It is one thing to list the name of a Syrian rebel faction, describe its flag, note some of its superficial political rhetoric and give an estimate of the number of fighters, but quite another to describe the composition and internal structure of that faction. Exploring the latter issues would do much more to tell us about who exactly are the rebel factions and how they function. Regrettably, much ostensible research on the rebel factions has frankly been abysmal. For example, as American researcher Alexander McKeever commented, a lot of “pro-opp[osition] analysis of these groups rarely went beyond collecting their logos and checking to see how much green was included.” On the other side, the obsession has been to label rebel groups as “jihadist” (a term applied far too carelessly without consideration as to its actual meaning).
In part, I hope to rectify this deficiency through publishing some exclusive documents from Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki (“The Nour al-Din al-Zinki Movement”), which used to be one of the main rebel factions in northwest Syria, controlling territory in the west Aleppo countryside region to which it was indigenous. The group was then dissolved last year following its expulsion from its areas by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, of which Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki had once been a part. Readers will remember that I recently published a lengthy interview with Sheikh Tawfiq Shihab al-Din, who led Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki.In this post, I will publish the internal structure of the group kindly provided to me in an exclusive document sent by Sheikh Tawfiq, together with my translation of the document in full. I derive two broad conclusions from the document. First, while it has become fashionable to point out how the Islamic State supposedly had a sophisticated and effective bureaucracy as though it were unique in this regard, the document shows that Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki had a well-developed administrative structure reflecting its level of influence and control in west Aleppo countryside. Second, the document illustrates that the faction was very much centred around Sheikh Tawfiq in his role as the leader of Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki. This point had been made as far back as 2017 by Syria Conflict Monitor (one of the few to have provided some insight into various rebel factions and how they have functioned on the ground).
Hopefully in subsequent posts functions of individual departments can be described. For now though, here is the document on Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki’s internal structure.