According to a statement released on Friday (August 8) by the leader of Ahrar al-Sham, two high ranking leaders of the group were dismissed. In one of the statements it mentioned that Abu Izz Ariha was dismissed from the group due to the latter leaking sensitive information from Ahrar Sham’s private meetings to media outlets.
The other high ranking member to be dismissed from the group on the same day was Husam Salama. According to Ahrar al-Sham’ current leader, Amer al-Sheikh, Salama was dismissed from the group for not following the group’s policies, and causing division within its ranks. Al-Sheikh said that Salama was meeting with different personalities and factions of the revolution unofficially by using the name of the group without the knowledge of the leadership.
Sources also revealed a major split within the ranks of Ahrar al-Sham, in light of the internal disputes that has been ongoing for nearly a year. On Thursday 5th of August, researcher and political analyst Faris Faham said in a post on Facebook that around 900 fighters from Ahrar al-Sham and prominent leaders are joining the Third Corps within the Syrian National Army. While the leader of the group, Amer al-Sheikh, said in a new statement released on Friday that the number of those who were leaving the group was around 260 fighters. He went on to say: ” We were surprised by their decision, especially that they are the sons of Jabal al-Zawiya and Idlib and are stationed on the frontiers of their own towns and villages. All this in conjunction with the expectations of a military campaign against the liberated areas, especially Jabal al-Zawiya. We in the leadership, from our point of view, there is no legal or organizational justification for their departure.”
Al-Sheikh also said that the one behind the departure of the fighters from the ranks of his group was Alaa Faham aka. Abu Izz Ariha. The leader of Ahrar al-Sham ended his statement by saying: “As the leader of the movement, and in consultation with the leadership council, I will take all necessary measures to preserve the movement’s reputation, its history and the sacrifices of its sons. We will not allow anyone to tamper with the movement and re-seed discord in its ranks”.
Last month, the faction’s leader, Amer al-Sheikh, issued an internal statement announcing the restructuring of the Leadership Council, with the aim of maintaining the movement’s cohesion and continuity, and stopping members from leaving the organization.
Disputes within the movement , started mid-2020, when the former leader of Ahrar al-Sham, Hassan Soufan, took control of the group after replacing its leader at the time Jaber Ali Basha, after the latter had refused to be part of the Military Council in Idlib which united all factions to counter any future offensive from the regime against the area.
Later, the new leadership council of the movement decided to assigned Amer al-Sheikh to lead the group, which Hassan Soufan also agreed.
Ahrar al-Sham is a coalition of multiple revolution fighting units that coalesced into a single brigade and later a division in order to fight against the Syrian regime. It has been active since 2011 with its first leader being Hassan Aboud, who led the group until his death in 2014. Ahrar al-Sham was one of the largest fighting groups in the Syrian revolution with estimated numbers mentioning between 10-20 thousand fighters.