ALEPPO, Syria — Hayat Tahrir al-Sham continues its efforts to cement its energy and navy energy in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib by recruiting extra fighters. It has established a navy recruitment division with many affiliated divisions throughout the province that obtain younger males wishing to affix one of many group’s brigades.
On May 10, a member of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s Shura Council, Mazhar al-Wais, appeared in a video giving a speech to a bunch of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham recruits wherein he stated, “Take initiative and walk in the steps of heroes. Communicate with us through the following accounts.”
The announcement on Telegram included the accounts of eight recruitment models, and every has two contact numbers on WhatsApp and Telegram. The eight models which are a part of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s Military Recruitment Department are in Atma, Harem, the northern area, the Jericho space, the central area, Sarmada, Jisr al-Shughur and the capital metropolis of Idlib.
Commenting on the institution of the Military Recruitment Department in Idlib, Wais stated through Telegram, “Launching the project of the Military Recruitment Department with its affiliations and volunteering divisions in the liberated areas is an important step to advance and organize military efforts, and it is a clear message that the will to fight persists. Justice and projects are not served and protected except through building armies and battalions. O young Sunni Muslims, hasten to join the ranks of the heroes to fulfill your Sharia duty to expel the oppressor and protect the sanctities.”
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s Military Recruitment Department carried out a media marketing campaign to induce younger males in Idlib to volunteer by distributing leaflets in a lot of areas of Idlib and within the neighboring western countryside of Aleppo. “Join the heroes of liberation and contact us through the following accounts,” the leaflet learn.
The bulletins about opening the door to extra recruits and establishing a particular division for this goal raises many questions on the motivations behind younger Syrians in Idlib who be part of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s ranks. Questions additionally come up about whether or not the group’s recruitment operations are better than these of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions supported by Turkey and in regards to the goal behind establishing the Military Recruiting Department.
Abbas Sharifeh, a researcher on jihadi teams on the Jusoor Center for Studies based mostly in Istanbul, instructed Al-Monitor that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham “is trying to control recruitment operations within an organized institution and written records to avoid accusations of child recruitment, which would embarrass it legally in the case of its classification on the list of terrorism, as the movement is trying to remove its name from that list, improve its image in the West, and present itself as an organization abiding by international law.”
Sharifeh added, “The establishment of a special department for recruitment and its divisions across Idlib will attract greater numbers of recruits, by reaching a wider social segment, since the recruits are scattered across a large number of areas.” He said Hayat Tahrir al-Sham “wants to show that it is an organized entity and now has an army that follows modern, organized and clear methods of recruitment.”
Regarding the opportunity of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham forcing conscription on younger Syrians living within the areas below its management in Idlib, Sharifeh stated he didn’t assume the group must impose conscription, significantly due to the excessive inhabitants density within the liberated areas “and the absence of battles currently, in addition to the subsequent material cost of such conscription. Besides, it fears resentment and popular rejection facing such a step. I think that recruitment will be voluntary at present.”
Lack of job alternatives and widespread unemployment amongst young Syrians in Idlib is one of the most important factors that push young men to join armed operations or a faction. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham appears to be the preferred destination for recruits for several reasons, but mainly because its salaries are high compared with those for FSA fighters.
A navy official within the FSA’s National Army instructed Al-Monitor on situation of anonymity that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham “pays its fighters twice the monthly salary of an FSA fighter. Young men want to join [Hayat Tahrir al-Sham] to get a higher salary.” The official said Hayat Tahrir al-Sham policy “is based on attracting and recruiting more fighters, while the FSA factions do not want to recruit large numbers, and their recruitment is currently limited due to their limited resources.”
The official stated that whereas FSA fighters’ month-to-month salaries don’t exceed $50, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham fighters get about $100 “and a married fighter receives a salary of approximately $125.” Hayat Tahrir al-Sham fighters additionally get “meals help and month-to-month rations that meet a big a part of the household’s wants.”