Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – “I want to travel to Syria for jihad…is there anybody to help me do this?” “I am prepared to travel to Syria for jihad to stand with the revolutionaries…how can I do this?” These are just two examples of dozens of messages written on the official Facebook page of Egypt’s “al-Gamaa al-Islamiya”. More and more Egyptian activists are requesting further information on how to join up the fight against Bashar al-Assad in Syria, following reports that dozens of Egyptian fighters travelled to the country for jihad. This is something that has reportedly taken place in coordination with Islamist jihadist groups, including Egypt’s “al-Gamaa al-Islamiya”.
Although “al-Gamaa al-Islamiya” ignored these messages and did not respond to them, whilst also issuing an official denial that it has sent Egyptian fighters to Syria, dozens of Egyptian youth continue to seek a means to travel to Syria to join the revolution there. Observers are claiming that it has become increasingly easy for foreign fighters to enter Syria and join the opposition ranks after the Free Syrian Army [FSA] took control of many border areas, particularly along the Turkish – Syrian border. There are claims that the Syrian revolution has taken on an international flavor, with Arab nationals from dozens of different countries entering Syria on a daily basis.
There is no accurate figure regarding the number of Egyptian nationals who have entered the country to join the revolution against Bashar al-Assad alongside the FSA; however there have been reports of Egyptian nationals being killed in the fighting. The last such report claimed that an Egyptian youth from the Faiyum governorate named Abu Bakr Mousa had been killed in the fighting in early September.
An Egyptian Islamist leader, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, strongly denied that Egyptian Islamist groups were sending Egyptians for jihad in Syria. He stressed that any Egyptian fighters in Syria had joined the revolution as a result of “individual initiative” adding “we have nothing to do with this, even if some of these figures do belong to us.”
He also confirmed that Egypt’s Islamists do not oppose supporting the Syrian revolution and people, but they are waiting for official approval from the Egyptian authorities.
Syrian authorities previously arrested dozens of Egyptian nationals attempting to illegally enter the country via the Jordan border. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry also issued an announcement warning Egyptian citizens of the consequences of illegally entering Syrian territory.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Amr Rushdie said that the deteriorating security situation in Syria makes any attempt to illegally enter the country fraught with risks, particularly as a number of Egyptian nationals have already been killed and injured attempting to enter the country.
For his part, lawyer Mamdouh Ismail – who often represents Islamist and jihadist organizations – told Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is information circulation about Egyptians traveling to Syria, some of whom were arrested and killed, but until now no party has come forward to confirm sending Egyptians to Syria, including the old Egyptian Islamic Jihad group.”
The lawyer stressed that if any Egyptians are present in Syria, it is most likely that they took the decision to travel there and fight on an individual basis, independent of any group or party.
Ismail stressed that Egyptian youth could travel and enter Syria easily, particularly as the FSA is in control of many border areas along the Turkish – Syrian border.
For his part, official Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Dr. Mohamed Ghazlan denied that the Brotherhood had sent any fighters to Syria, confirming that “the Brotherhood have no participation with the fighters in Syria, although we support the [Syrian] people’s revolution there.”