters - US/UK/HELLIS
you live in a sick perverted insane world of zionised barbaric imperialist world
WE PREFER THE SIMPLE SANE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO LIVE IN PEACE

The way you comment is a further proof of the negativ impact of chauvinism on the brain. It is true that the zionists have instrumentalised Kurdish nationalism if it was directed against Arab nationalism but so have Arab nationalist regimes like the Syrian ASBP when it was directed against Turkey. Don't you know that as long as it suited them the Damascus rulers have supported the PKK (whom you now call "dumb stupid terrorists"). This is in fact the drama of the Kurdish situation that they have been made underprivileged citizens of four nationalist states - in three of them (Turkey, Syria and Iraq) by the imperialists. And since most Kurds are not wiser than most other people in this world they have got leaders who use all sorts of dirty and shortsighted tricks just for their own interests (exactly what the rest of the people worldwide have). Kurdish nationalism is basically a reaction to Turkish, Arab and Persian nationalism like Arab nationalism is an (however unsufficient) answer to imperialist and Zionist oppression. The sort of blind nationalism you answer reflects is serving imperialist and Zionist interests since it is a stumbling block for the necessary unity of all the people and peoples living in the region if they want to have a chance to once free themselves from local and imperialist exploitation and oppression. And since you seem to favour a victory of the Damascus regime over the rebels (as I do as well!) why do you use such foul language against the Kurds when they (PYD) are the main force in the North-East of Syria fighting against the takfiris (ISIS, Al-Nusra)?

Nationalism isn't usually good by Anonymous

==========

Would you care to elaborate?

Why is it not usually good? what's wrong with knowing who you are, where you come from, being proud of your own root, Nation, people and working as a whole for the betterment of your people?

Do you expect somebody else to do it for us?

J. Al-Chami

Unfortunately nationalism excludes others. Ethinic minorities need to feel the state represents them too. We need a federation of Arab states like the USA but everyone within the superstate should be a citizen. Nothing wrong with knowing who we are, helping each other and pooling all resources to improve our region.

Europeans are getting a bit nationalistic and it's not very nice. It borders on xenophobia.

Excellent. Hope this movement grows stronger and stronger. Nationalism isn't usually good but for now the Arabs have no choice to stop Zionism, imperialism and the warped sectarianism.

this movement is helping the butcher of damascus kill more of his own people. he hasn't made syria strong, he has bombed it into weakness. he destoryed his OWN NATION. if u want to help us palestinians, come to gaza, instead of killing our syrian brothers. btw most palestinians support the rebels, including hamas who is training those rebels. assad has never fired a bullet, and this group does not represent the nationalists.

Abdallah

it's either the Zionist/Wahhabi US plan (more Palestinian suffering & the continued destruction of Iraq) or the resistance that are Hezbollah, Iran & Syria. Unfortunately, the choice in Iraq is horrendous: Sectarian, brute, corrupt Malaki v sectarian brute ISIS .... both set to destroy the Iraqi nation. The bigger picture is the survival of the Arab nation - the only way the people can enjoy prosperity & security.

Bare in mind Hamas has enjoyed Iranian support. Hezbollah evicted the Zionist plague in Lebanon. Palestinians were allowed to live, work & study in Syria. They were not barred for being Sunni.

Syrian rebels are also slaughtering civilians & butcher people with pride. Their venom towards non Sunnis is alarming & shocking. Why not oppose Assad without sectarian threats?

Whatever Assad is...his rallying call is NOT sectarian.. Whatever sectarian nonsense some of the street thugs spout ( from all sects), it's the leadership's call that counts. I don't know what most Palestinians think. Surely, they are plagued by the Zionists, they can't have the energy or resources to cope with more? The Palestinian leadership's support depend on who pays them ...it's as bad as that!

Thank you to all the brave fighters who are confronting the takfiri scourge set loose on Syria. These men and women are heroes.

the assad regime until the past few days would allow the takfiris to flourish cause these takfiri kharajites, isis, only fights the mujhaideen

The very best news since years !!!
Long live arab nation !
Allah maakoom !!!
Long live our pride youth !
The arab nationalism is not dead !
I AM HAPPY TODAY !!!
thanks for this wonderful news !!

Good to read a piece on practiced solidarity among Muslims, for one, and secondly to hear Dalal (at the end) also express an ideological awareness; one that most often is lacking among western Europeans and obviously most Ukranians too.

“Soldiers in the Syrian army have died in tunnels while smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip,” he added.

Either this guy is delusional or he is confirming every Israeli claim for the past 10 years of Gazans using outsiders to smuggle weaponry for a series of ruinous conflicts.

DESTROY THE FSA TERRORISTS

International Brigades of our times.

Viva "ANG"

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