Who are Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham?

Syria

In Syria, a new organisation called Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has been formed. Al Shahid takes a look at the groups underpinning HTS and the voices it claims to represent.

Formed in January 2017, HTS was created by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), formerly al-Nusra Front, and defectors from the jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham. Subsequently, smaller groups, like Nour al-Din al-Zenki, Ansar al-Din, Liwa al-Haq, and Jaish al-Sunna joined to form the bulk of the groups.

The organisation is lead by former Ahrar al-Sham leader, Abu Jaber. Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, the former leader of JFS, has taken up the role of Minister of War, although many believe he is the main force behind the group.

With non-Free Syrian Army groups joining HTS, however, the question remains: who does this organisation represent? Many Syrians have voiced their concern and opposition to the HTS, as they believe it does not represent the Syrian people. One civilian in southern Syria went on camera demanding that groups like JFS “leave” the area and allow them to decide their own juridicial fate “through the rule of law”.

But with HTS forming yet another actor, further miring the Syrian conflict in greater complexities, the actions of the group will be felt by the Syrian people, complicating their situation even further.