Behind the scenes with the Free Syrian Army


Not far from Damascus, “Abu Mouadh” accompanies us to the bastions of Ansar al-Islam, a Free Syrian Army-linked group containing the largest battalions of fighters in the capital and its suburbs.

Between the fields and the farms, away from the regime army’s sight, these fighters are trained on a daily basis to execute operations in the center of Damascus. However, they will avoid direct clashes that are usually won by the regime forces that have more weapons and ammunition.

“We have many operations to conduct in the coming days – God Willing – but we suffer from the lack of strong weapons. We only have a few heavy weapons, and that has fundamentally affected us on the battleground. We are cooperating with officers that are leading some operations, whether they are engineers or pilots,” said Abu Moadh.

With officers who in the battalions, we are really working together, so if there is a zero hour, or even if there is a move to be done inside Damascus, they will be our safeguard. We can work together to overthrow this regime.

This group is particularly proud of one of its operations: providing help in the evacuation of former Prime Minister Riad Hijab outside the country.

“We are carrying out other operations like capturing senior officers. We also helped evacuate Prime Minister Riad Hijab, whose departure from Syria was organized by Ansar al-Islam from the moment he left his house in Syria until he arrived to Jordan. It was a complex multi-phased operation due to his critical position in the regime,” said Abu Moadh.

Muhammad told Al-Arabiya that he joined Ansar al-Islam after he had dissented from the regime’s forces in Homs, where he had received orders to shoot civilians.

“They ordered us to open fire on civilians and to spare no one, not even women and children,” said Muhammad.

As for Alaa, he directly volunteered to join the Free Syrian Army after witnessing the regime’s violence against protesters.

“At first we used to participate in peaceful demonstrations, but they started shooting at us and killed many of our brothers and friends. Many people were martyred, thus, we decided to volunteer with the Free Syrian Army to defend ourselves and our people,” said Alaa, a Free Syrian army volunteer.

There have lately been attempts to unify factions of the Free Syrian Army after it received painful blows and had to retreat from former strongholds the capital to remote areas. The Free Syrian Army is mainly suffering from the lack of larger weapons that are becoming available in the capital and other border districts.