Interviews with a Commander and a Rebel Soldier in the FSA 

VICE reached out to photographer and videographer Robert King in an attempt to arrive at the twisted core of the matter in Syria. The journalist with balls of pure lonsdaleite (an ultra-rare mineral 58 percent harder than diamond) returned from Aleppo with 20 pages of reportage for our Syria Issue, which we’ll be doling out to you over the next few days. Yesterday, we featured an oral history of his experiences in the thick of the conflict between the Assad regime and the FSA. Today, we’re serving up two interviews he conducted in the field with Haji Mara, the commander of the largest FSA brigade in Aleppo, and Abu Turab, a carpenter turned FSA rebel from Homs.

VICE: Where were you in March 2011, when the 13 boys were arrested in Daraa for spraying anti-Assad graffiti?
Abu Turab: I was at work. 

Were you involved in protests? If so, what was your experience at those protests?
I took part in the protests, where I took a bullet. But I was not arrested. 

Was there one specific moment when you decided, I need to fight against Assad militarily?
I began thinking about joining the FSA during the occupation of my city when the shabiha swept through.

When did you first hear about the Free Syrian Army? 
The first I heard about the FSA was on TV.

Do you have family who is also fighting? 
My entire family is fighting.

How did you join? What is the name of your battalion, and how was it formed?|
I cannot mention the name of the battalion, but it was formed by neighborhood residents. 

What qualifications does one need to fight as part of the FSA?
Anyone can join the FSA. 

How is it organized? How are decisions made in your battalion?
We make decisions collectively.

Who decides where and when you will fight?
All of us decide, together, about the fighting.

What was the very first battle you participated in with the FSA?
My first battle with the FSA was liberating Az Zahrawi palace [a historic site in Homs]. 

Who exactly were you fighting against?
I was fighting the shabiha.

Who were you fighting with?
I was fighting with people from Homs. 

Have you seen anyone killed? If so, what was the situation?
Every day I see many people getting killed by tanks and barrel bombs. These are filled with barameel [a mixture of TNT, oil, and other substances that explodes, burns, and destroys everything] and dropped from helicopters. People are torn into small pieces. 

What has been the single worst personal moment for you since the civil war began?
Since the siege started around the old parts of Homs, many injured people cannot get medical help. We are forced to use primitive tools to amputate limbs when wounds become infected. I will fight again soon.

Have you changed since you began fighting?
Yes, I am a better person now. 

Have any of your opinions changed since you began fighting with the FSA?
I am more confident in God now. It became clear during this conflict that the international community had lied.

After the war, what will you do?
After this, I will go back to my job. 

Continue

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    [Note:] Interviews With Syrian Army Defectors | Vice [Main:]
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