Thursday, 25 June 2015
British Men Who Fought Bashar al-Assad’s Regime Are Hiding From Their Government
'Shaam and Ibrahim fought with militias linked to Ahrar al Sham, which loosely translates as the “Islamic Movement of the Free Men”. The group is considered one of the largest official opposition forces fighting in Syria. Although it aims to implement an “Islamic government” in Syria, its members have largely considered getting rid of Assad their main priority.
In late 2012, Shaam joined an aid convoy in the Syrian town of Atmeh, where he helped deliver essentials to Syrian families displaced by the war. After seeing the aftermath of an attack by regime forces, he felt compelled to take up arms.
“I had witnessed an attack in a city about 20 miles away from Atmeh – we were eating on a porch of a local house at around midday on the second day I arrived,” he says. “Some barrel bombs went off nearby, and I remember seeing two little girls, dressed almost identically with blue ribbons in their hair, starting to cry, and an old man who could no longer stand up after his knees had gone cold with fear.”
Similar motivations led Ibrahim to travel to Syria. He recalls being “horrified by the attacks carried out by the regime” when he saw images of dead civilians and crying children broadcast on the news, and claims that it was his duty to go there to help, because “if you had the means to go and help the oppressed, then you should”.
“You have all these groups talking about why young people are becoming radicalised and joining groups like ISIS, and there’s no one who can really tell them why what they’re doing is wrong. The groups who are currently talking about deradicalisation have no credibility – you need someone with on the ground experience of the conflict, and people who also believe in the idea of proper jihad … so that you can tell young people what they’re doing isn’t Islamically authentic.” '