On Monday morning, a security force affiliated with the Headquarters of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) arrested media activist Adnan Faisal al-Imam at the al-Ghazawiya crossing, separating areas controlled by HTS and the Syrian National Army in rural Aleppo.
Media sources tracking the arrest noted that HTS is delaying revealing the fate of the activist or the charges against him. There is a condemnation of the arrest at the crossing, and critics argue that an official notification or summons could have been issued instead.
Social media activists are calling for the disclosure of the circumstances surrounding the arrest and immediate release of Imam. They emphasize the need to avoid repeating such detentions, especially considering recent assurances from “the civil arm of HTS” about supporting media professionals.
Media activists in northwestern Syria liken the Ghazawiya crossing, controlled by HTS, to the Assad regime’s al-Qutayfa checkpoint due to the high volume of arrests and restrictions imposed by HTS members.
In a concerning development, HTS’ security intentionally arrested Imam, along with his wife and children, at the Ghazawiya checkpoint. They harassed him, citing “similar names” as a pretext, despite knowing the activist. HTS members insulted the activist and his family, leaving them in their car, conducting multiple searches, confiscating equipment, and detaining him for two hours while keeping his wife and children in the car.
Imam shared a post on his Facebook page, later deleted, recounting the incident: “On Monday, passing through the Ghazawiya checkpoint around six o’clock, I was stopped under the pretext of name similarity with a wanted person. Despite informing them of my identity as journalist Adnan Imam, there was no response.”
He recounted, “An hour later, the member instructed to bring me in for questioning and seize my mobile phone. At this point, I lost my mind. How can I get arrested and my family is waiting in the heat? After a couple of hours, he inquired about the equipment in my car, and I mentioned my camera. He then instructed me to retrieve it, only to confiscate it promptly. To my dismay, one member breached the sanctity of my car under the guise of an inspection, all while my family remained inside.”
Activists discussing the Imam’s case highlighted a statement he released, expressing, “I endured over two hours of questioning, feeling a level of humiliation surpassing that of the period from 2011 until now. The experience left me feeling imprisoned by the Assad regime simply for being a revolutionary.” He went on, “My thoughts were with my wife and children waiting outside; all I wanted was to access the internet to instruct a relative to take them home. However, I was unable to communicate with anyone until one of my friends arrived.”
According to information from the Shaam Network, the activist encountered various restrictions and practices during his time in Idleb. He faced charges related to filming and collaborating with Orient TV, a network banned in HTS-controlled areas. The activist was summoned multiple times in the past months, leading to restrictions on his media activities in Idleb, revocation of his press card, and the circulation of his name at checkpoints to limit his movements.
Following the intervention of the Syrian Media Association, a team visited the Ghazawiya crossing to address the activist’s case. During this visit, HTS members arrested one team member, Ismail al-Raj, on charges of smoking in the car. He was released after less than an hour. Adnan Imam was subsequently released and allowed to return to Idleb with his family.
Security forces, in collaboration with the Media Relations Office of the Headquarters for HTS, employ various methods to monitor, intimidate, and manipulate media activists. This corresponds with their strategy of presenting themselves as protectors of media activities and the region, pursuing legal actions against individuals who diverge from their specified orientation.
Simultaneously, HTS’ security arm continues to arrest numerous activists from the popular movement, detaining them in undisclosed prisons. While some were released after months of detention, charges often revolved around Facebook comments or expressing opinions contrary to or critical of HTS’ policies, along with accusations of collaboration with the West.
Media outlets affiliated with the Syrian Salvation Government quoted government officials at the opening of the Ministry of Information building in Idleb. Some statements, according to observers, exaggerated the significance of the event, while others carried a condescending tone towards activists of the Syrian revolution.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.