Jihadi Group Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham Publishes Photos Of Leader Al-Joulani's Pre-Eid Visit To Marketplace; Opponents Mock Them As Attempt To Depict Him As A Statesman Like Ukrainian President Zelensky

May 2, 2022

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On May 2, 2022, pro-Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) Telegram user Al-Shimali Al-Hurr posted a series of "exclusive" photos documenting the visit by HTS leader Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani to the markets of Idlib to "evaluate Muslims' affairs" on the last day of the fasting month of Ramadan.[1]

The photos featured Al-Joulani in military fatigues, flanked by security guards, in a crowded market talking to people and merchants, saluting individuals, and posing for selfies.

In a related post on May 2, Al-Shimali Al-Hurr[2] wrote: "Footage showing General Commander Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani's modesty toward people as he venerates the elderly and communicates with the youth with compassion, during his tour of the markets in the city of Idlib on the last day of Ramadan." The post was accompanied by a 20-second video featuring Al-Joulani's guards making way for him in a crowded marketplace.

A second video, 37 seconds long, features people off-camera chanting, "Greet Al-Joulani, greet our commander" and "there is no God but Allah, and Al-Assad is the enemy of Allah."[3]

Opponents of HTS saw Al-Joulani's tour of Idlib market as part of the group's strategy to increase its legitimacy and popularity and promote itself as an alternative to the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

The pro-rebel, anti-HTS Telegram channel Muzamjir Al-Thawrah Al-Suriyah (Roaring Lion of the Syrian Revolution)[4] refuted claims that there were civilians in the market, writing that "over 1,000 security personnel in plain clothes accompanied Al-Joulani" on the visit.

According to the channel, "none of the individuals seen in the image are civilians. All are security personnel working for Al-Joulani. The scene was carefully staged so as to be believed by the foolish and the narrow-minded," said the post.

On the same day, the pro-HTS Telegram channel Al-Askary Media[5] shared an edited side-by-side image of Al-Joulani and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The image was produced by the Dubai-based Syrian opposition website Orient-News, which captioned it: "He copies photo. Activists mock Al-Joulani following his latest appearance."

Al-Askary Media criticized the Orient-News poster by including a screenshot showing chatter amphoto pro-HphotoTelegram users who view Al-Joulani as a hero.

[1] Telegram, May 1, 2022.

[2] Telegram, May 1, 2022.

[3] Telegram, May 1, 2022.

[4] Telegram, May 1, 2022.

[5] Telegram, May 1, 2022.

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