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Abdullah al-Hujairi

Talking to a Lebanese rebel fighter in Syria

Lebanese demonstrators protest Hezbollah military involvement in Syria.

Some Lebanese citizens are fighting in Syria against “takfiris” or waging “jihad” against the “infidel regime.” Abu Ali, who spoke to NOW under an alias, is one of those who went to Syria to join the ranks of the armed opposition. He told NOW about his daily life as a fighter in Syria.

 

Abu Ali emphasized that the idea to head to Syria was his alone, but despite reservations he and his friend had about joining the fight in Syria, they ultimately chose to take up arms. “We used to encourage one another and we decided to go to Syria during the Qusayr battle."

 

He said they both met with a group from the Liwa al-Tawhid Brigade after arriving. “[Tawhid] is active in Aleppo and which had come to provide the Qusayr rebels with assistance. Following the Qusayr battle, we went with them to Aleppo where we joined one of the Tawhid Brigade battalions.”

 

Still, Abu Ali insisted he did not help any Syrian opposition fighter to cross the border into Lebanon, and explained that rebels are being smuggled in at their own expense by several well-known smugglers.

 

Although Abu Ali was a member of Liwa al-Tawhid Brigade’s al-Bab Martyrs Battalion and fought alongside the Aleppo rebels for more than two months, he decided to return to Lebanon, never thinking about going to Syria again.

 

“Syrian rebels are uninterested in their revolution. We did not find in them the necessary enthusiasm and zeal as we thought we would,” Abu Ali lamented. “Had they had serious intentions and plans to achieve victory, they definitely would not need hundreds or thousands of foreign fighters by their side.”

 

According to Abu Ali, most members of Liwa al-Tawhid are Syrians. The only other Lebanese he met there is the friend who accompanied him, but he did hear of three other Lebanese fighters in another Liwa al-Tawhid Brigade battalion.

 

In Syria, most foreign fighters were affiliated to Islamist groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and the Ahrar al-Sham, which was mainly composed of foreign fighters who have come to Syria to wage jihad.

 

Explaining his decision to fight in Syria, Abu Ali denies that he received any money for taking part in the war. “We went there because we were convinced of it rather than out of greed. We did not get any money, neither I nor my fellow brigade comrades. We used to get basic funds, some kind of ‘pocket money’ to buy essential goods, such as cigarettes.”

 

Abu Ali further reported that the weapons they used were never efficient or advanced: “I, for instance, brought in my own gun from Lebanon and used it in the fighting in Syria and when I left, I left it there to support the revolution.”

 

When asked about the “sex for jihad” controversy and the existence of female fighters among the rebels’ ranks, Abu Ali emphatically denied it. “I paid several visits to the headquarters of the Tawhid Brigade, which is composed of five buildings, and I never saw any woman, not even in civil positions.”

 

Abu Ali believes that the Assad regime’s regular troops in Aleppo and the Aleppo province are “finished,” except, he cautions, for some locations where they still hold some control and are likewise besieged. These include the Aleppo international airport, the Aleppo central prison, and the Canadian Hospital, where Abu Ali directly participated in the rebel siege.

 

The Canadian hospital has been under siege for about six months now. Its surroundings are the site of clashes whenever planes drop barrels of food and weapons for the besieged inside the hospital, thus sparking skirmishes in order to retrieve the barrels.

 

Commenting on these food smugglers, Abu Ali said that these fighters and battalions are guilty of treason. “What prevents the rebels from achieving victory is the chaos in which they live and the clashes between the various factions of the revolution.”

 

The Liwa al-Tawhid Brigade, he estimated, is composed of about 60,000 fighters, and is the strongest faction in Aleppo and the Aleppo province. Unlike other groups, it is also accepted and respected by the population, especially ISIS, which often clashes with other rebel factions and the local population over, among other things, demonstrations of faith.

 

During Ramadan, ISIS flogged sixty people in the town of Menbej because they were not fasting, Abu Ali recounted.

 

Abu Ali had different motivations. “Before I went to Syria, I used to drink alcohol and I still do now that I am back, as I have not been affected by the religious calls for jihad,” Abu Ali says. “However, pictures of [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad’s criminal behavior seen daily on TV are enough to make one’s heart cry out in pain, and to compel anyone with some humanitarian sense to go to Syria and defend its children and its people.”

 

This article is a translation from the original Arabic.

Another form of support. (AFP Photo/Anwar Amro)

"Before I went to Syria, I used to drink alcohol and I still do now that I am back, as I have not been affected by the religious calls for jihad."