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It began with Abdul-Razzaq Tlas, commander of Al-Farouq Brigades, which had fought valiantly against the Syrian army’s attack on Homs. A video was leaked showing him in a sexually compromising position; he was caught red-handed, so to speak, or as one common vulgar quip in Arabic goes, “He lost his war to a whore.” Since then, there have been a series of alleged sex scandals involving symbols of the Syrian revolution, serving to defame them and the revolution itself. Abdul-Razzaq Tlas
One of the videos shows the leader of Al-Farouq Brigade Abdul-Razzaq Tlas among a crowd of Syrian children. He’s holding some and lifting them up as they smile. In many pictures, he appears wearing his military uniform. The First Lieutenant, who had defected from the Syrian regime army, was on his way to stardom. He had won the admiration of many, including female supporters of the Syrian revolution.
Suddenly, everything changed. Footage
was leaked of a Skype conversation between him and Al-Arabiya’s correspondent Midia Daghistani
. In the footage, Tlas appears sometimes touching his nipple and at others his genitals.
Some tried to defend him, claiming that the video was faked, and that the person shown in the footage is a lookalike filmed by the Syrian intelligence with the intent of smearing Tlas' reputation. Tlas seemed like he was almost buying into these attempts, and accused China of using modern techniques to fabricate the footage! But in August 2012, a number of his comrades broke away
from Tlas, creating the Aisha Umm al-Mumineen Brigade in Rastan and Talbissa. In their statements, they said, “We decline to mention the reason [for the move], which most of you now already know. In his holy book, Allah says, “[True believers are those] who guard their modesty, save from their wives or what that their right hands possess, for then they are not blameworthy; but those whoso crave beyond that are transgressors.”
The row did not last long, and the truth soon came out. To save face, Al-Farouq Brigades declared
on October 6, 2012 that it had been “despicably blackmailed by the criminal regime, whose intelligence agencies managed to hack into First Lieutenant Abdul-Razzaq Tlas’s private Skype conversations.” The Brigades’ statement continued, “Assad’s intelligence agencies went public with some of these recordings, and sent others that are even worse and more shameful to the Brigades with a message demanding certain political positions from the Brigades and their participation in dialogue in return for not publishing [the recordings].” “The internal oversight body and the Shariah Commission (verified) the authenticity of the leaked recordings,” the Brigades added, and decided to relieve Tlas from any post within Al-Farouq Brigades in Syria. Abdul-Aziz Canaan
On February 21, 2012, Colonel Abdul-Aziz Canaan defected from the Syrian army. Surrounded by a number of armed men, he read the statement announcing his defection, and said
, “Glory to the martyrs, freedom for the prisoners, and victory for our sincere and proud people. I, Staff Colonel – Paratrooper Abdul-Aziz Canaan, of the Special Forces Regiment 454, announce my defection from the Ministry of Defense and the criminal Assad regime…Victory comes only from Allah.” As soon as he finished his announcements, shouts of "Allah is Great" were heard. To be sure, the revolution celebrated the defection of any high-ranking military officer.
But Canaan’s halo would not last very long either. Before the scandal surrounding Tlas subsided, a second scandal broke out, involving Canaan. Once again, the culprit was Skype. Canaan appeared
in a video fully naked, in bed, lying under a sheet and wearing a headset, and touching his genitals. The colonel, who appeared somewhat shy in the video, thus fell from grace.
Canaan turned from a brave colonel to a subject of ridicule. “The colonel appears clearly in the footage running operations against the Syrian regime,” one of those who posted the video wrote. “The mujahid leader Abdul-Aziz Canaan, head of the military council in the Latakia countryside and member of the Supreme Command of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), commanding one of his battles using an ‘RPG launcher,’” another commented
In an interview
with The Daily Telegraph, Syrian businessman Firas Tlas, son of former Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, said that he would place all his companies and their profits in the service of the Syrian revolution, to help build a democratic society in Syria. “What Syria gave me, I will give it back to Syria,” he added.
But not many liked Tlas’ decision to leave Syria and come out as a dissident who was distinct from the Syrian opposition based abroad. Videos were thus leaked showing Tlas in compromising positions as well. In one such video, he appears to be cavorting with two prostitutes engaged in lesbian acts, before one of them performs oral sex on him. In another even more scandalous video
, Firas Tlas appears to be having intercourse with a woman rumored to be the wife of his partner. In one scene, the woman can be seen trampling on his neck!
Tlas was infuriated
by the attempts to slander him. He sued the news website Al-Khabar Press that had posted the videos under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, demanding that the footage be taken down. But by doing so, he confirmed that he was indeed the person in the videos. The Scandals Roll!
Since the scandals that became public ended up causing great harm to those involved, sex scandals became one of the most important means of the electronic warfare targeting the Syrian opposition. Shortly later, rumors
spread about a compromising video involving Ahmad Hamadi, leader in the opposition Liwaa al-Tawhid, active in the Aleppo region, with a woman said to be an opposition supporter.
After Hamadi, it was the turn
of Abu Jaafar al-Mugharbel, also known as Al-Homsi. Sexually explicit images of Homsi and a woman said to be a Syrian activist were publicized. Then rumors
spread holding that Abu al-Hassan, leader in the FSA military council in Latakia, was having sexual liaisons with a married Syrian activist called Salam. However, the link to the video supposed to prove this scandal is broken, as are most links posted on the website Syriantube.net.
There was another rumor about Tariq al-Dugheim al-Naimi, who is nicknamed the “poet of the revolution,” appearing in a video showing him having intercourse with a minor “sexual jihadi.” But again, there is no proof.
In July 2012, a rumor targeted “the nightingale of the revolution,” Abdul-Basit Sarout. The Syrians knew Sarout before the revolution as a footballer (goalkeeper). At the beginning of the uprising, he would sing revolutionary songs at peaceful gatherings, and quickly rose to fame on that account. Later, Sarout appeared in the Khalidiya district of Homs carrying an RPG launcher, and was known for criticizing those who deserted the battlefield and fled to Turkey.
Blurry images – supposedly taken with a webcam and acquired by the hacker group the Assad Fans Brigade – were circulated, purportedly showing him with a woman giving him a private dance. “Your revolution begins with rhetoric and ends in nude dancing in front of cameras; let there be shouts of Allah is Great!” one commented
, mocking Sarout’s habit of calling on protesters to cry Allah is Great. The pro-Assad hacker group promised to post a video later proving its claims, but this did not materialize, making the entire story rather dubious. Al-Khabar Press and Sleazy Journalism
Most of the scandals we mentioned were first broken by the website Al-Khabar Press
, which claims to be a Lebanese news service. However, most of the videos cannot be verified as they are not available online. The easiness of fabricating images also makes verification difficult. Another interesting fact here is that the website in question uses the tactic of spreading scandals in its news stories, before taking down the articles that would have gone on to be quoted by many other similar websites.
These are not the only scandals that this website has publicized. Al-Khabar Press also threatened
the dissident Brigadier General Manaf Tlas that it would publish a video of him “of the same kind as the sex tapes of the Tlas family”; however, this has yet to happen. Despite this, some have talked about “Manaf Tlas’ scandal,” confirming the ease with which rumors spread in a conservative society like the Syrian society. Fabricating Scandals
Since such scandals hurt the Syrian opposition and resonate with some audiences, Al-Khabar Press has gone very far, publishing sleazy stories that cannot be verified, and that are probably false.
For instance, the website claimed
that that leader of the FSA Riad al-Assaad had raped a woman who worked in his office identified by her intials S.O. The woman was quoted as saying, “He once called me to his office, and told me there was an urgent press release. Since this was part of my duties, I went to his office. But he then shut the door, and there was no one outside, and started undressing. I rushed to the door but he locked it and told me: Don’t bother scream, no one will hear you. I tried to resist but he put his gun to my face and threatened me. He then did the deed and pushed me and said he would kill me if I told anyone.”
The woman herself and her story are in all likelihood completely fabricated. The website also claimed that Assaad “raped a large number of Muslim women wearing the hijab,” and that he “ordered his thugs to kill the woman’s brother who also worked for him.”
The website in question did not stop there. It also published a story claiming that “members of (al-Nusra Front) have been practicing the fatwa by the Saudi Nasser al-Omar, sanctioning incest for al-Nusra fighters.” Al-Khabar Press also claimed
that FSA officers brought in prostitutes from Turkey to entertain the fighters in return for huge sums of money, and that al-Nusra Front fighters were engaged in what the site called “homosexual jihad
” in al-Raqqa.
Similarly, the website alleged
that the Syrian army “caught a group associated to al-Nusra, consisting of 20 men led by an Abu Ahmad al-Tamimi, in the act of sexual intercourse with 30 women, wives and daughters of al-Nusra and FSA fighters, in an orgy that is supposed to be prohibited by Islamic law.” What is incredulous about this story is that it claimed that the rebels in question were doing their deed “in a large hall in the city of Idlib, while the Syrian army was conducting a special operation to cleanse Idlib’s neighborhoods from the terrorists.”
In short, Abdul-Razzaq Tlas and Abdul-Aziz Canaan made it easier to fabricate scandals against Syrian dissidents. Two factual accounts thus allowed a much larger body of lies to spread based on their authenticity.