SOHR exclusive | Eyewitness tells of circumstances of Al-Baghdadi’s meeting with Syrian and Iraqi tribes
Years ago, the “Islamic State” organisation announced the establishment of the “Caliphate State” in Al-Raqqah city, the de-facto capital of that state which covered a grand region stretching from west Syria to the north of Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. At that time, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was nominated to be the “Caliph” of the state, while ISIS started to promote its ideology, where most of the tribes, clans and families in areas controlled by the so-called “Caliphate State” in Syria and Iraq swore allegiance to ISIS.
In an exclusive SOHR interview, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Faraj Salam, who is a dignitary of Al-Weldah tribe, has told of the circumstances of a meeting held in 2014 in an area on the Syria-Iraq border, in which Syrian and Iraqi tribes pledged allegiance to Al-Baghdadi as the “Caliphate” of the “Islamic State” organisation.
Sheikh Abdullatif said, “the security service of the Islamic State arrested 27 people from Al-Hassan Al-Ibrahim family and took them to an unknown destination. In the beginning, we thought that they were kidnapped by regime forces, as we were living in Al-Tabaqah and Al-Mansourah. After searching for these people, we found out that they were detained by ISIS security service for ‘involving in security violations.’ I communicated with several tribal elders from Al-Raqqah, before we met with ‘Tobad Al-Burayj Abu Shamel,’ who was the Emir (top commander) of the tribes’ relations in Al-Raqqah then. The Emir relieved our worry about the arrested people, and he also informed me that he was organising an invitation for a meeting to be attended by Arab tribes, and that I was one of the invited people to meet with Al-Baghdadi.”
“At mid-night, I received a phone call from ‘Tobad Al-Burayj’ who told me that we would go to the meeting place at 06:00 am, and that I had to be ready. A delegation of 17 other tribal dignitaries and elders representing Al-Raqqah and I set off at the agreed time, heading to the headquarters of the prominent Iraqi tribe of Al-Jaghayfah Al-Daleem, after crossing the Syria-Iraq border, where ISIS vehicles had removed border barriers. At the tribe’s headquarters, there were over 100 tribal dignitaries and elders, as well as a group of ISIS members headed by ‘Saygham Al-Shamri,’ who was the Emir of tribes and Al-Baghdadi’s deputy in charge of tribal affairs.”
“I was shocking when I found that large number of the other attendants, as I had come for the release of 27 people from my tribe, Al-Weldah tribe, so I fell back and attempted to leave the meeting and return to Al-Raqqah. I started to speak loudly and scream at ‘Saygham Al-Shamri’ who kept silence, while ISIS members drove me and Al-Raqqah’s dignitaries and elders to the reception hall by force. After that, ‘Saygham Al-Shamri’ gave a speech, during which he explained the ideology of the Islamic State and the organisation’s major goal which is manifested in reviving the glory of the Islamic Caliphate and foiling foreign agendas. Then he named the Syrian and Iraqi tribal elders who started to swear allegiance to the organisation. I interrupted the meeting, illustrating that I had come with a delegation of my tribe for another goal, which is manifested in the release of 27 people from my tribe. A masked man counseled with the Emir and said that my demands would be fulfilled after the meeting.”
“Since the meeting started, Al-Raqqah’s delegation and I was sure that Al-Baghdadi was among the masked members who were attending the meeting, especially since one of them was wearing an expensive watch, rolex brand, and exchanged looks with ‘Saygham.’ After the meeting had been finished and the tribal dignitaries and elders had sworn allegiance to ISIS, ‘Saygham’ asked me for a list of the names of the detainees of my tribe and informed me to check the office of the ‘Wali’ in Al-Raqqah city two days later.”
During the period from 2014 to 2016, ISIS depended on tribal dignitaries and elders and influential figures in areas under its control to expand instill its ideology in all segments of the Syrian society, portraying its self as an ideal and perfect regime attempting to establish a state based on the rightful and fundamental concepts of Islamic sharia, according to SOHR sources.
Sheikh Abdullatif added, “two days after we returned back to Al-Raqqah, I called the Wali’s office to ask after the detainees, before I headed to the office which is located in Tel Abyad street in Al-Raqqah city centre. When I arrived at the office, the guard prevented me to enter, so I hurried to the house of ‘Tobad Al-Burayj’ and told him the story. During our talk, ‘Tobad’ received a phone call, and I heard him saying, ‘yes, he is here and he went to the Wali’s office and the guard prevented him from accessing to the Wali. OK. I will escort him to you right now.’”
“‘Tobad Al-Burayj’ escorted me to a house in Al-Furat neighbourhood where we met an Iraqi man known as ‘Abu Belal Al-Qurashi,’ who was Al-Baghdadi’s deputy, as well as the Wali of Al-Raqqah, who was known as “Abu Hassan Al-Shamali. ‘Abu Belal Al-Qurashi,’ asked me about the number of the detained members of my tribe, and I replied that they were 27 persons. The man told me that Al-Raqqah’s Wali would escort them on the following day to my house. He also told me that they would maintain only one person of the detainees under investigation. On the following day, 26 detainees were released, while the remaining one was also released nearly six months later.”