As a prominent Druze spiritual leader, Hikmat Salman al-Hijri expressed his gratitude towards the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for offering an exchange of SDF-held Islamic State prisoners for ISIS-held Druze hostages. The Druze are an ethnoreligious group that resides primarily in Syria; their faith is centered on the teachings of Greek philosophers paired with Islamic teachings of the Quran.
Druze villages located in the southwestern Syrian province of Suwayda were subject to an Islamic State attack on July 25. Approximately 30 Druze villagers were abducted, the majority of whom were women and children. It’s believed that the ISIS fighters kidnapped the villagers in an attempt to utilize them as bargaining chips namely to be traded for Islamic State commanders imprisoned by the Syrian regime. A video was released this week by the militants depicting the beheading of a hostage, a male 19-year-old university student.
The Syrian Democratic Forces released a statement over the weekend affirming that they were willing to exchange their own Islamic State prisoners in order to secure the Druze prisoners safe return. Hikmat Salman al-Hijri expressed his gratitude via a written statement directed at the SDF. The letter read that,
You relieved our heartache from what we read from the accounts of your triumphs, your history, and the splendor of your presence from the values of courage. We all are keen on the liberation of Afrin from the Turks, the scoundrels of the era, who left us nothing but sickness and enmity. We pen your generous stance and honorable intervention with lines of appreciation in our pages, and your reward is on God.”
Hijri closed by saying that the SDF’s actions in this matter are “embodying links of brotherhood and peace.”
Hikmat Salman al-Hijri’s reference to the Turkish scoundrels was in regard to Operation Olive Branch, a Turkish military incursion that forced the SDF to flee the Rojava canton of Afrin. Aside from that, the Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated vast areas of northern Syria from Islamic State occupation. Nearly 400 people accused of being affiliated to the Islamic State have been imprisoned by the SDF with another 593 are being held under suspicion as well. The Islamic State has gone out of its way to go after religious minorities throughout Iraq and Syria since their rise to (and fall from) power; the most high profile of which was the Yezidis of Shingal.
Featured image: This image provided by the activist-operated Facebook page Sweida News Network (SNN), shows Druze clergymen pray during a funeral of two of the 216 who were killed a day earlier by a series of suicide bombings launched by the Islamic State’s fighters on the eastern and northern countryside of the southern province of al-Sweida during a mass funerals at Shahba town, in Sweida province, Syria, Thursday, July 26, 2018. A Syrian government official says the death toll from coordinated Islamic State attacks on a usually peaceful city and its countryside has climbed to 216, in the worst violence to hit the area since the country’s conflict began. | Sweida News Network via AP