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The aid group brokering the Syria prisoner exchange

10 January 2013

There’s an interesting subplot to yesterday’s prisoner exchange in Syria which has not received as much attention as it should. While government and rebel forces were busy swapping captives (more than 2,000 in total), little has been made of the role played by aid group IHH in brokering the deal.

The group came to prominence during the Gaza flotilla in 2010 when its members became involved in a deadly confrontation with the Israeli army after refusing to cooperate with the coastguard. The IHH has since dismissed accusations of being linked to jihadist groups and insists its aims are purely humanitarian.


Its role in the Syrian prisoner exchange belies these claims. The impetus behind yesterday’s deal was the ongoing detention of 48 Iranian citizens who rebels claim are members of the Revolutionary Guard assisting Assad with his crackdown.

Tehran wanted its men released and asked the IHH to facilitate the swap. The chaos of the Syrian revolution, with its constantly evolving rivalries and alliances, means there are few actors capable of brokering anything of substance between the two sides. That the IHH was able to succeed in securing the transfer speaks volumes of the considerable influence it exerts over Syrian jihadists.

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  • Farid Ghadry

    The MB is playing both Iran and the West simultaneously. If Assad is pressured into sharing power (Still the original plan by Obama), then it’s a shoe-in with Iran’s help. But if FSA wins, then it is trying to buy influence inside Syria (Something it never had and never will without the help of Erdogan and al-Thani of Qatar). Remember that in Arab countries, popularity is tied to aid. Not programs or ideology. A terrorist with an aid package (Hezbollah) will always win over a Democrat with a program.

  • Tom Tom

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son has joined the IHH.

  • Daniel Maris

    As always (see previous thread), Maher speaks in something approaching riddles. What is the purpose of this post?

    If it was to impart information, you’d think he might tell us what IHH stands for or that it is Turkish-based. Isn’t that basic journalistic information?

    But then the more you look at this, the odder it is…

    Why should involvement in facilitating a prisoner exchange, even at the urging of Iran, be considered evidence that IHH is not engaged in humanitarian activity? The Red Cross and Red Crescent have also been involved in prisoner exchanges with unpleasant regimes in the past.

    When I consult Wikipedia I find this:

    “According to The Times, a Free Syrian Army commander said that a boat carrying weapons docked in Syria in September 2012 and “was registered to members of the IHH, which has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood”. Samar Srewel, an FSA activist who had helped to organize the consignment, told The Times: “It was clear from that
    second what was happening. The Muslim Brotherhood, through its ties in Turkey,
    was seizing control of this ship and the cargo. This is what they do. They buy
    influence with their money and guns.”

    The FSA, remember, is an opposition grouping in Syria. And this is saying IHH has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and is trying to buy influence in Syria – crucial information which is absent from Maher’s post.

    So…why is Maher implying, by introducing Iran into the equation, that IHH is a creature of Iran (without actually saying it)? and why isn’t he including crucial information on IHH’s links with the Muslim Brotherhood?

    I think it’s more confuse-a-cat tactics – since many will read this and conclued that it is Iran who is associated with the “Syrian Jihadists”.

    Don’t expect Maher to issue a clarification of his odd posting. He hasn’t done so previously.

    • telemachus

      This as usual is shoot the messenger

      • Daniel Maris

        Well if you can explain why Maher failed to mention IHH is a Turkish based agency linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, not Iran, then feel free to do so.

  • Noa

    are its aims are purely humanitarian?

    That depends on the view one takes of its involvement ‘…as owner and operator of three flotilla ships involved in an aid convoy intended to breach the blockade of Gaza in 2010. These ships included the MV Mavi Marmara, a passenger vessel that served as the flagship of the convoy.[8][9] Nine passengers, many of them members or volunteers for the İHH,[10] aboard the Mavi Marmara were killed in a clash with Israeli forces that raided the vessel as it was on its way to Gaza.”

    Would an impartial organisation really act in such a manner?

    • telemachus

      These folks have a proven track record in supporting freedom and liberty from oppression it’s groups in the Mid East
      The Mamara incident underlies this
      The murders by Israel have been seen by some as a war crime

      • Tom Tom

        Please furnish this proof

        • telemachus

          Little did they know that three hours earlier than that, at around 9pm, three Israeli naval craft had left the northern Israeli port of Haifa to intercept them. The plan was for Israel’s elite Flotilla 13 unit to disembark on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara, and from there rush to the vessel’s bridge and order the Marmara’s captain to stop, said Israeli journalist, Ron Ben Yishai, who was embedded with the Israeli military.

          By around 11pm Israel’s taskforce was alongside the flotilla of six vessels and one of the navy ships broadcast a warning to the flotilla not to approach Gaza.

          “If you ignore this order and enter the blockaded area, the Israeli navy will be forced to take all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade,” the message said, according to a recording later broadcast on Israeli radio.

          • Tom Tom

            Proof not Propaganda

      • Marian Thomson

        You just cannot stop dribbling utter rubbish

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