Despite sending more reinforcement troops and armored units with columns of tanks to the restive city of Aleppo -- the commercial hub of the country and Syria’s largest city with 2.5 million people -- Assad has failed to clear the city of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters.
Aleppo has been the scene of fierce fighting between rebels and forces loyal to the regime for over 10 days. The FSA claims that it now controls most parts of the city. In a statement, Assad has declared that the nature of the battle in Aleppo will decide the future of the country.
Mohammed, Ali and Suphi. All of them escaped the unremitting onslaught of the embattled Assad regime, which is strong but unable to crush the ill-armed yet determined opposition fighters. They share a common characteristic: All three are sons of military commanders who served in the Republican Guard of the Assad regime for more than a decade.
When the uprising shook the social cohesion and peace of Syrian society, their fathers faced a make-or-break moment in their military careers. In the face of increasing violence against their own people, should they advance their own positions, accepting orders to kill civilians, or should they leave the military and their beloved country? They fled. Now, kept in a highly protected camp where no reporters or others are allowed to enter, these commanders constitute the core of the FSA, coordinating plans and attacks inside Syria.
Mohammed, the son of one of these commanders, escaped Syria with his family. “We feel safe in areas of Syria that have been captured by the FSA. Outside the FSA-controlled areas, most civilians face fears of slaughter and indiscriminate killing by the regime forces, the Shabiha militants. The state of security is now in favor of the rebels in most areas, and the end of the regime is approaching,” he said.
As clashes in Aleppo continue, the disintegration of Syria becomes increasingly likely, as Kurds begin to exert control over several towns on the northern part of the country.
Discussing what he now thinks of as a fragmented Syria, Mohammed remarks: “Most Kurds do not back division and have stood by us. Those who seek an independent state constitute a minority, which had courted the Assad regime for a long time.” He emphasized that these groups, the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or the Democratic Union Party (PYD), will face tough times after the fall of the Assad regime. He wants to see Syria remain in one piece and denies any possibility of the disintegration of Syria in the post-Assad era.
As they are not allowed to cross the border into Syria, the three activists have engaged in activities such as drawing satirical cartoons to boost the morale of the rebels, and published some of their artworks on websites, depicting the war from a comedic perspective.
“There is always sad news, which exhausts us to some extent. We want to deal with war and clashes with satire and comedy,” Mohammed said. Ali and Suphi have similar stories. When their fathers fled Syria with their families, they were leaving behind a tumultuous nation experiencing unabated atrocities carried out by the Shabiha militants.
The FSA is the only organization that fights against the looting and killings carried out by the Shabiha, Ali said.
He further stated that most military equipment in the hands of the rebels had been acquired from the Syrian military following clashes. The external supply of arms to the country constitutes a minor part of the weaponry that the FSA fighters possess, he said.
Ali and Suphi argued that the FSA has absolute control over the militants on the ground, and most attacks are well coordinated and planned, with no room left for isolated and individual acts. One of the urgent demands of the Syrian opposition is to obtain permission from Turkey to establish field hospitals at some points along the border with Turkey to treat wounded rebels. They say most injured rebels die of their wounds before arriving at hospitals.
The three activists came to Turkey with their families five months ago, and live in a camp for defected military officials and officers.
Unlike some refugee camps in the southern province of Kilis, residents of the camps located in towns of the southern province of Hatay are allowed to leave the camp and travel to the city, after obtaining permission from camp officials.
Although conditions in the camps could not be improved, Mohammed said, living in a camp for months is like being a prisoner..