In response to the recent rounds of the Russian-organized “peace” talks in Astana, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), al-Qaeda’s restructured presence in Syria, put out a statement through its Fatwa Council on 9 May 2017, “The legal position concerning the latest events and developments facing the Syrian revolution”. HTS’s fatwa was a declaration of war against all parts of the rebellion participating in the Astana conferences, which HTS labelled a conspiracy to defeat the revolution and secure Bashar al-Assad in power. The statement is clearly intended against the mainstream rebellion, which operates under the colours of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and has shown signs of coalescing into an anti-HTS alliance. HTS’s paranoia about the rebels being repurposed against it has led to previous “pre-emptive” attacks that might well have precipitated the very thing it feared. Perhaps most interesting, however, is HTS saying that it would treat as an enemy actors who “allow [the Astana-compliant factions] to work under their banner”. The reference here is to Ahrar al-Sham, a heretofore close ally of HTS, its key enabler in infiltrating and co-opting large sections of the northern insurgency, which in January sheltered various groups that survived the first wave of HTS attacks to prevent their destruction. The statement was translated by al-Maqalaat and is reproduced below with some editions in transliteration and the key sections highlighted in bold.
All praises are due to Allah Who said: “We will, without doubt, help our apostles and those who believe, (both) in this world’s life and on the Day when the Witnesses will stand forth.”
And the Exalted Who said: “Permission is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed able to give them victory.”
And the most complete peace and blessings for always be upon our master and leader the Messenger of Allah, and his family and companions and those who adhere to them.
As for what comes forth:
The series of plots against the jihad of the Syrian people and their blessed revolution is still ongoing and the latest chapter and most evil one is the Astana agreement. The sacrifices of the people of Syria and their revolution and jihad and blood and prisoners are sold on the market of regional and international bargains. As a contract was signed, which achieves the interests of the international parties but not the interests of the Syrian revolution and Syria and its people.
The change of names does not change the realities, and the Muslims of Syria will not be fooled by flashy slogans which try to fool them that they seek to bring an end to the bombings, while in reality it is an attempt to deviate their revolution and a theft of their sacrifices with the excuse of protecting them. They seek to break the backbone of the mujahideen who are defending them in a way which prevents the regime from re-establishing its authority over them. And if the Muslims in Syria would accept the equation: sacrificing the revolution to stop the bombing in return, then they would not have revolted against the tyrant of Syria in the first place and they would have accepted the similar offers by the tyrant himself.
In front of this reality which we pass through, we have received news from multiple sources of unprecedented movements by some remnants of previous corrupt factions. These movements seek to force and enter at the border and from there to the heartland of the liberated territories in Idlib and elsewhere. In a new conspiracy to achieve that which the disbelieving forces like the Russians and the Rawafid [Iranians] and the Nusayriyah [Assad regime] were unable to achieve in all of these passed years—in terms of breaking the motivations of the mujahideen and defeating them or taking over the territories that the Sunni mujahideen liberated—these movements are now carried out by a group of remnants of corrupt factions of whom the leadership were satisfied with loyalty to covert projects at the expense of the revolution of the people of Syria and their jihad. They are preparing to assault the remaining territories of the revolution and jihad in concordance with the resolutions of Astana.
In accordance with these suspicious movements and sudden preparations, the Fatwa Council of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham has decided the following:
Firstly: agreeing to the Astana deal and accepting it is a betrayal to Allah, his Messenger and the believers, as well as [a betrayal] to the blood spilt and efforts put forth in liberating the Muslims of Syria from the shackles of the Nusayris. It is a conspiracy to eliminate the jihad and the revolution in Syria, a preparation to assign authority to the Nusayris again and submit the country and people to the [rule of] disbelieving occupiers, by exercising the methods of guardianship over the Muslims of Syria. So it is obligatory upon every Muslim to work on breaching this deal, oppose it, expose its reality, and uncover those behind it.
Secondly: these gatherings and remnants are groups of corruption, [foreign] agents, and mercenaries. Despite their different names, the factor that unites them is corruption in the lands; there isn’t a major sin that they haven’t committed, such as plunder of wealth and property, dishonouring the Muslims, and terrorizing those who are safe.
Due to this, repelling whomever intends to corrupt the revolution and jihad from these people or other than them is a type of jihad in which the aggressor who corrupts the religion and worldly matters is repelled, and it is obligatory upon every Muslim. They should rather fight to the death than allow them occupy the areas liberated by the blood of the mujahideen. If Allah writes death for one of us in those situations, then what a blessed martyrdom it is in the sake of Allah and striving against his enemies. It is obligatory upon the masses to fight those criminal remnants, and sacrifice the valuable rather than to allow those corrupters to advance towards any area under any pretext or banner.
This ruling includes these remnants and also those who cooperate with them or allow them to work under their banner: all of them are the same in the ruling of the obligation to repel and fight them.
Finally: to our honoured people in the guarded Syria and land of resurrection and gathering, to our soldiers and soldiers of all the Sunni factions, we say: seek help from Allah Almighty in striving against your enemies until Allah judges between us and them, and do not enfeeble, sorrow, weaken, or despair. Fight in defence of your religion, border, honour, land, revolution, and jihad.
“And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might” [Al-Haj: 40].
“O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful” [Al-Imran: 200].
All praises are due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.