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Syrian Conflict

“We (Syrians) are killing them (Assad’s soldiers) with their own weapons”

Azhar Vadi | Cii News, 31 October 2012

Tears damming in his eyes, Umar Al Khalid, a middle aged man with a salt and pepper hair neatly brushed back, ends his interview with me. “All I want for my children is peace. And all the kids of Syria are my children.” His 17-year-old son, Sa’id, is sitting next to us assuming the role of translator. There is a moment of silence as we allow the gentleman time to embrace his emotions and collect his tears.

Al Khalid has been protesting against the government of Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, for the last two years. In March of 2011, Syrians followed their fellow Arab brethren and became part of the proverbial ‘Arab Spring’ that saw the eventual downfall of other dictators and despots in the region.

For six months they walked, unarmed, through the souks and bustling streets of their country giving olive branches to police officers as a sign of peace while demanding change.

In return they received cold steel bullets from the barrel of the state, as Bashar refused to relent to hundreds of thousands of call for freedom and reform.

By September of the same year the summer had passed and as autumn set in Syrian citizens got hold of whatever firearm they could and replaced the tree branches with an item that Bashar understood.

They understood the costs that it would involve but still believed it would be a short-lived affair as was Tunisia, Egypt and even Libya.

One year later and 40 000 souls less, the fight continues as these homebrewed fighting units put up an unprecedented stand against a Syrian army backed by the likes of Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Russia.

“This is not a government,” says Al Khalid. “This is a group of killers. For forty years we experienced this oppression but we couldn’t stand against the government. My brother and sister have been refugees in Jordan since the 1980’s. For years we didn’t have the courage to stand up because we were afraid of being killed or jailed. But for once all the Syrians have started protesting.”

The question regarding the root and origins of this most ghastly civil war is one that has hampered or stood in the way of mass international support for the revolution.

Anti-imperial and anti-western groupings and even governments that oppose the hegemonic Anglo-American ideal have been timid in their support of the Syrian fighters against Al Assad.

For people of such understanding, the regime has been punted, predominantly by Iranian and Russian media, as a government that opposes Israel and the US, and is therefore the hero in the narrative.

Strangely enough, the same media outlets that accuse the US of supporting the Syrian fighters, brand the revolutionaries as ‘foreign terrorists’ and Al Qaeda, the very groups the US has declared war upon.

Claiming that no foreigner throughout the wide expense of the country is involved would be naive. There may be individuals from neighbouring countries sharing the plight of the Syrian people and have come to assist them in their fight. But most certainly, this remains a local clash between a government and its people.

Al Khalid uses simple logic to make sense of it all. “If we were receiving help from any outside forces we would have been able to kill Assad a long time ago. Right now we (Syrians) are killing them (Assad’s soldiers) with their own weapons.”

Regret in Assad’s ranks

The common message of captured army generals loyal to Syrian President
Bashar al Assad was that they sincerely regret their participation in the ongoing
fighting.

Speaking to Cii News in Syria, some generals said they were forced to continue serve the army. They claimed that they were threatened to be killed if they left the force.

Some noted that they were caught between the army and the revolutionary Free Syrian Army (FSA) and thus had to do what was necessary. One general noted that in the conflict, the Syrian army formed the front line while Iranian and Hezbollah forces followed closely behind.

Iran together with Russia and China has unequivocally expressed support for Assad’s regime.

“If we had to run away we would have been shot by these people,” the general said.

This was however contradicted by another member of the army who said that they
were observed by senior officials of the Syrian army who ensured that soldiers fulfill all directives.

Another soldier, who was merely 19 years old at the time of joining the
army, told Cii News that he attempted to escape the army on several occasions but was forced to remain.

Many of the captured soldiers like their counterparts in other parts of
Syria said they have been treated extremely well by the FSA.

Some went as far as calling on other Syrian soldiers to lay down their arms.

Syrian conflict affects local business

The conflict in Syria that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of
people has had a drastic effect on local businesses.

What started out as an uprising against President Bashar al Assad over a year a go has graduated into a raging civil war.

Business in most parts of the country has taken a sharp downturn as local civilians are the hardest hit in the war situation.

Local economies in various villages have been devastated and business is slow because most of the residents have fled.

A petrol station owner, who call himself Mohammed, said he invested $15 000
in his business but now he can not access the necessary petrol deliveries.

“I can not wait for the revolution to end,” he told Cii News.

A barber shop has just reopened after it was ransacked and looted by forces loyal to Assad.

72 year old Abu Saeed sat outside his only source of income and said that he replaced the chairs but his shop still has broken windows.

On the contrast, bakery owners claim that they are doing financially well as they provide food for residents. The financial stability of bakers have made them a threat to the Assad regime and out of fear, they kicked out journalist and photographers from their store

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