Since Marwan Hadid was arrested and survived the death sentence under pressure from Hama’s dignitaries, including Sheikh Mohammed Al-Hamad, Hadid’s thought started to be radically oriented and he started to think of military action. That came after bombing Al-Sultan Mosque – in which he was hiding – by the military forces affiliated with the Al-Baath Party.
Marwan Hadid had formally asked the MB to adopt jihadist military action early and more than once, but they refused. The MB asked him to leave Syria, but he refused and began preparing for his organization where he went to MB affiliates and organized religious classes that focus on ideological and organizational preparation. His plan was divided into four stages are: ideological identification; organizational uptake; preparation and training; clashing with the regime. He counted on the help of some students and disciples who were trained in the Palestinian camps, including Abdul Sattar Al-Zaim, Muwaffaq Ayyash and Ghaleb Haddad, then they began training in the coastal mountains and forests.
However, it is noteworthy here that the work did not begin to crystallize as an organization until 1974, as the stage before that could be considered as the intellectual and organizational labor or brainstorming that prepared for the transition from thinking to implementation on the ground. Two things helped in this, namely:
The first was the division within the MB movement between the two wings; the one of Aleppo led by Abdel Fattah Abu Ghuddah and the other of Damascus led by Essam al-Attar. Back then, the MB of Hama decided to be neutral, and tried to reconcile them with a commitment to ensure the unity of the organization. That decision ended up with them as a third wing, and this is what we can read in the notes of Saeed Hawwa “This is My Experience, and This is My Testimony”.
And those events allowed Hadid to form his own wing amid this organizational vacuum in the MB and the absence of a recognized reference leadership, especially after the MB leaders left Syria and left all the MB members there without leadership, which pushed some of them to migrate to the vanguard.
The second was after the dispute with Hafez al-Assad over the reference to Islam in the 1973 constitution.
Dispute with Hafez Assad
At this stage in 1973, Hafez Assad put forward his new Constitution, and it didn’t mention that Islam is the main source of legislation, which led religious organizations, associations of scholars and the MB to move in all directions to overthrow the new Constitution.
Saeed Hawwa and Marwan Hadid were at the forefront of them, as Hawwa wrote a fatwa and carried it be signed. He incited the street and religious streams. Marwan Hadid betrayed the Baath Party and the ruling regime and declare them as infidels, which forced Hafez al-Assad to change the constitution and mention that “religion of the head of state should be Islam” in the constitution. A compromise solution to the issue, and he did not give up on the issue that the state’s religion is Islam because it did not exist in the 1951 constitution, which the MB general founder, Mustafa al-Sibai, contributed to drafting, so that the issue of the president’s “Islam” was raised again, since he belonged to the Alawite sect.
Amid that atmosphere, Saeed Hawwa was arrested, and Marwan Hadid was prosecuted. Here, we can assume that his escape and hiding helped him to become a “legend” for some people, and to give him another push towards the radicalization of confronting the authority with violence, so that his organization became the focus of youth who pursued and resented the leadership of the divided MB organization. In 1974, Hadid was arrested in an unequal military battle, then he was killed under torture, which turned him into a real legend for his supporters, who were ready to implement his ideas and take revenge for him.
Between 1974 and 1976, the organization went through a phase of confusion in which the leadership fell to Muwaffaq Ayyash and Irfan al-Madani, reaching in 1976 to Abdul Sattar al-Zaim, who is considered the actual founder of the organization in a purely military sense.
All references agree that there is a huge difference between the characters of Marwan Hadid and Abdul Sattar al-Zaim, as the former was closer to the style of the popular hero who lacks organization and leadership in the organizational and planning sense, while the other was a completely different man, a precise and organized leader, in short, a dynamic and practical persom, and with him the organization began carrying out its first operations.
That reality prompted the organization, under the leadership of the Zaim, to move to guerrilla warfare. Since 1976, it has drawn up a guerrilla war plan for five or six years; Syria was divided into three military regions, each with a military command; all of them belonged to a unified command, which is the Damascus sector and its countryside (which had command before moving to Hama). The three regions were the Hama and Homs section, the Aleppo section, Deir Ezzor, the coast and Idlib – from which was Ibrahim al-Youssed who committed the Artillery massacre in Aleppo-.
The first operations were taken against the leaders of the regime. The first of which was the assassination of the intelligence chief in Hama, Muhammad Ghara, in 1976, who is Assad’s cousin, after which the non-stop operations began against the leaders of the regime and sensitive sites. And thus began an open war in which there were two central points. The first is the Artillery massacre in Aleppo, which was carried out by the member of the vanguard Ibrahim Al-Youssef who targeted members of the Alawite sect only. That massacre moved the battle to a sectarian arena, frightening large sectors of the Syrians as the war started for the constitution previously. The second was the attempt to assassinate President al-Assad, and that attempt was followed by the Palmyra prison massacre, which practically established and prepared the appropriate atmosphere for carrying out the painful 1982 Hama massacre, which led to the regime’s victory; and the retreat of the vanguard and its operations, despite its existence in Syria until 1997, but without implementing any operations that have effectiveness or influence on the regime.
With the painful blows that it really inflicts on the regime, the vanguard organization has won a lot from the impulsive Muslim youth. It took advantage of the point that the regime, due to the repeated painful against it, it was arresting all those suspected of implementing them, and this made the MB youth and everyone who attend mosques a suspect.
The arrests expanded and the rage against the regime was more. Thus, there was a trend towards joining the fighting vanguard especially by the MB youth. Then, the MB leaders noticed and tried to unify the ranks and create a unified leadership that reconnects with the vanguard in an attempt to invest the strength of the fighting vanguard and make the fruits of its “jihad” fall into the group’s baskets, especially since the vanguard was operating secretly and not and its cadres worked under false names.
In 1979, the name changed from “The Fighting Vanguard of the God’s Soldiers” to “The Fighting Vanguard of the Muslim Brotherhood”. Was this an innocent change? Has the group actually joined at this stage, at least, under the Brotherhood’s banner?
What is the reason for changing the name at this particular stage? If we know that the MB actually united in 1980 in a unified leadership that included a Shura Council from the three different cities of Damascus, Aleppo and Hama, that tried to lead the battle alone, as the information published by Sharbaji in his book “On the Land of Damascus” indicates that the MB leadership took a decision to enter the battle in an illusion or based on a reading that says that if the vanguard, with its few resources and few cadres, was able to achieve all these victories against the regime, what if hundreds of trained MB cadres joined from Iraq and Jordan?
The dispute between the realistic vanguard vision of the battle framework and the MB’s vision was vast, as the vanguard was based on the idea of long-term attrition, through a small number and trained cadres who take into account all the security details, starting from the security of the base from which the “Mujahideen” originate to the details of their protection and food and the presence of bases other safe for them. If a base is exposed or a member is arrested; although they were trained to avoid arrest by blowing themselves up when there are no escape routes, as none of the vanguard members was moving unarmed.
In 2012, an organization called the Fighting Vanguard was announced. Is there a connection between the two? Does this new vanguard have anything to do with that? Did the group’s members return and become active after 2011? Did they return to Syria and put their military expertise against the regime again? These questions will be answered in the coming days.