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Syrian Jihadists Use Stand-Up Comedy to Gain Support

The jihadist Syrian rebel group Al-Nusra Front is giving gifts and providing entertainment to Syrians.
By Dalit Halevi & Elad Benari
First Publish: 7/17/2013, 4:16 AM

Syrian supporters of Al-Nusra march in Aleppo
Syrian supporters of Al-Nusra march in Aleppo
AFP photo

The Syrian rebel group Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group which has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, is trying to improve its image in the eyes of the Syrian public and achieve support in its quest to establish an Islamic state in Syria.

Members of Al-Nusra and other Syrian rebels groups have committed atrocities during the Syrian civil war, including publicly beheading a Catholic priest who was accused of collaborating with Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

Al-Nusra was once was the largest faction in the Islamist Front for the Liberation of Syria (ISIS), the 13-member rebel coalition that broke away from the main opposition force and has declared its own Islamic state in Aleppo.

In recent months, the organization has been attempting to create a positive relationship with Syrian residents and alleviate their fear of the radical Islamic organization.

In this context, the organization invests great effort in providing assistance and food to residents in Aleppo, including providing food rations to needy families during the month of Ramadan.

If this is not enough, members of the group are holding open meetings with the public, in which they convey a calming message for the population and promise a better future under Islamic rule.

These events, many of which are filmed and uploaded to YouTube, include an outdoor stand-up comedy show in the presence of many teenagers alongside senior commanders of Al-Nusra.

The highlight of one show that was posted on the internet was a boy with special needs who was asked to say aloud a word which is difficult to pronounce. His repeating the word without success led to bursts of laughter from the audience and the senior commanders.

The videos also show interviews with local residents, conducted by representatives of Al-Nusra, all of whom say they support the Islamic organizations, praise their support and the gifts they give to residents and express support for the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria.