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Syrians say the Free Syrian Army 'does exist' Open in fullscreen

Imogen Lambert

Syrians say the Free Syrian Army 'does exist'

FSA flags on show in a protest in Northern Aleppo [AFP]

Date of publication: 14 December, 2015

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Both Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have claimed that the FSA 'does not exist', so Syrians took to Twitter to counter the claim.
Following comments from Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate that the Free Syrian Army 'does not exist', a campaign was launched by Syrian activists to highlight the wide-reach the moderate rebel group has inside the country.

Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, leader of al-Nusra Front, claimed in an interview that there is no central rebel group using the name the name.

"There is no such thing as the FSA… it's just a name for a series of groups with no links with each other," Jolani said.

Jolani's remarks were strikingly similar to those made by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who described the FSA as a "phantom group". 

All through the Saturday night, Syrians took to social media to counter Jolani'a statement with slogans such as "the Free Syrian Army represents me" and "we are the free Syrian army" widely used.

One widely shared photo on social media showed a wall with graffiti reading: "The Free Syrian Army, I know them and who they are, but who are you? The revolution continues".

"The Free Syrian Army, I know them and who they are, but who are you? 
The revolution continues".

Another Syrian activist using the name Mohammed said, "The Syrian revolution is the pride of our people and the pride of the Syrian revolution is the FSA."

Ana Press took the campaign further still and went out onto the streets of Aleppo to find out from resident if the Free Syrian Army did exist.

"There is an FSA and they are our brothers," one man told the reporter. Other residents of the war-torn Aleppo said that the FSA had a strong presence in the north Syria city.

"The FSA is here, who said they weren’t?" asked one bemused Syrian.

The interviewer replied that the head of al-Nusra Front had made the assertion.

"The head of what?" the man responded, "what did he say?"

"There is no FSA."

"No, there is," he concluded.

Even other factions that are not part of the FSA lent their support for the moderate group. 

The spokesperson for Jaish al-Islam, an Islamist rebel group active in the Damascus suburbs chimed in declaring "we are the FSA".

In response to the campaign, Nusra officials said that that they did not deny the organisation's existence and even commended their work in the "Hama tank massacre". 

This was a reference to a battle between the Syrian regime and rebels in Hama province, where the defending FSA fighters managed to block the regime offensive and destroyed 15 armoured vehicles.  

During a later press conference, the Nusra leader backtracked on his earlier remarks and said that he had only implied that the FSA was not "one faction".

He also added that Nusra had to fight some of the "bad" elements of the moderate rebel group who have attempted to keep the al-Qaeda affiliate out of their territories. 

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