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Syrian rebels in charm attack against jihadists

Moderate rebels launch a social media campaign to win the support of civilians

Published: Updated:

Syria’s moderate rebels have launched a social campaign to win support from civilians to quell growing influence by al-Qaeda-linked militant groups in opposition-held areas, a newspaper reported Monday.

“We realized that in order to fight al-Qaeda we need to counter them not just militarily but on the social side as well,” a senior adviser to the Supreme Military Council told The Independent newspaper.

“We are doubling our effort on that front,” the SMC advisor, who kept his name anonymous, told the British paper. SMC is a coalition of rebel groups backed by the West.

In July, the Washington Post reported that two al-Qaeda-allied groups in Syria have hosted a family fair in event to win the hearts of the Syrian people.

The Jabhat al-Nusra, an extremist Syrian rebel group, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is based in Iraq, captured the event in a video posted on YouTube.

ISIS has tried over the past year to win support by holding “family fun days” to “distribute food in areas where it is scarce, and setting up its own schools and courts,” the British paper said.

“In doing so, ISIS has been able to gain a foothold in areas in which it would normally have been shunned,” the paper added.

However, the SMC advisor insisted that “people do not like ISIS,” because “their extreme beliefs are alien to the Syrian people.”

The advisor mulled this so called support by the civilian population to the extremist groups was due to their “desperation.”
“But they [people] are also very desperate and cannot afford to refuse aid,” he added.

While the terror groups receive steady flow of cash through an established, global funding network especially from rich donors who support their cause, the more moderate groups in Syria do not have the same lavish funding.

Also, one of the main opposition groups, the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council, has also faced criticism for not doing enough to stop people’s suffering.

To their defense, senior members of the opposition told The Independent their aid distribution efforts were often hijacked by ISIS members, who in turn allocate the aids to the people themselves.

The opposition needs to heighten security measures for their aid routes in order to facilitate their aids to the people.

The 2-1/2 year Syrian conflict has killed at least 125,835 people, more than a third of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recently reported.

The United Nations does not give regular casualty counts for Syria but it has said for months that more than 100,000 have died.