Quwat Shaykh al-Karama: Interview
In the primarily Druze province of al-Suwayda’ in south Syria, Shaykh Abu Fahad Wahid al-Bal‘ous established Harakat Rijal al-Karama (“Men of Dignity Movement”) in 2014 as a ‘third-way’ movement: neither opposition nor loyalist, but focused on defending the province from external attack and seeking internal reform without calling for armed rebellion against the Syrian government or ‘regime change’.
Since Abu Fahad’s assassination in 2015, the original Harakat Rijal al-Karama has endured, but other movements have arisen in the province that claim to be closer to Abu Fahad’s legacy. Quwat Shaykh al-Karama (“Shaykh of Dignity Forces”)- founded by Abu Fahad’s sons- is one such movement. Whereas Harakat Rijal al-Karama still commits to neutrality, it is fair to say that Quwat Shaykh al-Karama’s political orientation is in opposition to the Syrian government, though it does not function as an active insurgent group against the government.
For an overview of Quwat Shaykh al-Karama, below is a brief interview conducted with a leading figure in the movement (who has asked to remain anonymous). We touched also on the more general issue of sanctions imposed on Syria. My own general view, similar to that of the interviewee, is that the sanctions are indeed harmful for ordinary Syrians and their advocates fail to explain how they will lead to ‘justice’, ‘accountability’ or ‘political transition.’ It is as though we are seeing a repeat of 1990s Iraq, and some of the recent proposals for further sanctions strike me as truly irrational.
Below is the interview, conducted on 27 May 2023. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: When was Quwat Shaykh al-Karama formed and what was the reason for its formation? How do the forces [Quwat Shaykh al-Karama] differ from Harakat Rijal al-Karama for example? Currently what is the number of groups under Quwat Shaykh al-Karama?