Abu Muhammad al-Jowlani's Meeting with Notables of Jabal al-Summaq
In so far as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (the dominant insurgent group in northwest Syria) seeks acceptance from the international community, then one of the main issues it will have to deal with concerns the treatment of minorities. Researchers who have engaged with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham have largely focused on the small Christian minority remaining in the area of al-Ya’qoubia, whereas the originally Druze minority of the Jabal al-Summaq area received less attention, partly because Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham has kept a tight lid on reporting about the area. For instance, media attempts to engage with the remaining inhabitants of the village of Qalb Lawze, one of the villages of Jabal al-Summaq and in which a massacre took place in 2015, have almost always been rebuffed by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.
There are, however, some signs now of more open Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham engagement with the remaining original inhabitants of Jabal al-Summaq in an apparent bid to address concerns and grievances. Following the recent success of a well-digging project near Qalb Lawze, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham’s leader Abu Muhammad al-Jowlani decided to pay a surprise visit to the area to dedicate the well. He met with some local notables and engaging in an ostensible dialogue to hear grievances. This meeting was filmed and released by Amjad Media. The dialogue primarily takes place in the register of Syrian ‘amiya as opposed to standard Arabic, adding to the sense of familiarity between Jowlani and the local notables he is speaking to.