Counterpunch Propaganda and Jihad El-Nikah

Over the last ten years alternative media has been the primary source of information for those who view mainstream media as disingenuous promoters of imperialist agendas and fabricators of news for political purposes. One of the most popular alternative media websites is Counterpunch. Its banner hoists an attractive slogan worthy of a Coca Cola commercial: “Counterpunch: Tells the facts and names the names.” But has this website become the mouthpiece for the Syrian regimes and its cronies?

Reem Haddad:

Reem Haddad

With a nice British accent, terrible makeup and flimsy arguments, Reem Haddad has become the face of the Syrian regime in Western media. Her interviews can been seen on news outlets like SkyNews, Al-Jazeera English, and BBC English. Her primary job as an employee of the Syrian Information Ministry (a terribly ironic title, I know) is to embellish the military operations of the regime and and justify the atrocities committed by it on a daily basis. Counterpunch published three articles by her on their website; the most intriguing of which is Sex and the Syrian Revolution published on July 17th, 2013.

In this article, Haddad claims that she met a woman named Lina who was taken by her husband in Syria to engage in what she refers to as Jihad El-Nikah (or by her own translation, sexual Jihad). Her husband, tells us Haddad, took her to Ain Tarma after marriage. He informed her of the duty to engage in this sexual Jihad which purportedly requires the woman to marry multiple mujahideen in order to satisfy their sexual desires - something that, by the nature of their profession as fighters, are naturally deprived of.

Shocked, Lina wanted to know how it is possible for this to happen considering the strict rules that surround marriage and the sanctity that Islam attributes to holy matrimony. She inquired about al-adeh (a period of four months that follow a divorce) and how can a woman who was just married to a man (for the purpose of sex) be married to another man only hours after divorce. Doesn't that violate a primary rule of Islamic marriage which requires her to wait four months?

Her inquiry infuriated her husband who “flippantly” informed her that a sheikh (a muslim cleric) will find a fatwa in this regards.

Surely if this story is true, then it should be met with absolute repugnance and disgust. However, given the credentials of Haddad, one can only cast doubt upon the validity of her claims. Indeed, how can one consider as credible a person employed for the sole purpose of spreading lies and propaganda? Having said that, Haddad’s background was not a sufficient reason for me to dismiss her story as invalid. After all, the sexual perversion of the human mind and preposterous Salafi fatwas are not unheard of.

The Fake Tweet

The origin of this story goes back to a fake tweet by the Salafi sheikh Dr. Mohammad El-Arefe. The fake tweet which is exactly 260 characters long (120 characters more than the limit allowed by twitter) reads:

زواج المناكحة التي تقوم به المسلمة المحتشمة البالغة 14 عاماً فما فوق أو مطلقة أو أرملة جائز شرعاً مع المجاهدين في سورية وهو زواج محدود الأجل بساعات لكي يفسح المجال لمجاهدين اخرين بالزواج كذلك وهو يشد عزيمة المجاهدين وكذلك هو من الموجبات دخول الجنة لمن تجاهد به

This translates to:

Marriage marriage which is conducted by a modest woman aged 14 and above, or by a divorced or a widowed woman is legally permissible with the mujahideen in Syria. And it is a marriage for a limited period of time in order to allow other mujahideen to marry as well. And this enhances the resolve of the mujahideen, and it is an obligation for entering paradise for those who struggle with it.

(The emphasis is to highlight the fact that El-Monakaha - the second word - is just another way of saying Zawaj - the first word - and they both translate to marriage; a mistake that Al-Arefe would not make)

Aside from the absurdity of the claim, the flimsy use of the classical Arabic (a language that Al-Arefe has mastered), and the terrible execution of the lie, the wave of attention that this has received is more than alarming. Claims have arisen all over the internet through blogs, YouTube videos, and “documentaries” that this actually does take place. However, as Al-Arefe pointedly remarked in an interview with Al-Jadeed TV, anybody with a website and minor photoshop skills can come up with any type of “information” and attribute it to any celebrity (religious, political, or even artistic).

Just recently, the Syrian State TV produced a thirty-minute report which features what they call former terrorists, both male and female, who had a role, one way or another, in Jihad El-Nikah. The interviews show four Muslim women who present their version of the story. The first, Fatima Froukh, claims that she was taken by her husband to the leader of one Jabhat El-Nusra’s brigades and was told that it is her duty to satisfy the sexual desires of the mujahideen.

Froukh continues her story by claiming that she was defiant and that she informed the leader of the brigade Bashar Awad (which has no existence on the internet, and is also the name of a notorious lieutenant in the Syrian army) that she’s not aware of Jihad El-Nikah as an Islamic concept, and that she does not think that she has any obligation to comply with his demands; “I do not know what Jihad El-Nikah is, this the first time I hear of it,” she responded.

He then blindfolded her, took her to a room and introduced to her the six men she is supposed to marry and sleep with. After being forced to engage in sexual intercourse, Froukh left angrily and met with her husband whom she told that had he had any dignity, he wouldn’t have exposed her to such a travesty. The whole act was repeated the following day, and the husband was paid generously - 5000 SYP.

The other interviews are similar in nature. A man with a beard finds a woman, takes her to a group of mujahideen, performs a some sort of temporary marriage contract and then engages in sexual intercourse under the labelling of Jihad El-Nikah.

Other than Syria’s State TV and Reem Haddad, no news agency, activist or independent source of information has reported or confirmed that these acts take place. The tweet attributed to Al-Arefe was fake and the names of the people who are purportedly recruiting these women are virtually unknown.


So why is self-acclaimed website such as Counterpunch disseminating disinformation such as the absurd Jihad El-Nikah story?

Perhaps the editors of this website are blinded by their anti-imperialist rhetoric, meaningless comparisons with other regions in the world, and their staunch animosity to Israel that they are forgetting that they need to check and confirm the facts before they publish them: their slogan is after all “Counterpunch: tells the facts and names the names.”

It is very important to understand a fundamental principle when dealing with the Arab Spring: one can fight against the oppression of the Palestinians at the hands of the Zionist entity, he can fight against the brutal occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and fight against American imperialism without accepting the narrative presented by the Syrian regime’s propaganda machine. One can be staunchly against the Salafi hijacking of the Syrian revolution, and he can passionately write against the atrocities committed by Salafi groups like Jabhat El-Nusra and its many brigades without resorting to fabrications and lies.

If Counterpunch is indeed a commentary website that “names the names” then the least its editors can do is scrutinize its content and name the real name of Haddad’s protagonist Lina. Surely they cannot claim that they worry about her safety. After all, Syria’s State TV did publish an interview with four women who, like Lina, engaged in Jihad El-Nikah.


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