Syria: Religious Police Patrol Aleppo’s Countryside

A Syrian man paints stripes on a side walk the northern Aleppo province, on 16 December 2012. (Photo: AFP - Prashant Rao)

By: Basel Dayoub

Published Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Syrian opposition groups that have taken control of Aleppo’s countryside are deploying a religious police force to enforce new laws, such as barring women from driving and making prayer compulsory.

Aleppo – The battle for Aleppo does not get the kind of media attention it did during the early days of the opposition’s offensive to take the city. Neither the regime nor the opposition has been able to make much headway in the past several months.

Residents of the embattled city, whose main concerns revolve around security and survival, were shocked to hear that opposition groups who control the Aleppan countryside are deploying a vice-and-virtue police to enforce a deeply conservative interpretation of Islamic law.

The opposition insists that the new force is the revolution’s version of a civilian police squad, whose primary purpose is to fight crime, particularly those committed by undisciplined members of the armed factions. In fact, there are those who support its creation for this very reason.

One local resident, for example, argued that “there were a number of transgressions committed by some Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, and this police force will punish those involved – their door is open to whoever wants to lodge a complaint. We shouldn’t judge them before we’ve tried them.”

Then, rumors began to circulate that such a formation was patrolling the streets of the town of al-Bab in Aleppo’s countryside and herding people into mosques during prayer time and preventing women from driving cars. The opposition quickly denied the news.

They insisted that the picture of a religious police office circulating on the Internet was taken in Saudi Arabia and attributed to the opposition to tarnish its reputation. Regime loyalists responded by taking several pictures of the office from different angles to establish its location.

The following day, the so-called Revolutionary Military Council in Aleppo issued a statement banning women from driving. The group also released several video clips showing men of various Arab nationalities patrolling the streets and forcing people to pray.

Another video posted on YouTube by opposition activists shows a prominent member of the Saudi virtue police, Abdallah al-Hattel, in a pickup truck in the suburbs of Aleppo calling on people to attend to their prayers.

These developments sparked the anger of many of Aleppo’s women. “This revolution for freedom is driving us further into the arms of the Syrian army and the regime’s approach to social and individual freedoms,” Mais al-Omar declared.

“What we lacked were political freedoms,” she continued, “but instead they decided to take away our social and individual freedoms. All the masks have now fallen and we can see their true nature and the extremist ideas they advocate.”

Secular opposition activists were shocked by the news, with some suggesting that the whole affair was fabricated by the regime.

One activist told Al-Akhbar that if the reports are true, then “it is a crime against the Syrian woman who has been flying planes for many years now and has entered many fields that were once exclusively male, like joining the army and becoming judges.”

Others in the opposition camp belittled the importance of such a development, saying that the decision to form the police force “was taken by an unelected group that does not represent the Syrian revolution, which is seeking to take advantage of the chaos caused by the stubborn regime.”

Another regime opponent, Safa Maarawi, condemned the religious police, but nevertheless blamed the regime for “repressing the secularists and building thousands of mosques. Its first response to the revolution was to throw secularists in jail, thus opening the way for the Islamists, which it then exploited to scare people.”

There were, however, opposition voices who openly supported the virtue-and-vice squad, arguing that “it is part-and-parcel of the freedom revolution, which means that the conservative Muslim majority has the right to impose its views on society, as long as it is the majority.”

The university student, who said he was forced to take up arms to defend peaceful protesters, conceded that “Syrian society will find it difficult at first, as was the case with our Saudi brothers a century ago, but they will eventually discover that their purpose is to apply Islam and justice.”

FSA supporter Salem, for his part, maintained that “the regime’s media is blowing the matter out of proportion, for it is a secondary and minor development compared to the much larger civil and peaceful revolutionary movement,” pointing out that no one should be disturbed by members of this police force, for “they suffered terribly at the hands of the regime and are known for their high religious values.”

Samer Othman also defended the creation of such a force, noting that their primary role is “to pursue criminals, thieves, and those who drink alcohol – the focus on preventing women from driving is merely to cover up all these positive aspects.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

I don´t support wahabi terrorists! Instead of fighting for Palestine these idiots are terrorizing an arab country that was great!

Iran, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria = Will win over the Zionist Terror Entity

I don't think you can lump Iran into that dastardly group..no one has been killed in Iran for being Sunni and no one runs around like barbarians calling anyone that doesn't support

Obviously, you don't have a clue what you're talking about, keep watching PressTV to stay informed.

The same thing happened in Iraq. Both Syria & Iraq were both ruled by the Baathist Party. Although the party is greatly supported by the Sunni Muslims in the country. But there is a great Shia Population that the US & the West ares supporting in this war against Bashir Assad.

The result of these nations going "Shia" in both the Iraq and now the Syria nations will lead to a "Shia Coalition of Iran, Iraq and Syria". Basically we are going to create a Greater Persia and Iran isn't even lifting a finger to do so.

Look forward to nations such as Bahrain being next.

What are you talking about? Assad is an Alawite. Sunnis, specifically Muslim Brotherhood, want to create an Islamic State. Turkey's AKParty and Arabia have been aiding these monster terrorists from the start, in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. Shias have few followers. Sunnis are taking over, again.

Thruth is indeed crawling out of shut drawers, what will ooze out will make time stop, then go backward and stop on the 8th century when this part of the planet was shrouded in a veil of ignorance, fear, darkness.

FSA = Foreign Salafi Army.

In the USA I am bombarded with the declaration that diversity is our strength.

Yet, the brainwashed mob spewing that meaningless jargon will recoil in horror at the events supposedly occurring inside Syria.

Well, that IS diverse behavior so why the repulsion from the "diversity is our strength" mob?

I suppose diversity is fine only when the diversity agrees with the mind-set of that mob of brainwashed buffoons bleating about the wonders of diversity.

In a way, the USA politically correct diversity-loving cohort is akin to the Taliban in a way.

The Salafitards have nothing to offer Syria but death and desolation....the Black Flag brings only misery, not freedom.

There goes more of your freedom.
Back in time for women instead of forwards.
No driving for women.
These despicable guys, control freaks, here comes a second Saudi Arabia.
More hell to come for the poor Syrians.
Yes, it shows it again, Religion atits best, hate and control.

Yes, the masks are falling. And we are seeing the true face of the Syrian counterrevolution planned and supported by the US and its appendages

Welcome to Syrudia Arabia.

Welcome to Iran and Iraq and Saudi arabia. In fact they did not have surpassed Iraq yet. They don`t have killed Teenagers because of their emo haircut.

Yeah, I don't think you can lump Iran into that dastardly group..no one has been killed in Iran for being Sunni and no one runs around like barbarians calling anyone that doesn't support their twisted version of Islam a kafir, get off your soap box and look at the facts.

Actually the Iranians have been killing Sunnis, Ba'hais, Jewish, and Kurds because of their religion.

Just who is telling you that Iran is killing their minority? They are unfortunately id10ts. The minorities of Iran are a protected slice of their population. Jews & Christians even have a set aside for the Iranian Parliament. Even Pakistan protects their Christian population, if you look at their flag....The "white" strip is for the Christians of the nation.

Good grief!! I take it you have not seen the pictures and video of public hangings
of gays and women in the beautiful Islamic Republic of Iran?
Wise up you bloody fool.

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