“These Sufis oppose Bashar Al Assad, too!”
The ISIL fighters only stayed a couple days in Tal Maruf because they are fighting on several fronts in the region, in particular against the YPG Kurds but also against the Jabhat Al Nusra islamists. They are constantly changing positions.In three days, they pillaged and burned many houses, stores, and government buildings, including the city hall. It’s a sort of collective punishment borne by all Kurdish cities that fall to the ISIL [when the fall of Tal Maruf was announced, the fighters said they were avenging their comrades that died in battle in the city of Tal Brak].Islamic extremist groups consider Sufism to be a heretic branch of Islam, and in particular view the culture of mausoleums as a form of paganism [Editor’s Note: When they claimed responsibility for the mausoleum’s destruction on Twitter, the jihadist group described the site as belonging to a “pagan cult”]. They have no qualms about destroying Sufi mausoleums or mosques, even if that involves burning the Koran, the sacred book of all Muslims!
“I saw Korans that had been thrown to the ground and burned”
The jihadists entered the city at night and attacked the mosque in the early morning hours. I could see them from my house. They wrote insulting messages on the walls and on the mosque door before setting it on fire, leaving the Korans inside to burn.Pages of burnt Korans in the mosque debris.The mausoleum is 900 metres away from my house. I did not dare go out of my house to see what was going on from up close, but I did hear several explosions and I concluded as a result that they used heavy weapons, such as mortar rounds, to destroy the monument. I saw large smoke plumes. After the jihadists left, I went to the mosque and assessed the damage done. I saw lots of Korans thrown to the ground.The destroyed mausoleum. One of the towers fell onto the neighbouring cemetery.The room where Cheikh Ezzedine Khaznavi is buried.Although I don’t follow Sufism, as a Syrian and a researcher, I fear deeply for the many Sufi monuments and mosques in Syria. Tal Maruf is not an exception, and other cities will suffer in similar ways if they haven’t already.