For The Huffington Post With Michael Kaplan:
This February, we conducted a series of interviews in southern Turkey with those who have fled ISIS rule in Syria. In the city of Sanliurfa, we met rebel fighters, Islamic judges, and scholars, among them, Ahmed Saleh, a prominent imam from the Syrian city of Deir Ezzour. Saleh fled the city in June, 2014, a month before ISIS eliminated all rival groups and took control.
Rebels spoke to us about how ISIS fought them instead of the regime. People like Saleh explained to us why the group’s understanding of Islam is alien to Syria. A son of the city’s former mufti (an official title which denotes one’s authority to interpret Islamic law), Saleh led the Ali Bin Abi Talib mosque. A respected religious figure, his mosque grew into a popular site of anti-government protest early in the uprising. It was ultimately bombed by the embattled president Bashar al-Assad’s military.
Saleh and his family now live as refugees among some 1.7 million other Syrians in Turkey, who await the day they are able to return and rebuild Syria. We were connected with him through a group of politically-active supporters of the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella of moderate rebel groups fighting Assad’s government.