News / Asia

Indonesian Jihadists in Syria Highlight Conflict's Global Draw

Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad are seen at Hujaira town, south of Damascus, after the soldiers took control of it from the rebel fighters, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA, Nov. 13, 2013.
Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad are seen at Hujaira town, south of Damascus, after the soldiers took control of it from the rebel fighters, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA, Nov. 13, 2013.
Kate Lamb
— As the war in Syria enters its third year, the conflict continues to attract Islamic fighters from the Arab world, and from countries as far flung as Kazakhstan, Australia and Indonesia. The trend has become a major concern for Western governments.
 
Of the hundreds of rebel units currently operating in Syria, some pledge allegiance to al-Qaida while others want to see Syria become an Islamic caliphate.
 
According to a recent estimate by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, some 11,000 people from 74 countries have traveled to Syria to join the opposition fighters.
 
The figure has doubled since last April, with a particularly sharp increase in non-Arab and Western fighters.
 
According to terrorism analyst Noor Huda, while most foreign fighters are from the Middle East and Europe, Indonesian fighters are also getting involved for ideological reasons.
 
"They look at Sham [region of Syria] as the holy of holiest place for jihad where now they see the battle between good and evil, the battle between the Sunni and the Shia, and mostly Indonesian jihadists are Sunni, and then it is time for them to actually defend their Sunni brothers, it is timely for them,” Huda explained.
 
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the ruling minority are Alawites, a Shia Islamic sect.
 
Huda noted that Indonesians studying in the Middle East have also traveled to Syria, and two have died in crossfire over recent months. They have since been held up as martyrs on radical websites.
 
Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency is currently tracking 50 Indonesians in Syria suspected of terrorist activities.
 
Inspired by the idea of global jihad, the involvement of Indonesian hardliners in Syria also has local repercussions.
 
“If we look back at our experience with Indonesian fighters in Afghanistan you can see that the returned jihadists from Afghanistan have a certain standing here in Indonesia,” Huda said.

As Indonesia’s militants take a greater interest in conflicts abroad, Sidney Jones, from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), says they are becoming more anti-Shia at home.
 
“What is new in Indonesia is this virulent anti-Shia rhetoric, which seems like in part it is coming in part from Saudi-funded organizations," Jones said, "but the Syrian conflict is exacerbating that because Assad can be used as a example of why you have to aware of Shia, and see them as the enemy because they are killing Sunni Muslims.

Indonesia is the world largest Muslim-majority nation. Most here subscribe to Sunni Islam and hold moderate religious views.
 
Over the past two and half years, minority Shia Muslims have come under increasing attack, as well as forced relocations and in some cases, government-sanctioned forced conversion.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: MikeBarnett from: USA
January 14, 2014 7:19 PM
Osama bin Laden and all of al Qaeda have been Sunni muslims who have followed the Wahabi version of Sunni Islam from Saudi Arabia. It has an extremely strict and narrow vision of Islam. It is no surprise that Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states support the overthrow of President Assad, resistance to Prime Minister Maliki, and war against Iran as long as others do the fighting in each case.

Indonesians linked to al Qaeda blew up the Bali nightclub in 2002 and fought the government for several more years. Now, they have sent fighters to Syria for combat training before returning home. The US maintains 800 Special Forces soldiers to help fight islamic insurgents on Basilon Island in the southern Philippines north of Indonesia. They helped the government in a September, 2013, battle at Zamboanga against the muslim Moro National Liberation Front. Consequently, the actions in Syria are not new; they represent the type of international training that al Qaeda can conduct for islamic insurgents from many nations including the US with its Somali refugees, most of whom are Sunnis. This is a global unconventional war.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid