“Who is Mohammad Rahhal, the Syrian Revolutionary who Called for Armed Resistance and Attacked Burhan Ghalioun?”

“Who is Mohammad Rahhal, the Syrian Revolutionary who Called for Armed Resistance and Attacked Burhan Ghalioun?”
By Christiane Lange
for Syria Comment
August 7, 2011

Muhammad Rahhal made a big splash last week when he attacked Burhan Ghalioun, the newly appointed head of the Syrian National Council. By raining on the National Council’s parade, he made the Syria opposition look divided, weak, and unprepared to govern.

In an article published by Asharq Al-Awsat, he said: “Those who formed the Syrian National Council are ghosts claiming to represent a large part of the Syrian people, while they have no relations whatsoever with the revolution. We are not part of the opposition abroad. The revolution has an internal body that decides its course.”

Rahhal refused to recognize the National Council set up at a meeting in Turkey. He further called for the Syrian opposition to arm itself, citing the example of the Afghan resistance to the Soviets and suggesting that the US ought to provide weapons: “Therefore, we will follow the Afghan example; when the Afghans were asked: Where will you get the weapons? They answered: As long as the United States is here, there will be weapons.”

This is not the first time Rahhal has made reference to Afghanistan in public. Back in 2010, in an article posted on the Internet, he said: جميع من في العالم يثرثرون عن المقاومات او عكسها باستثناء مجاهدوا طالبان والذين استبدلوا الثرثرة والجعجعة بالمضي في قطار الجهاد تاركين ورائهم قطعان العلمانية العربية والباكستانية وأعداء امتنا ينبحون ليلا ونهارا … – “Everyone in the world is chattering about the resistance movements or conversely about the Taliban Mujaheddin, but the Taliban replaced the chit-chat and fanfare with getting on the Jihad train, leaving behind them the secular, Arab masses, Pakistan and the enemies of our Umma to bark day and night …”

In spite of his appearances in Arabic media, such as the example provided above, Rahhal seemingly came out of nowhere in the context of the Syrian uprising. He presented himself as the leader of an organization that had no known, central leadership (according to a Syrian friend). It does appear that the establishment of a formal leadership, including Rahhal’s chairmanship, in the Revolutionary Council is recent, judging by the declaration posted here: on a blog owned by Rahhal.

On the blog and elsewhere Rahhal gives himself the title, “Dr.” (of what is not clear) and states that he lives in Sweden. It turns out that Rahhal has a bit of history in Sweden where he has lived for many years, and has been in the Swedish news on several occasions.

Eva Janzon, a Swedish journalist who interviewed him about his role in the Syrian revolution. Here is her story, translated from Swedish and republished digitally with the consent of the author:

Armed Revolution in Syria Planned Here: Unemployed Father of Nine leads Opposition Network from Skärholmen
By Eva Janzon Eva.Janzon@varldenidag.se
Världen Idag [The World Today], Aug 7, 2011
Translated by Christiane Lange for Syria Comment

The Syrian opposition must take up arms. This radical message was recently disseminated to the Arabic- and English-language press from the “Syrian Revolutionary Council of Coordinating Committees,” and was met both with opposition and with agreement from Syrians around the world who are critical of the regime.

Few people know that the person behind the group is an unemployed father of nine from Skärholmen, who arrived in Sweden 21 years ago. Mohammad Rahhal, 54 years old, spends all his time supporting the popular uprising in Syria, and is a frequent guest on the TV sofas of Arabic-language media networks.

“In the beginning I was writing articles about the situation in Egypt and Tunisia. Then I formed an organization, in March, for supporting the regime critics in Syria. It won’t do to go on with small demonstrations that are not organized. We kept our work secret for three months while the network was built up, and now we have 130 committees in almost all areas of the country,” he says.

When Världen Idag went to visit Mohammad Rahhal in Skärholmen, a suburb of Stockholm, his wife and the youngest children were at home. In front of the balcony, which is full of toys, a TV whch had the sound turned off showed footage from demonstrations. In the opposite corner of the living room sits the computer that Mohammad Rahhal uses to spread his message through, among other avenues, Facebook and the blog “The Arabic Voice From Sweden.”

On that blog is listed a number of people who are part of the leadership of the “Syrian Revolutionary Council of Coordinating Committees,” but Mohammad Rahhal says that he is the only one of them who lives outside Syria. Neither he nor the others are interested in any cooperation with other opposition groups, he says.

“We can’t risk getting entangled with the others. The government has formed groups in order to lure people on its side and have infiltrated others with the help of the security police. Thousands of young people have been snared this way, because not everyone understands the political game being played.”

That is also the reason why Mohammad Rahhal has distanced himself from the National Council, which was formed during a conference in Turkey last month by opposition members from inside and outside Syria.

“The people on the National Council come from several organizations. Some of them have worked with Turkey, Iran or the US and some have connections to the police in Syria. That is why we decided not to take part,” he says.

Further, he says, that his statement that the Syrian opposition must take up arms to counter the violence of President Bashar Assad against the demonstrators received a great deal of attention in the Syrian media.

“I never meant that the demonstrators should take up arms from day one. However, if the regime continues to shoot unarmed people, something has to be done. The rest of the world just looks on without lifting a finger.”

Mohammad Rahhal feels betrayed by the failure of the Swedish government to back him and thereby the Syrian opposition.

I called the foreign ministry wanting to talk to Carl Bildt. I had to talk to one of the secretaries and left my name and number, but they just write it down on a piece of paper, they don’t do anything about it. That is no way to treat a revolution.

Mohammad Rahhal relates that he comes from the town Merayan in the north of Syria, whereas his wife is from Aleppo. She had relatives in Sweden, which explains their choice of a new, shared homeland. In Syria, he explains, he attended university and worked “among other things in the military.”

Last year Världen Idag wrote about the fact that Mohammad Rahhal had registered an anti-Zionist party with the election authorities. The party, he said, would combat “discrimination and Zionism,” since Zionism controls the world and drags “the world from one war to another.” At the time, Mohammad Rahhal explained that he was already a frequent contributor to Arabic media and working politically.

In Sweden, Rahhal was also in the news in 2002 for his attempt to start Muslim charter schools [“free schools” in Swedish, but the concept is similar to that of charter schools in the US, trans.] and was said to have run refugee camps in Skärholmen and Vårberg. He was also the spokesperson for an Islamic association in Sweden, and fought an uphill battle together with his neighbors in order to buy their apartments on Äspholmsvej from Stockholmshem.

The dream today is to establish a democracy on the Swedish model in Syria.

“Sweden has succeeded in creating laws that protect the citizens and that have given us democracy. Why shouldn’t we try to do the same in Syria?” wonders Mohammad Rahhal and takes care to relate that he has taught courses in democracy in Skärholmen.

Comments (31)

Mango said:

This article has no practical value!

September 7th, 2011, 1:13 pm


5 dancing shlomos said:

never heard of him.

if he wants armed resistance to the syrian govt/people and he wants those arms from the u.s., then he was shit out of one of the propaganda/psyops pigsties of zionized DC.

September 7th, 2011, 1:20 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dear Dr. Landis:

You ask “who is Mohhamed Rahhal”?

Reading through your post, it is hard to find a credible alternative answer to you question other than:

He ain’t much

September 7th, 2011, 1:38 pm


majedkhaldoon said:

Armless revolution have no leader,armed one will have a leader.he will galvanize the revolution.
armed revolution will increase the defection in the army,now the defection means seperation from the army and loosing power.
armed revolution will organize the internal one,(and this is very imprtant issue),and force unity.
Arming will cost the regime higher price,and security forces and Shabbiha will disappear,the regime will need the whole army to combat the armed ressistance,the regime does not trust the whole army,he depends on small part of the army,now .
if the revolution resort to armed one, there will be more casualities,but current situation if last a year we will loose over a year more people, and will not accomplish anything.

September 7th, 2011, 1:39 pm


mjabali said:

The only solution for Syria comes from ballot boxes, and people who would be able to draw the RIGHT map for the future.

The best way to force change is through forming political parties. Political parties elect leadership that in its turn lead the people to change. Political parties organize the ideas of the people and channel them in the right way.

If you keep feeding the fire more Syrian blood will be spilled. It looks like there is a war now in some parts of Syria. Who is going to win, I do not know, but I know the loser are the Syrian men and women getting killed in this chaos from all parts. This needs to be stopped before it spirals out of control. The government has to do something we can touch and feel except for the tanks and high caliber rounds that is dragging the country more into military confrontation.

The Civil War that is going on now is low intensity as we could tell. But, this could change fast.

The best solution is to organize fast in parties and force change through voting.

September 7th, 2011, 1:58 pm


newfolder said:

army defectors openly addressing the crowds in Rastan today http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3l0Z9zaDtBw

September 7th, 2011, 2:03 pm


newfolder said:

video of army executing a civilian at close range in Syria via Al Arabiya


September 7th, 2011, 2:17 pm


AKbar Palace said:

Syria’s Imaginary Zionists

The party, he said, would combat “discrimination and Zionism,” since Zionism controls the world and drags “the world from one war to another.”

Professor Josh,

Thank you for posting this “interesting” article about Muhammad Rahhal. Whoever he is, I see he’s a great fit for Syria Comment, the President of Syria, and for sure, the Arab League.

However, you have a few participants on your website who are immensely MORE qualified, as they don’t always look for a ZIONIST to blame for everything that goes wrong in this region.


September 7th, 2011, 2:22 pm



Agree with Ehsani. Not much. And perhaps a distraction

September 7th, 2011, 2:25 pm


Evan said:

So basically this guy is a deadbeat islamist who has a few islamist pals from back in the day when he lived in Syria. meh.

September 7th, 2011, 2:32 pm


Joshua said:

I thought of entitling this article: “Rahhal, Revolutionary, Rapscallion, or Rogue?”

But then I decided to leave it up to the readers.

September 7th, 2011, 2:42 pm


5 dancing shlomos said:

let us lie via video.

Corbett Report editor James Corbett told Russia Today that manipulated video footage is being used to falsify events on the ground, saying:

“There’s even been the implication that some of the images being shown have been digitally manipulated,” online reports discussing it. One instance cited video footage from Bahrain. Claimed to be from Hama, various stations airing it used different digitally “dropped in backgrounds.”

unfortunately we live in an age when media manipulation is so easy.”


re syria and libya, very common. dominant over truth.


truth will out.

September 7th, 2011, 2:43 pm


shabbi7 said:

we’re supposed to feel sorry for garbage like rahhal getting exiled? he should have been executed, but that would have given him much more value than he’s worth.

September 7th, 2011, 3:02 pm


Mina said:

2 unemployed Syrians in Sweden, bored and frozen to death, decide to launch a civil war from their coach. Dr Folamour?
They are quickly joined by liberal guys in the US who spend 24/7 on their computers to try to become famous in the Media and make a living (no insurance)…
Crowds of gay sympathizers, male and female, decide to join the effort because they love to read the so-called Lesbian of Damascus blog, an orientalist fantasy managed by a couple of veterans from Scotland and the US.

All very normal I guess. Just as normal as bombing women and kids in Afghanistan for 10 years from unmaned planes.

September 7th, 2011, 3:08 pm


ann said:

Warning: Syria is much stronger than Libya

September 7th, 2011


Editor’s Note: Shashank Joshi is a doctoral student at Harvard University and an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

By Shashank Joshi – Special to CNN

In Syria, the Assad dynasty is teetering. Protests have breached the two largest cities, around 2,200 citizens have been killed, and oil and gas sanctions will soon cripple the public purse. Civil war isn’t guaranteed – there’s a slim chance that loyalists dump President Assad and cede a little power to widen their base – but, as Hussein Ibish writes in The Atlantic, ‘with the Libya model presenting itself … as an alternative stratagem, the drift towards conflict is starting to feel palpable’.

So palpable, in fact, that some – like Michael O’Hanlon on this site – have begun surveying the West’s military options. That is why it is important to be clear about why Syria differs from Libya in important ways.

For a start, the UN Security Council would be unlikely to pass a resolution authorising force. Russia, a veto-wielding member of the council, enjoys access to a Mediterranean naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus and is a major supplier of arms to the country. Russia has already lost $4 arms billion in foregone sales to Libya – no wonder Moscow is loath to see another customer vanish. Chinese arms sales to Syria have been equally buoyant, tripling between 2006 and 2009.

More broadly, Syria lies at the heart of the Arab world. Although protests and regime violence have already destabilised the country and sent refugees northward to Turkey, outside intervention would have unpredictable consequences for neighbours Israel, Iraq, and Lebanon. Although Saudi Arabia has criticised Assad and withdrawn its ambassador, it’s unlikely that the Arab League would repeat its endorsement of a no-fly zone.

It’s not inconceivable that these legal and diplomatic hurdles would be overcome. Barriers to intervention in Libya looked insurmountable until the last moment.

But Syria is an altogether different target in military terms, too.

First, it’s simply more powerful. Syria’s armed forces are four times the size of Libya’s, and its personnel per capita and total military spending are both one-third higher. President Assad can draw on thousands more tanks than could Colonel Gaddafi (including twice as many advanced T-72s) and a thousand more artillery pieces.

Although Syrian air defences are only slightly better than those of Libya, the country does probably have several hundred more portable, and hence elusive, shoulder-launched anti-aircraft weapons. NATO is technically capable of destroying fixed air defence sites, but how resource-intensive would that be? A single Tomahawk cruise missile costs around $1 million, meaning that the (largely American) effort to destroy Libya’s SAM sites cost up to a quarter of a billion dollars. That is a miniscule proportion of the US defense budget ($685 billion for 2010) but, in a time of shrinking European military spending, this and associate costs could make NATO’s second-tier members think twice about another humanitarian campaign within a year.

These calculations should also factor in retaliatory capacity. Whereas Colonel Gaddafi was forced to ineffectually lob Scud missiles at empty desert near the rebels, Syrian forces could hit out at Israel both with their own missiles and through the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Libya was unable or unwilling to mount terrorist attacks abroad, but Syria could be less reticent.

A second problem is that the Syrian opposition, despite its formation of a National Transitional Council along Libyan lines, remains deeply divided. This is a political problem because uncommitted Syrians and ambivalent regional powers (like Turkey) see little viable alternative to Assad.

But this is also a military problem.

Libyan rebels were divided by tribe, region, ideology and ethnicity. But Syria’s rebels are even more fractured. Lebanon’s prolonged civil war – in which the US, Syria and Israel all intervened – is a cautionary tale: backing one party to a multifaceted conflict is more complex, and possibly counterproductive, than working with a rebel alliance like Libya’s which is at least loosely held together by a political structure and lacking sectarian divisions.

In Libya, Benghazi served as a secure rear area for rebels and a base of operations for Western military and intelligence officers. Syria has no such safe havens, and its centers of protest span the entire country from north to south. Hama, a city that has comparable resilience to government assaults, is the site of daily killings and located far from accessible international borders or the coast.

Finally, it is worth thinking through the implications of a loyal army. Syria’s elite units and officer corps are dominated by the Alawi sect, to which the Assad dynasty belongs. They have neither disintegrated nor turned on Assad. In Libya, a very large portion of the army, particularly in the east, melted away at the beginning of the conflict. In Syria, defections are much more sporadic, and that’s despite months of severe violence against unarmed protesters. That means any armed rebellion would face far worse odds of success, and intervention in support of such a rebellion would involve a longer and more serious commitment.

None of this is guaranteed to avert war. If refugee flows reached unacceptable proportions, or a civil war began to seep outside the country, the US might judge that strategic – rather than simply humanitarian – interests were at stake. But we should be under no illusions that a war in Syria would look identical to the one being wrapped up in North Africa.

September 7th, 2011, 3:14 pm


Tara said:

Mina@ 14

Brilliant!. So this is what the Syrian revolution is all about..Why no one has said so before? We could have been saved a lot of heartache…

September 7th, 2011, 3:18 pm


Haytham Khoury said:

د.محمد رحال ولد في سورية1957 ويقيم في السويد مستشار دولة للشؤون الاستراتيجية ورئيس اتحاد مسلمي السويد ,رئيس المنظمة العالمية الاعلامية من اجل تحرير العراق ,يحمل الجنسية السويدية ,خبير في شؤون التحديث والادارة والتطوير ,خبير في الدراسات العسكرية ,مستشار تربوي ,كاتب وشاعرمعروف جدا
متزوج وله ثمانية اولاد

September 7th, 2011, 3:40 pm


homsi said:

is this peaceful?

three main posts of the Syrian revolution facebook page, one hour ago

يا شباب الثورة … علينا اعطاب وتعطيل الشاحنات وناقلات النفط التي تزود الجيش ومدرعاته بالوقود والامدادات المختلفة.. كامدادات الغذاء وغيرها… ذلك من شأنه أن يحرم الجيش من الحركة و يجمد كافة عملياته وربما يؤدي الى رفع فرص حدوث الانشقاقات فيه.. على جميع الثوار اخذ ذلك على محمل الجد والعمل على تعطيل جميع المصادر التي يعتمد عليها النظام .. باشروا بالعمل والتخطيط على ذلك منذ اللحظة..

about an hour ago

شهود عيان من مدينة تدمر: ارتال من الدبابات والآليات العسكرية نتجه إلى مدينة حمص مروراً بمدينة تدمر قادمة من المنطقة الشرقية .. والعدد فاق ال150 آلية …….

نرجوا من الثوار في حمص ان يقوموا بنصب الحواجز والمتاريس والسواتر والحجارة الكبيرة والحواجز الثقيلة لمنع الجيش من المرور وأن يقوموا بوضع جميع أنواع المسامير الحديدية وقطع جميع الطرقات التي من الممكن أن يدخلها الجيش .. الوضع يحتاج الى تصرّف …

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بعد التحرّي والتأكد والبحث العميق تبين أنه من الناشطين جدا في محاربة شباب الثورة
ومن نشاطاته في الجامعة بث الطائفية والتصريح بكلمات نابية عن المتظاهرين والمطالبين بالحرية في حمص وكتابة التقارير بشكل مكثف لفروع الأمن المختلفة والتعاون معهم لقمع أي حركات تظهر بين جموع الطلاب الأحرار
ولهذا كله نرجو من جميع شباب الثورة وخاصة في المغترب أن يهتموا بأمره بعدة طرق
رسائل الجزيرة مباشر
رسائل موبايل
إضافة اسمه في قائمة العار
وفضحه في المنتديات الطلابية لطلاب جامعة البعث
وهذه المعلومات الخاصة به بالتعاون مع بعض أساتذة الجامعة الأحرار
الدكتور الشبيح سهيل خياط
مواليد 1952
حمص بستان الديوان شارع رابعة العدوية
هاتف جوال 0933613467
ارضي 031/2230922

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September 7th, 2011, 3:46 pm


Mina said:

In a revolution, people think and get organised before they take the streets (see Russian revolution, see Enlightment movement before the French revolution, see Nahda). It helps if you want to avoid becoming a colony of another country called for help.
Syria had a lot of inqilabaat before the Assads, none were called a revolution.
This is only a war against Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran, via a proxy.
No one cares about the fate of Syria or the Syrians. Usually the West does not like the complexity of muslim countries which have been able to preserve their multiple identities and sects (this is supposed to be a prerogative of the west, except that everyone should wear Nike in the end).
So yes, I think you were abused by a bunch of people bored and who spend too much time on their computers and watching al Jazeera. Now that the West is dying for the darahim of the Gulf, no wonder they offer them to take a share in the imperialist dream. You can imagine what could be the result. Just watch the Gulf channels and you’ll get an idea of what their dreams are made of: shopping malls and luxury cars.

September 7th, 2011, 3:46 pm


Mina said:

It was NEVER peaceful. Even when some Daraa people have sent children to vandalize the police station, thinking no one would dare hurt childen (and a few days later, women near Lattakie).
Look for my post in April and early May to see the video posted by people in Maarat al Numaan and announcing coming demos by burning the pictures of B al Asad and you’ll be sure the message has never been peace. Just listen to the interviews posted by Joshua Landis on this website of the activists involved in enticing more protests and you will hear their agenda plain. They were not even subtle.

September 7th, 2011, 3:50 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Majed #4,

I cannot disagree with you more. Really! I disagree with all of your points, in favor of an armed revolution. But with this point I disagree the most: “…Armless revolution has no leader. Armed one will have a leader. He will galvanize the revolution”.

No! Gaddafi galvanized the Libyan revolution. Nasser did galvanize the Egyptian revolution… and so on. Arabs now need something completely different. Not more of the same galvanizing military oriented kind of leaders..

September 7th, 2011, 3:50 pm


Dale Andersen said:

Memo To: ANN

RE: “…Warning: Syria is much stronger than Libya…”

Not so fast, girl. They said that Egypt was much stronger than Iraq. They were WRONG!!!!

September 7th, 2011, 3:58 pm


Tara said:


In your opinion, How much killing should be allowed to happen before a non-violent revolution changes its course to armed resistance?

September 7th, 2011, 4:10 pm


norman said:

I am impressed,!, you are right we need cool headed caring leaders, not demagogue.

September 7th, 2011, 4:14 pm


Jihad said:

This site appears to be more and more inspired by Muhammad Zuhair As-Sidiq et al., including the lunatic Al-‘Arour! Pity.

September 8th, 2011, 11:02 pm


Ibn Amin said:

I know Rahhal very well. First, this person is not a doctor as he claims! He claims to be a strategic advisor for the Swedish government but he is unemployed!

He claims to represent 80% of people inside but he does not represent even his own village. He was able to collect millions from the donations to build a TV channel and to arm the revolution, while he did not do anything.

In short, he is just a looser using the revolution to get very rich.

September 14th, 2011, 2:45 am


F&B said:

judging by the comments that you see on this blog, it seems that this revolution is losing, and fast. People don’t care anymore. The “menhebak” crowd are losing love, and the opposition is showing it’s real face more and more. It looks like the people in power have the upper hand will keep it.

September 15th, 2011, 6:24 am



[…] [20] Joshua Landis, “Who Is Muhammad Rahhal, the Syrian Revolutionary Who Called for Armed Resistance and Attacked Burhan Ghalioun?” Syria Comment, September 7, 2011, https://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=11905. […]

October 27th, 2011, 1:18 pm



[…] [20] Joshua Landis, “Who Is Muhammad Rahhal, the Syrian Revolutionary Who Called for Armed Resistance and Attacked Burhan Ghalioun?” Syria Comment, September 7, 2011, https://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=11905. […]

October 29th, 2011, 5:08 pm


Johannes Waardenburg said:

Dear Professor Landis,

Please forgive my late comment, however as a historian, there seems to me to be some confusion as to the date of the publication of the information you refer to.

Why is there a reference to August 7th if the Swedish newspaper notifies the date of publication as September 7th – as indicated also at the top of your paper?

The election of Ghalioun was on August 29th 2011 and the article in As-Sharq al-Awsat on August 28th.

Thanks in advance for your help and the remarkable work you have been doing all these years.

Kind regards, Johannes Waardenburg

April 4th, 2018, 11:21 am


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