No freedom to see here. Just Islam. This is life under the strongest fighting force in the Syrian rebellion. A force that also happens to be aligned with Al Qaeda.
In a small town in Syria’s east, Islamist militants have taken unclothed mannequins they see as sexually enticing out of the shops.
Members of the al-Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, have also prevented women from wearing trousers, preferring that they adopt the shapeless head-to-toe black veil.
The town of 54,000 on the Euphrates river offers a snapshot of what life could be like if Islamist rebels take control of significant areas of Syria as President Bashar al-Assad loses further ground.
Insurgents with long Sunni-Muslim-style beards patrol the streets enforcing a strict interpretation of Islam. Alcohol is removed from shops. Daily religious teaching is provided for Mayadin’s children, who get free loaves of bread if they attend.
One young boy who attends these classes told Reuters that pupils are taught about praying, the role of women, the place of polygamy in marriage and jihad against “Assad’s Alawite regime.”
It almost seems as if the Jihadists of the Al Nusra Front hate women more than they hate Assad. But that’s Islam for you.
Their militants, bolstered by veteran Iraqis who battled U.S. forces, fought alongside rebel units from the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella group of rebels ranging from those who say they are fighting for democracy to hardline Islamists, to take Mayadin.
Isn’t it great how Obama successfully wrapped up that conflict in Iraq and then Libya. If he wraps up Afghanistan half as well, we may have another September 11 before his term is up.
Al-Nusra have been shrewd. They took control of the nearby al-Ward oil and gas field and also went straight for the grain silos. They control the resources, which gives them power.
There is little bread and water, no telephone or Internet services and schools have closed. People eat weeds from the Euphrates and some will make the journey to Deir al-Zor to buy food, risking arrest or death as they cross enemy lines.
Liberal residents try to continue life as normal but are feeling the day-to-day effects of strict Islamist rule. Many stocked up on Arak, a grape-based liquor, when they heard that al-Nusra fighters were closing down the shops. A bottle of Arak can now be bought in Mayadin for five times Damascus’ prices but the transaction must be done in secret.
Al-Nusra fighters present a threat to those who want democracy in Syria. Instead, they envision a caliphate and a return to the lifestyle of the 7th century. Shops are forcibly closed at prayer times and people are rounded up in the streets five times daily to go to mosques.
Just think, if Obama doesn’t intervene in Syria soon, these people might actually lose the war.