Photos and videos circulating online on Tuesday appear to show the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group flag at a demonstration on Sunday in northeastern Syria.
Local Muslims organized the rally to protest French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent comments denouncing Islamists’ use of violence in response to cartoons.
The anti-Macron protest took place in Sari Kani (Ras al-Ain), a town currently controlled by Turkish-backed jihadists.
“[S]everal ISIS flags were spotted at the protests in Sari Kani,” Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported on Monday, citing photos and videos shared on social media. “A poster at the same protest read, ‘with the help of Allah, we will cut the tongue that trades on the Prophet of Allah.’”
Sunday’s protest “consisted of some hundred men and children. They also burnt the flag of France and shouted slogans against President Macron,” according to the report.
Another video of the today’s protest against French President Macron in the Turkish controlled Serêkanîyê (Ras al-Ain) in NE Syria pic.twitter.com/Y8BnD8vQMg
— Mutlu Civiroglu (@mutludc) October 25, 2020
Macron on October 16 condemned the beheading of a French schoolteacher that day in a Paris suburb as a “blatant Islamist terrorist attack.” Samuel Paty, 47, was decapitated by an 18-year-old Islamist terrorist outside of the middle school where he worked. Paty had recently taught a class on freedom of expression, showing his students cartoons of Muhammad published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The assailant was shot dead by police shortly after the killing and was later identified as Abdullakh Anzorov, a Moscow-born Chechen migrant.
Macron honored Paty at a ceremony at the Sorbonne university in Paris on October 21, posthumously awarding him with the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian honor.
“He was the victim of stupidity, of lies, of confusion, of a hatred of what, in our deepest essence, we are … On Friday, he became the face of the Republic,” the French president said in a speech at the ceremony.
“He was killed because Islamists want our future,” Macron further said, adding, “they will never have it.”
“We will not give up cartoons,” the French president declared.
Macron’s comments have drawn the ire of Muslims across the world, leading many to organize anti-French protests in their home countries. Supermarkets in Qatar and Kuwait have pulled French products from their shelves in protest, while Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, and Turkey — including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — have called for similar boycotts of French goods.
The anti-French protest in Sari Kani on Sunday joined similar rallies in eastern Syria’s Deir ez-Zor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported. The anti-Macron protests in Deir ez-Zor “were dispersed by the SDF,” or the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The SDF previously controlled Sari Kani until it was “invaded by Turkey and its Syrian proxies … in October 2019,” according to Rudaw.
SDF General Commander Mazloum Abdi voiced his support for Macron on Monday amid the global backlash against his recent comments.
“French President Emmanuel Macron helped protect Muslims from the Islamic State and played a major role in defeating the organization and protecting human values,” Abdi said in a Twitter statement written in French.
“By insulting him, [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip ] Erdogan, who supported the Islamic State, does not express the opinion of Muslims and the interests of the Islamic world, but rather uses the Muslim religion for his personal interests,” the SDF commander added.