Syrians abroad return to join fight for war-torn homeland
A Free Syrian Army fighter stands at the front line in Amariya, a district of Aleppo, on Wednesday. (PHOTO AP, Manu Brabo)
As violence in Syria escalates to what is being regarded by the Red Cross as a civil war, pushing the sociopolitical situation of the state further into uncertainty and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to seek refuge in neighboring countries, its time for some to return and help the victims of crimes against humanity.
A number of Syrians settled in different parts of the world have made their way home to give financial and moral support and, if required, to fight alongside the Free Syrian Army (FSA). They say their primary aim is to bring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to justice.
Osman Zaid, who left Syria in 1975 and now runs a well-known restaurant in Colorado, could not stop himself from returning when he was informed that his 70-year-old brother had been shot dead in northern Syria.
“Back in the US we were praying for the safety of our family and all Syrians, but it was fate that my brother became the victim of inhumane acts at the hands of the Assad regime. I took a flight immediately and then decided to stay and see the destruction of this oppressive regime with my own eyes,” recalled Zaid
Zaid, who is currently living in Hatay in the south of Turkey, said he has decided to stay as long as the fight goes on. “I have earned a lot of money in the United States. What is the use if I don’t use it now to help my countrymen? I will use every single penny I have to help them,” he pledged.
“There are many Syrians like me, all around the world, who wish to see the end of this regime and justice delivered to the victims.
They are donating money generously, they are ready to help in any way. We are making sure our people are short of nothing. We are also being helped by Turkish people here,” he added.
Zaid is eagerly waiting for the rest of his family to join him. “My other family members will be arriving later this month. I am waiting for them to join us and to help in whatever ways they can,” he stated.
Besides humanitarian work, there is a team dedicated to providing logistical support to the FSA. Abu Fahad took the responsibility of arms and technical support after returning to Syria from the UK. “[The Syrian Army] has the advantage of an air force. Once that resource is exhausted and the armies have to fight on the streets, it will only be a matter of days for us,” he said.
Abu Fahad has sent his son to fight alongside the FSA and is proud that he was able to do so. “I am managing arms from outside and my son is fighting inside Syria. I saw him on television the other day. It was such a nice feeling. I am happy that we are able to help our people this way,” he explained.
“We are angry they ruled our people and they ruined our country. They killed women, children and even animals. We cannot forgive them for that. For sure we are going to win. After what has happened we are not going to stop now,” he said.
“We worked with international organizations like Amnesty International initially. We filed cases against the Assad regime. My family alone filed more than a thousand cases against this regime, but nothing happened. Now this is a decisive battle and we will win without anyone’s help,” he added.
When asked about getting help from other countries, Abu Fahad replied: “We have been accused of getting help from the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but let me tell you, no one is helping us in this. We are using our own money, and some Syrian brothers living abroad are sending us their help. And even if they help, what is the problem?
“The international community helped revolutionaries in other countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Why are they quiet now? Therefore, we are getting help from our own people in whichever ways we can. We are in control of 70 percent of the ground and it’s just a matter of time before we win this for our people,” Abu Fahad claimed.
Yasmeen of Pennsylvania gets emotional when she talks about the conditions of the people living in relief camps and the thousands who want to enter Turkey. “People are right at the border waiting to be allowed to enter Turkey. There are at least 2,000 people sleeping on the ground; they have nothing to cover themselves with; spiders are biting them and there is a danger of snakes. Three women delivered babies in the absence of doctors. They had no water or food,” she said.
“We need the international community to come and help these people. Thousands of them are hiding inside schools in a place called Attama. People are digging holes and living there. Anything that we are doing is on a personal level. There is still a lot to be done by the international community,” she urged.
“Humanity is [a big reason] to say the least. It’s not an issue of being a Muslim or a Syrian, I am both. It’s an issue of seeing human beings suffering, getting killed, raped or buried alive, and you want to do something about it, be it financial or logistical help or just being there with the people for moral support,” Yasmeen said, when asked about her motivation for traveling to Syria, leaving behind the daily comforts of her life.
Ismael, a 19-year-old Canadian citizen with no Syrian connection except a few Internet friends, has made his way through all possible barriers, including finding his name on a no-fly list and having his mobile phone and tablet computer confiscated by Canadian security agencies due to his contact with people inside Syria, to reach the province of Hatay. All this, Ismael said, “never shook [his] determination to come here and help the people here.”
Ismael, who was born to an Algerian father and a French-Canadian mother in Montreal, said that he converted to Islam five years ago and believes firmly that it is a religion of peace. “Whatever is happening is purely political; it has nothing to do with Islam. However, some people want to bring a bad name to Islam, even in this situation. I have come well prepared to help the people there,” he said.
Speaking about what kind of help he has to offer, Ismael said: “I can even go inside Syria and fight if needed. But fighting is not really what I want. I really hope that everything ends right now. But if I am required to fight, I am as ready as anyone can be.”