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    Raed Fares

    WaPo, Resistance Liberals Laud Legacy of Slain al-Qaeda-Linked Propagandist

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    The assassination of a prominent Syrian rebel in the province of Idlib on Friday has engendered some Western observers to laud him as a “pro-democracy activist” who is against extremism. A cursory look through Raed Fares’ social media pages, however, reveals his sympathies may have laid elsewhere.

    Fares is known for orchestrating photo shoots in a small village in Idlib called Kafranbel and running a reportedly "independent" radio station. He is said to have been kidnapped by al-Qaeda affiliates in addition to attempts to take his life over the past few years.

    A journalist in the same town as where Fares lived told Middle East Eye that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham was targeting activists after the killing.

    On Friday, the State Department characterized Fares as a "symbol of the Syrian revolution and the best of the youth of Syria," adding that he was among the first "revolutionaries" to put his "creativity and skills to use." It called his killers "treasonous, criminal, and malicious."

    According to a 2014 interview with Fares, the media center he founded "doesn't just photograph or cover the news, but we also write banners, draw posters, and organize for demonstrations."

    That media center was "set up with [US] State Department assistance by an NGO whose explicit mission is to ‘support U.S. military and diplomatic efforts,'" RT America correspondent Dan Cohen pointed out, linking to a New York Times article on the organization.

    But some of the posters that he has tweeted pictures of positively portray groups linked to al-Qaeda.

    One image he shared in May 2015 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad standing next to a member of Daesh. Two men hold a pair of scissors around Assad and the terrorists' necks. One of the most is wearing a Syrian rebel flag, the other stands next to words in Arabic that spell out "Army of Conquest."

    The Army of Conquest, or Jaish al-Fatah, is 90 percent comprised of fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, according to a Saudi royal family source who spoke with journalist Gareth Porter that same month. "The Saudis and Qataris are to provide funding for 40 percent of the coalition's needs, according to the source," Porter reported.

    Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham were once the two primary al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria but have rebranded as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

    In another tweet — the same day as the first one — Fares urges Jaish al-Fatah to "keep going." In another, he says that a victory for Jaish al-Fatah is a victor "for all Syrians."

    According to a "Syrian Opposition Guide" published by the neoconservative Institute for the Study of War published later in 2015, Jaish al-Fatah is anti-government, anti-Hezbollah, but not anti-ISIS" per se, although that report is no longer available.

    While Jaish al-Fatah's leadership is unknown, its former spokesman Abu Mohammed Al-Hollandi,a Dutch citizen, was also an official of the more explicitly al-Qaeda aligned Jabhat al-Nusra. He was killed in 2015.

    While Fares' work in Idlib, publicized all over the web, has earned him praise for being "humble" and one of the "good guys," banners he tweeted pictures of reveal a more crass disposition.

    "The hospital of Jisr Shugour is your hymen, it will be torn and the blood will flow down Hassan Nasrallah's face," he tweeted in 2015 in a message to Assad.

    Despite these troubling connections and displays of rabid sectarianism, Fares was hailed as an "absolutely revolutionary Syrian opposition activist and a goddamn hero to many of us" by Caroline Orr, a writer for Share Blue and frequent promoter of the discredited neoconservative think tank Alliance for Securing Democracy.

    Prominent journalist Molly Crabapple, known for once doxxing a UN aid worker in Iraq and performing burlesque shows in "g-string and pasties" in front of audiences drinking $5 mojitos, tweeted that Fares "was an iconic figure of the original revolution."

    Washington Post Beirut Bureau Chief Liz Sly also lauded Fares' pro-democracy work. "One constant in Syria's war: the good guys die. Democracy activist Raed Fares was assassinated today," she wrote.

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    Al-Qaeda, Idlib, Syria, Jihadists
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