The White Shroud: A Syrian Resistance Movement to the Islamic State

By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

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Logo of “The White Shroud”

I have previously written on Sunni groups created within Iraq to fight against the Islamic State [IS], but what about in Syria? Some attention has been devoted to the group “Al-Kafn Al-Abyad” (The White Shroud), but on social media I have seen some controversy as to the nature of The White Shroud. For example, people ask: is it Jabhat al-Nusra, or ‘FSA’?

To answer this question, one needs to bear in mind that The White Shroud is an anti-IS outfit originally set up in the Deir az-Zor locality of Albukamal on the border with Iraq (now declared part of IS’ ‘Euphrates Province‘ spanning the borders, including al-Qa’im just over the border with Iraq): indeed describing itself as “the brigades of popular resistance in Albukamal.”

It will be recalled from my prior work that the town of Albukamal originally had six factions, listed below with their wider affiliations where applicable:

– Liwa Allahu Akbar (SMC/Hayat al-Arkan)
– Kata’ib Allahu Akbar (Authenticity and Development Front)
– Liwa al-Mujahid Omar al-Mukhtar (independent; one-time pro-Ahrar al-Sham)
– Liwa al-Qadisiya al-Islamiya (independent; pro-Caliphate, tied to seeing the Syria and Iraq struggle for Sunnis as one)
– Katiba Bayariq al-Sunna (independent; pro-Caliphate)
– Kata’ib Junud al-Haq (Jabhat al-Nusra; evolved from Katiba Junud al-Haq)

Note that there were other factions in the wider area that emerged over time with influence such as Liwa al-Fatah al-Mubin which belonged to the now defunct coalition Euphrates Islamic Liberation Front, which had once played a role in the fight against IS in the northern Euphrates area in Syria.

Of the six main groups of Albukamal, Liwa Allahu Akbar became part of what was then the Islamic State in Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) after the November 2013 defection of leader Saddam al-Jamal (also known as Saddam Rakhaytah), who had clashed with Jabhat al-Nusra in September 2013. The Authenticity and Development Front is a Salafi coalition backed by Saudi Arabia that only conceives of Syria as an Islamic state within a national framework, while Liwa al-Mujahid Omar al-Mukhtar did not have a political program beyond the fall of the regime despite the one-time affinity with Ahrar al-Sham that was subsequently disavowed in rejection of fighting ISIS at the end of January 2014. Kata’ib Junud al-Haq had defected to ISIS when ISIS was first announced by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but re-defected to Jabhat al-Nusra after Zawahiri’s call to annul ISIS.

It will be noted in the picture of the logo above (taken from The White Shroud’s official Facebook page) that members of three of the factions I have just mentioned are included within The White Shroud: Liwa al-Mujahid Omar al-Mukhtar, Authenticity and Development Front, and Liwa al-Qadisiya al-Islamiya. Of the other factions, two other sources from Albukamal- one the former spokesman for the defunct Kata’ib Junud al-Haq- have told me that Katiba Bayariq al-Sunna members all became part of IS once the town fell under IS control (undoubtedly ideological overlap played a role), while no members of Kata’ib Junud al-Haq are known to have joined The White Shroud thus far. Some of course will have become part of IS (again something undoubtedly facilitated by ideological overlap), but others will have simply laid arms aside as part of declaring ‘tawba’ (‘repentance’) before IS and then returned to civilian life with acknowledgment of IS’ supremacy. Others too- even of those factions now part of The White Shroud- simply fled the Albukamal area to head to other fronts: this was the case for the leader of a local Albukamal Authenticity and Development battalion- Liwa Basha’ir al-Nasr– who fled to Qalamoun in Damascus province after the fall of Albukamal.

The operations conducted by The White Shroud, like those of the anti-IS Sunni resistance movements in Iraq, have mostly been small-scale claimed assassinations so far, but apparently the group has been trying to expand its activities in Deir az-Zor province, with a contingent supposedly now in Deir az-Zor city in a video released by the Authenticity and Development Front. It will certainly be of interest to see if The White Shroud develops into a broader umbrella front for a variety of former rebel factions in Deir az-Zor province of a variety of orientations.

Update and Further Note

My friend and colleague Alfred Hackensberger, drawing on his own sources, contends that The White Shroud is not a real group. I would disagree with this notion but a more general point needs to be made about real manpower and capabilities. In truth, I do not think The White Shroud at present has any more than a few dozen fighters. Indeed, it has to be remembered that the component battalions of The White Shroud lost significant numbers of members to an ISIS assault on the town of Albukamal in April. Not overstating manpower and capabilities also applies to other anti-IS resistance movements: if, for example, a Kata’ib Mosul component representative gives contingent numbers into the hundreds, it is a safe bet to downgrade the actual manpower by several factors. As far a operations go, nothing suggests the attacks on IS- even if successful- have truly damaged the group’s power base in the areas it controls.

Also in my own experience, though Abu al-Layth of the Dawn of Freedom Brigades affirmed to me that 250 fighters of his coalition had been sent to Kobani to aid the YPG in its fight against IS, he affirmed that this number had declined to 160 in a subsequent conversation. Meanwhile, a representative of the Sun of the North/Northern Sun Battalions- the contingent of Dawn of Freedom Brigades in Kobani- only affirmed the presence of some 70 fighters for the group in a 12 October conversation with me.

Comments (3)


1. Ghufran said:

Isis victims especially Sunni Arabs and Kurds will rise up to fight Isis terrorists who falsely claim that they are protecting Sunnis. Reports about alkafan alabyad suggest that the group was founded by Arab tribes in Dayr Azzour and other areas.
Movements like the white shroud provide an alternative to groups like Ahrar alsham which was declared a terrorist organization by the UAE today.

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October 22nd, 2014, 9:28 pm

 

2. ghufran said:

Many Muslims are in denial about the nature of Islamic beliefs and Muslims today, this religion, Islam, is in intensive care, it is hijacked by extremists and Wahhabis who put their agents in thousands of mosques around the world. Corrupt Arab and Islamic governments are helping ISIS et al by following policies that are increasing despair among the youth and helping terrorist groups recruit more Jihadists, the tipping point was the occupation of Iraq in 2003, that was a life saver for alqaeda and similar groups. That occupation built on the wars in Afghanistan (USSR versus islamist rebels, then US versus Taliban)and now the war in Syria may be the “grand finale” unless terrorists decide to attack the GCC, Jordan and Turkey.
Angry young Muslims are also looking at the atrocities committed by Israel and how the Zionist state got away with occupation, theft of land and water and state terrorism since 1948 and reaching a conclusion that the West is united against Muslims. To make things worse, when moderate and secular opposition figures come out trying to stop Syria’s slide into an armed sectarian conflict they were largely ignored (or boycotted) by the GCC and Turkey and even the West, and now after almost 3 years of blood shed, Islamist rebels have the upper hands in Syria on the opposition side, whether that was done intentionally or by mistake, the war today does not have good and evil, there is bad, the regime, and there is worse the, islamist rebels.
Congratulations !!
KSA in particular has allowed Takfiris to terrorize Saudis and run the kingdom as long as they let the royal family stay in power, a Syrian woman who teaches at a Saudi college has joined ISIS:
استقالت إيمان مصطفى البُغا أستاذة أصول الفقه والاقتصاد الإسلامي في جامعة الدمام في السعودية، وانضمت لتنظيم الدولة الإسلامية الذي يقاتل في سوريا، حسب ما أوردت صحيفة الحياة الاثنين، وصفحتها على فيس بوك.
اختفت إيمان مصطفى البُغا أستاذة أصول الفقه والاقتصاد الإسلامي في جامعة الدمام في السعودية، وانضمتلتنظيم الدولة الإسلامية الذي يقاتل في سوريا، بحسب ما أوردت صحيفة الحياة الاثنين.
ونقلت الصحيفة عن المهندس ابراهيم الخالدي المتحدث باسم الجامعة قوله إن الأستاذة إيمان مصطفى البُغا استقالت لأسباب غير معروفة.
ونقلت الصحيفة عن إيمان قولها على صفحتها على فيس بوك إنها في شمال سوريا.
وجاء في صفحتها على فيسبوك “منذ أن قرأت مآسي المسلمين .. كنت داعشية التفكير والمنهج .. أنا داعشية قبل أن توجد داعش”، في إشارة إلى التسمية السابقة لتنظيم الدولة الإسلامية المتطرف.
وأضافت “وأعرف من وقتها أنه لا حل للمسلمين إلا في هذا الجهاد”.
وقالت الصحيفة إن إيمان كانت تتقاضى راتبا ضخما في الجامعة، وكانت معروفة بـ”تشددها الديني”.
كما كانت قبل سفرها مع أفراد أسرتها قبل أيام “تعتلي منابر التجمعات النسائية، وتمارس الخطابة كـداعية حول الجهاد والولاء والبراء في تجمعات تُعقد في المنطقة الشرقية”، بحسب الصحيفة.
وأقرت جامعة الدمام بأن إيمان، السورية الجنسية، استقالت من الجامعة.
وعن أسباب اختفائها قالت إيمان على الفيس بوك في 14 تشرين الأول/أكتوبر “غبت عنكم لأنني كنت أبحث عن كهف آوي إليه للنطق بكلمة الحق”.
وأضافت “تركت جامعتي، وسيارتي الفارهة، ومنزلي الواسع، وراتبي الضخم لأتخلص من الالتزام بقوانين الطّغاة – الآثمة – كاتمي أنفاس الحق لتبقى الأمة في هوانها”.
وأكدت “نحن بحاجة إلى علماء استشهاديين، يتركون الحياة الرغيدة ليقيموا الحجة على المسلمين، ومن فعل هذا هو مليكي الشيخ أسامة بن لادن، ترك بلايينه من أجل أن يحرضنا على الجهاد في سبيل الله وأقام في الكهوف”.
وأضافت “تركت راتبي الضخم، والتحقت بخدمة الأمة الإسلامية لمحاربة الطغاة”.
Press reports also indicated that an Arab Israeli doctor did the same, joined isis, and 3 girls from the US (Colorado)tried to join the terrorist group but were caught in Germany.
Slowly but steadily the West is concluding that Muslims can only be ruled by dictators or religious zealots.

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October 23rd, 2014, 11:05 am

 

3. Bulbajer said:

I’m sad (though not surprised) to hear that the Euphrates Islamic Liberation Front has dissolved. Do we know this for sure, or is it just assumed that the group is gone because ISIS overran their territory?

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October 24th, 2014, 2:11 pm

 

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