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August us history regents thematic essay. For eighteen miles, it is nothing but gardens and castles, surrounded by high mountains in every direction, and from these mountains flows water, which forms into several rivers inside the Ghouta.
It is the fairest place on earth, and the best of them. Their olive and almond trees, orange groves, wheat fields, glittering canals, and morning mists would be the first sight of any traveler arriving to Damascus, a city known for its beauty—and that beauty was the Ghouta. Successive waves of refugees arrived, from Palestine in —49 and from the Golan Heights in They were joined by poor Syrians seeking employment or shelter.
Wheat fields were crisscrossed by roads and power lines, while factories, army compounds, and drab housing projects spread out of the city and into the countryside. The ancient oasis seemed destined to disappear. Many villages were swallowed up by the capital, with, for example, Jobar—once a picturesque multireligious hamlet where Muslims and Jews tended their orchards—transformed into a series of mostly unremarkable city blocks on the eastern fringes of Damascus.
The transformation and immigration picked up speed as time passed, and statistics show a rapid expansion of new housing around Damascus from the s onward. In the s and the first decade of the twenty-first century, labor migration and new information technologies allowed Gulf-backed Islamist movements to pick up on some of this discontent and penetrate the Syrian countryside.
Bashar al-Assad inherited power from his father in In a climate of mounting social crisis, discontent and desperation rose in rural regions, including the Ghouta. Throughout the first decade of the new century, slum areas around Damascus expanded rapidly as the capital and its satellite towns took in poor migrants, while spiraling living costs forced parts of the Damascene middle class to abandon the inner city for a congested daily commute.
It was as if every driver of anti-regime resentment in the late Assad era had congregated on the outskirts of Damascus: When the Arab uprisings swept into Syria in Marchthe comparatively affluent and carefully policed central neighborhoods of the capital hardly stirred—but the Ghouta rose fast and hard in an angry, desperate rebellion. The first areas in Damascus that rose up against the regime sounded strangely familiar, although I had never visited them: It took a moment before it hit me.
They were the names that I had seen every day on the roofs of passing microbuses. Some of them were lines that I had ridden regularly within the city.
There were no famous restaurants or beauty spots there. The Creation of an Enclave Five years into the Syrian crisis, the war for the capital seems to be coming to an end. Rebel areas south of the capital have gone the same way, with the neighborhoods of Yarmouk and al-Hajar al-Aswad isolated and primed for surrender. In the Eastern Ghouta, government control began to fray almost immediately in Marchas the government cracked down on any public expression of protest.
Hundreds of demonstrators were killed or wounded by security forces in the first months of the crisis. Early attempts by commanders in the Republican Guard to negotiate with notables from Douma, the largest city in the Eastern Ghouta, were overtaken by violence or, in some cases, blocked by hardliners in the intelligence services.
Hardliners also surfaced on the opposition side. Masked men put up roadblocks and Kalashnikov-toting locals were seen in Douma soon after the first crackdowns, but there was no semblance of an organized armed rebellion. It took until summer before a structured and politicized insurgency began to develop. Some of the armed groups were led by local Islamists, including men recently amnestied by the government, but others were made up of military defectors or local street toughs with no evident ideology.
By the end ofthe opposition had seized entire neighborhoods in Douma and eastern Damascus and was disrupting day-to-day government control over perhaps a million citizens. In latethe last troops fled Douma. By earlythe opposition controlled an area in the Eastern Ghouta that stretched from the Damascus suburbs in the west to the desert town of Oteiba in the east, and from Douma in the north to the outskirts of the Damascus International Airport in the south.
At this point, Assad gave up his attempts to roll back the rebels and instead sought to contain them, backed by Shia Islamist militias such as Lebanese Hezbollah and various Iraqi groups.KALASHNIKOV USA KR-9M Submachine Gun
The pro-Assad coalition launched a reinvigorated offensive to shore up government defenses, and then sent armored columns to cut off the flow of arms from Turkey through the Syrian desert. In Aprilthe government retook Oteiba and began to choke off access to the rebel territory it had surrounded.
The opposition launched a counteroffensive in May, backed by nearly all the rebel groups that now operated in the area: Having failed to break the siege in the east, the insurgent forces were drawn deep into the battle for the Damascus suburbs. The fighting was brutal and the rebels reported a growing number of small, tactical nerve gas attacks, culminating in a gruesome massacre of civilians on August 21, As the siege hardened, the horizons of the Eastern Ghouta shrank, and its defenders were increasingly preoccupied by how to defend, organize, and rule the enclave in which they had been trapped.
Zahran Alloush As in all of Syria, the opposition in the Eastern Ghouta has suffered from its fragmentation. Over the past five years, dozens of local factions have spawned and split in the areas east of Damascus, slowly coalescing to create a handful of larger umbrella movements.
The most important of the groups to emerge in the Eastern Ghouta was the Islam Army Jaysh al-Islamwhich rose to dominance from onwards under the leadership of Mohammed Zahran Alloush, also known as Abu Abdullah. It is worth looking at his background in some detail. Zahran Alloush was born in Douma in His father, Abdullah Alloush b. This brand of Salafism stresses personal piety and doctrinal purity.
But although it, too, seeks a theocracy based on the strict application of sharia law and is hostile to Shia Muslims and other non-Sunni minorities, it differs in important respects from the Salafi-jihadi teachings popular in al-Qaeda and likeminded movements.
Their agenda is almost purely religious and national. It is one of very few places in Syria and the wider Levant to be dominated by the Hanbali school of Sunni Islam, which predominates in Saudi Arabia, and this facilitated the spread of Salafi teachings. Abdullah Alloush had been one of the leading exponents of modern Salafism in the Eastern Ghouta. In the early s, he became the imam of the Tawhid Mosque in southern Douma, and in he was permitted to open a Douma branch of the Assad Institute for Memorizing the Quran.
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At this time, the Syrian government focused its attention on the rival Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been involved in an armed uprising in —82, but the Alloush family later came into conflict with both the authorities and rival clerics in Douma.
Abdullah Alloush was never arrested, but claims to have been repeatedly called in for questioning and suffered police harassment, and he eventually immigrated to Saudi Arabia in the mids. He continued his religious studies at Damascus University and later enrolled at the University of Medina in Saudi Arabia, studying under Salafi religious luminaries such as Ibn Baz —99Ibn Othaimin —and Mohammed Nasreddine al-Albani — He then went into private business, with some sources saying he ran a shop or company selling honey, while others insist that he founded a construction consultancy.
Whatever the nature of his work, his real vocation seems to have been secret Salafi missionary activity. During that period, he was deeply involved in running study circles and distributing banned religious literature, and possibly also in organizing support for the Iraqi insurgency, though all sources seem to agree he never carried arms either in Iraq or in Syria. Seated, left to right: Inthe Assad government arrested Zahran Alloush as part of a broader crackdown on Sunni religious activism and Islamist militancy.
He ended up in the Sednaya Prison alongside hundreds of other Islamist prisoners, many of whom had volunteered with al-Qaeda in the Iraq War. Rubbing shoulders with these men, he reportedly emerged as a respected leader in the prison.
Alloush was still in jail when the Syrian uprising began in Marchbut he was released in a presidential amnesty on June 22, He immediately joined the budding insurgency in his hometown, Douma.
Several small groups had taken up arms against the government, most of them using the Free Syrian Army moniker. By September at the latest, Zahran Alloush had gathered his followers into a new faction under his own leadership. Known as the Islam Company Sariyat al-Islamit reportedly started with a small core of only fourteen members, several of them religious students or scholars like Alloush.
It then grew quickly by drawing on old networks connected to the Tawhid Mosque and other Salafi institutions in Douma, an environment that apart from the Alloushes also included members of the Boueidini, Delwan, and Sheikh Bzeineh families.
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He seems to have had a knack for organization, combined with an authoritarian, centralizing streak that would soon make its mark on the Eastern Ghouta insurgency. The Islam Company appears to have borrowed its organizational model from the Iraq War jihadi factions in which many Syrian Islamists had fought.
Rather, the Islam Company stood out among the rebels in Douma for its overtly religious and missionary character.
Anti-government demonstration in Douma on April 8, Though they wrapped themselves in Islamic rhetoric when appearing as rebel leaders, many were not particularly religious or ideological. One Syrian researcher refers to them as qabadayat, an old term for the opportunistic neighborhood strongmen who ruled the streets and played politics in Ottoman and French mandate days.
More importantly, his views were not unpopular with the much larger conservative Sunni population in Douma. Several Syrian expats and foreign clerics dedicated themselves to collecting money on his behalf in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Among the best known was Adnan Arour, a Riyadh-based Syrian televangelist who had met Alloush during his days as a student in Saudi Arabia. Originally from Hama, he had become immensely popular among Syrian rebels and Islamist-leaning demonstrators for his feisty and unapologetically Sunni-sectarian denunciations of Assad.
Many expat Syrians and other Islamist supporters of the uprising donated money to Arour without knowing his precise affiliations inside Syria, and he seems to have passed on considerable funds to Alloush. These councils were organizationally unstable and failed to inspire much loyalty among the fighters, but some of them played a role in channeling arms from foreign sponsors.
According to Habbous, his Military Council began to serve as a channel for arms shipments from Turkey in mid The first leg of the arms transports seems to have been handled by the Farouq Battalions, a group that had emerged in the Homs region in and now controlled areas on the Syrian-Turkish border.
To reach the areas east of Damascus, the smugglers then had to bring their cargo from Homs through the mountainous Qalamoun region. According to Habbous—who, it should be noted, has made a number of unsubstantiated accusations against the Islam Army—Alloush was made responsible for distributing weapons in the Ghouta, but ended up diverting most of the cargo to his own allies.