The Turkestani Party the friend of Jabhat al-Nusra…7000 fighters came to Syria with facilities by the Turkish authorities, known for their fierceness, crowded out the Syrians with their livelihoods and seized a lot of them
Turkistan Islamic Party, known as “the Turkistanis”, is a party of Uyghur Muslim fighters, they are jihadists came from China, in few numbers with their families under the banner of “Jihad”, in late 2013, first they settled in the Syrian coastline and the western countryside of Idlib, within boarder areas with Turkey, and they started to arrive successively in the Syrian territory in the beginning of 2014, and continued to flock with their families all over that year, where they participated in that year, in clashes against the regime forces and their allies, in the side of other jihadist fighters: of Gulf, North-African, Asian and western nationalities, which makes them gain great reputation and influence for the experience they showed in fighting and battles management, and less than a year after they imposed themselves on the scene, they announced the formation of “the Turkestani Islamic Party”, in late 2014, under the command of (Abdul Haq al-Turkistani), where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored the Turkistanis’ start of the first formal battle under their frank name, which is ((the battle of Jisr Al-Shugur city)) in April 2015, through which it gained the greatest reputation after it participated greatly in taking the control of the city and villages and towns in its countryside with the rest of the factions, where the Turkistanis were the spearheads of these battles, through carrying out suicidal operations by detonating booby trapped vehicles and blowing themselves up using explosive belts where a large number of them were killed in these battles, so Jisr Al-Shughur city has a symbolic value for the Turkistanis who have raised their banner in the middle of the city since then and until today.
The Turkistani fighters continued to profusely enter the Syrian territory via Turkey, until the beginning of 2016, where the Syrian Observatory monitored that the number of the fighter of the Turkestani Islamic Party, according to the statistics of the SOHR’s activists, reached 7000 fighters, also a large number of Syrians joined them, of those who were former fighters in the faction of “Jund al-Aqsa” and fighters from Halfaya in Hama countryside and others, as well as Al-Ghuraba Battalion of the Turkistanis, whose fighters are Palestinian, while the Syrian Observatory monitored the Turkistanis’ deployment in areas extended from Jisr Al-Shughur city and its western countryside to Jabal Al-Turkman and Jabal Al-Akrad in the northern countryside of Lattakia, as well as Sahl Al-Ghab, including areas on the border with Iskenderun, where Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham (Jabhat al-Nusra formerly) gave the Turkistanis a number of villages over which Jabhat al-Nusra imposed its controlled previously, either at the expense of the regime forces or the factions operating in the area, where it granted these villages as a “token of friendship” between the Turkistanis and Tahrir Al-Sham at that time, where many areas became settlements of the Turkistanis such as Zanbaqi, Katrin and Shanderish and they contain camps of ” ideological and combat training for children and teenagers in order to follow in the footsteps of the fathers and to move forward in the path of jihad”, and the mountainous villages of Zanbaqi and Katrin are considered save places for the Turkistanis because of being near and located within the border area with Turkey which protect them from airstrikes and targeting operations, unlike Shanderish which is located near other camps of the Turkistanis such as al-Shegher Dam which has been subjected to tens of aerial targeting by the Russian warplanes as well as regime’s warplanes.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored that the Turkistanis preferred, in the beginning of their entry to the Syrian territory, to isolate in areas where no other parties are present, for many reasons, including the different culture and traditions, but the situation changed as time passes and as their number increases, where the Turkistanis are sharing the Syrians in their areas and have social relations with them, such as in villages used to be inhabited by citizens of Alawite community during the regime’s control over it, and became now under the control of the Turkistanis like Eshtabraq and others, in addition to the villages of Halouz, al-Alya, Al-Ghassaniyah, Kafrdin, Jamiliya and Kawarghu, which are controlled by them and by Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, also fighters of the Turkistanis were related by marriage to Syrian families within their controlled areas and married to Syrian citizen women, but many of these marriages have failed because of the great difference in language and culture, moreover, the Turkistanis were not content only to advance even more into the Syrian territory, but they also crowded out the Syrians in their livelihoods and lands, where the reliable sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory that the Turkistanis became active with regard to trade, agriculture and selling the agricultural crops after seizing them, whether from citizens who were forced to displaced during the battles in the countryside of Jisr Al-Shughur, the Syrian coastline and other areas, or through fatwas by the major partner (Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham), thus, the trade and selling crops became one of the sources of income and material support for the Turkistanis in the area, in addition to the “spoils” they seized in earlier battles in Sahl Al-Ghab, Lattkia Mountains and the western countryside of Idlib, last of which were the “spoils” of Kafriya and Al-Fu’ah which used to be inhabited by citizens of Shiite community who have been displaced in accordance with an international agreement.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also monitored that the Turkistanis imposed their control over thousands of agricultural yields such as olive and citrus trees, which the area is famous for, in addition to hundreds of houses and shops that they rent for sums of money in cooperation with Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, as well as breeding animals and trafficking them, renting fuel stations and the mills of olive in its seasons, and the areas where the Turkistanis are located, witness people’s resentment against crowding out the citizens in their livelihoods and interfering in their affairs, and in particular against the checkpoints which are spread in the western countryside of Jisr Al-Shughur that prevent the citizens from cutting off wood and firewood, and shoot any one trying to do that, while the members of the Turkistanis cut off trees and wood in the same areas in order to use them for heating or to sell them in markets.
The partnership between the Turkistanis and Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham was not only limited to sharing the spoils and areas, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored that Turkistan Islamic Party take part in a lot of the internal fighting in the side of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham against other factions operating in the area which took place in 2017 and 2018, where the participation of the Turkistanis came whether through direct interventions as it took place in several clashes most prominent of which were those recent ones which took place in the north of Idlib in border areas in Zardana, Ram Hamdan and Hizano, during the fighting between “Hayyaat Tahrir Syria” at that time against Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, or through indirect interventions such as securing the defenses of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham through protecting Jisr Al-Shughur and its countryside from the expansion of the fighting that took place last year between Ahrar Al-Sham against Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham, and despite standing in the side of Tahrir Al-Sham, no formal or direct tensions took place between the Turkistanis against the other parties, and the Syrian Observatory monitored the aspects of the rapprochement and partnership between Tahrir Al-Sham and the Turkistanis which have been materialized in the repeated visits of the commanders and the sharia and security men of the both parties, such as the visit of the Egyptian jihadist, Abu al-Yaqzan al-Masri, to the Syrian coastline last month where he talked in the language of the Uyghurs directing a massage to the Turkistanis, also the General Commander of Hayyat Tahrir Al-Sham, Abu Mohammed al-Julani, have visited the areas of Lattakia countryside with the commanders of the Turkistanis as a part of strengthening and consolidating the relationships between them, in addition to the visit of the former sharia man, Abdullah Al-Muhaysini, who previously praised the Islamic Party of Turkestan.
While the Turkestani Islamic Party’s strongest and firmest relation with the Turkish authorities, became obvious after the latter facilitated the arrival of the Turkistanis to the Syrian territory, which took place through the Turkish territory after coordination between them, in addition to the material and moral support presented for them by the Turkish authorities, as well as their presence within border areas with Turkey in the Syrian coastline and Idlib’s west, while, in return, the Turkistanis protect the Turkish columns within Sahl Al-Ghab, the Syrian coastline and the western countryside of Idlib, where they escort the Turkish columns with vehicles provided with medium machineguns and a lot of members, the Turkistanis also work on protecting some of the 12 Turkish observation posts, such as Halouz, Zaytuneh and Eshtabraq in Jabal Al-Turkman and Jisr Al-Shughur countryside, and Turkistan Islamic Party have a large number of heavy weapons of armored vehicles, tanks and missile platforms.
The Syrian Observatory also monitored that the Turkistanis’ heavy weapons are still deployed until now, within the buffer area which was agreed on after a Turkish – Russian agreement, and the Turkistanis are located with their heavy weapons at a distance of less than 10 km from the controlled areas and positions of the regime forces in Al-Taybat, al-Shegher Camp, Kafridin, the vicinity of Al-Najiyeh and other areas in the northern countryside of Lattakia and Sahl Al-Ghab particularly within what is known as Mabaqir Al-Sirmaniyah, and the Turkistanis tend to target the positions of the regime forces and their allies and to carry out suicidal operations every now and then in areas in the north-eastern countryside Lattakia and in Sahl Al-Ghab, where fighters of the Turkman and of other Asian nationalities such as those of Fursan Al-Islam, Jabal Al-Islam Battalion and Ansar al-Dien, participate in these operations in the Turkistanis’ side, which created a dilemma swinging between the Turkistanis’ subordination to Turkey, and between their violations to the agreement that Turkey concluded with Russia with regard to the truce, and the to-be-disarm area, where there are no declared withdrawals of heavy weapons carried out by the Turkistanis, but instead they are hiding them in covered trenches with other factions in areas in the north-eastern countryside of Lattakia.