Hamza Division


The Hamza Division was formed in April 2016 through the merger of five pre-existing Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions, announcing their intent to strengthen the fight against ISIS in north Aleppo.* The group previously existed as the Hamza Brigade, formed in 2013. * At that time, the Division received support from both Turkey and the international coalition.* In 2021, the Syrian National Army (SNA), the broader structure within which all Turkish-backed factions reside, formed a committee to investigate the crimes being committed by member groups. The final report found that most accusations of torture, theft, and kidnapping were leveled against the Sultan Murad Division and the Hamza Division.* The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims that the Hamza Division bulldozed agricultural land in Ras Al-Ain.*


Sayf Balud (a.k.a. Sayf Abu Bakr) replaced Yasser Abu al-Sheikh, killed in battle against ISIS in April 2016, as the leader of the Hamza Division. * Previous to this position, Balud had served as a member of the Syrian Arab Army, was allegedly a convert of ISIS, and was a prominent member of other FSA militias.*

Base of Operations

Aleppo countryside in Syria*



Membership Size and Relevance

In 2018, Turkey deployed 600 members of the Kurdish Falcon Brigade to join the Hamza Division. The group was made up of 400 Kurdish and 200 Arab fighters equipped and trained by Turkey. The formation and deployment of the group may have been an effort to counter accusations of anti-Kurdish discrimination and violence against Kurds in Syria.*

Recruitment and Propaganda

NATO placed Turkey on the Child Soldier Prevention Act list for its support of the Sultan Murad Division, a group known to recruit and deploy child soldiers.* Balud claims to have received permission from the Turkish president’s office to recruit soldiers for the invasion of Afrin during Operation Olive Branch.*

Violent Activities

  • 2021: A report by the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria accused the Hamza Division of torture, ill-treatment, and even murder in their detention centers in Hawar, Killis, Rai, and other informal prisons.*
  • May 2020: Locals in Afrin demanded the expulsion of the Hamza Division, as well as an explanation for the presence of naked women within their prisons.*
  • March 2020: Iinfighting between FSA factions and civilians led to the discovery of an illegal women’s prison run by the Hamza Division in Afrin.*



Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

View Archive