Reporter's notebook: Idlib, the last Islamist rebel bastion in Syria
FRANCE 24’s jihadism expert Wassim Nasr recently travelled to Idlib, the northwestern Syrian province controlled by the armed Islamist rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), and a desired target for President Bashar al-Assad and his regime. During his visit, Nasr became the first-ever French journalist to meet with Abou Mohammed al-Joulani – the former chief of al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch turned HTS leader and today a sworn enemy of jihadists. Travelling from the Turkish border through to Idlib via Harem, Atmeh, Ariha, Jisr al-Choughour and the Christian village of Yacubiyeh, Nasr shares his notes and observations.
1. Idlib, the rebel stronghold's showcase city
Situated between two checkpoints, it is impossible to advance any further on this stretch of road without an HTS escort as well as a guide in charge of accompanying journalists. Visitors entering the province are greeted by a giant Syrian revolutionary flag and a large banner with the declaration of the Islamic faith written in black letters on a white background.
"We made sure people understood that the place for fighters is at the front, not among of the population," my guide told me.
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