Russian channel Rossiya 24: Seven months of reporting from Syria.
– December 30, 2012 – Posted in: Sideviews
This period of reporting from Syria also leaves its mark at hard-nosed journalists – they have found many friends on site and they have lost a part of them again due to the terrorism. This movie is in its whole then also dedicated to the victims of the terrorism in Syria and especially to Amir Abu Jafar (Amir Abu Dschafar).
He first appeared in a video report from the Syrian city of Homs and he was later kidnapped by the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) gangs and then brutally murdered.
This movie is in its original version about 44 minutes long (the German version is shorter by one or two minutes due to the fact that some passages with “um, er, humph, hm” were cut off because it is hard to accompany them in a translation) and it should grab the viewers on a purely emotional level – without any tactical or even strategic implications.
One can look at the matter soberly and one is also able to identify some elements of black and white painting; overall, this movie would undoubtedly pass off under the label “propaganda”, or to name it more positive, under the label of “information war”. We are able to once let them get away with it from this side.
The build-up of emotions is characteristic for this kind of movie. However, the pointing out of the escalating brutality against civilians and prisoners under the guise of a “religious war” is here essential and the basic message which needs to be transported.
War is war, soldiers die – this is “normal” in this ugly context. But one may wonder, for what or for whom they are doing this. So, one should not write off everything thereto with the propagandistic production of moods. Besides, this is also interesting.
The team of Anastasia Popova was honoured with the Medal “For Courage” (bravery medal) in Russia that is actually reserved for the military circles. This is hardly surprising: they spurt along with the soldiers through the hail of bullets and they really do risk something in order to be authentic. Within the meaning of the fact that wars are nowadays fought apparently mainly in the media, so this is correct.
And this line is therefore also officially supported and wanted by the Russian side – also see the definition of the category of persons who are eligible for such an award:
“In exceptional cases to civilians due to personal bravery in the defence of the fatherland.”
The German transcript of the film is released here (see link to source) in a very rough shape if someone feels called to do a translate of the text to Kiswahili, etc. – it was a very laborious write down by listening and writing, because Vesti.ru has not published the full text.
The English translation here is, as usual, not good and we are sorry for this bad translation. It may also be that there is no version of the text from this video about the seven month of reporting from Syria due to the fact that it was no newscast. The paragraphs are (almost) all marked with time codes (mmss) and the duration; the offsets refer to the original film. So please do consider it as data (rather than to consider it as a reading).
It has now been some time, but it is still hard to process it and to understand all that we have seen. All this seems to be a totally unreal nightmare, a strange picture that in principle can`t be there in reality, such things can simply not be.
It was once a nice, good and peaceful country. And in the 7 months during our stay on site, this idyll was simply blown up. We have spoken to many people in different places, both with members of the army as well as with Syrian civilians. Now, I am not even able to say who of them is still alive. Or whether they are still alive tomorrow.
Our film is a view at the events in Syria through the eyes of those who have already been convicted.
Nabil, a resident of Homs
Everyone who came to Syria knew that it is very peaceful here, there were not „such and such“, no different kinds, and we all lived similar. Everybody had his faith, which was no problem. There are even Jews in Damascus, an entire Jewish district. Because of that, no one has harmed another one – quite the opposite.
Our nation is well-disposed to every other nation, because we make no differences according to the ethnicity. The main thing is that you’re just a man. However, we do not know such things as now; we have never experienced these things. This happens for the first time in Syria.
Iyad, cameraman of the army
We are surrounded by a clean, unspoiled nature: rivers, waterfalls, trees; this beauty is within the man himself. This is the love for life, the goodness. The Syrians love such a life; this was it, which has been associated with the word “freedom.”
But then came the crisis, and unfortunately, therewith also people who are using the word “freedom” and other familiar, nice words, which have a deeper sense for the nation, on the behest of the West in order to destroy the beauty in which we have lived.
Sajer Darwish, a rebel fighter
In the morning, we started to kill the inhabitants, many of them. We went into the houses and fired on those who were still asleep. Then we brought them into a room and filmed them with mobile phones in order to blame it on the soldiers.
Until we then heard that the Army is moving in our direction. A part of ours has run away, while the others have fired on the soldiers.
0539-0540 1-2 s
I have no idea what they want.
Bessam Abu Haidar, a soldier in the Syrian army
I’m willing to bet that you are not able to find a single educated person among them. What do they want? Freedom? They have destroyed the whole city.
Just ask only one of them, what a kind of liberty! To stab and kill people – is this freedom for you?
Nadja, wife of Bessam
Every day someone dies, every day, missiles strike here and there is shooting with who knows with what. There are many wounded, but even more deaths. We are afraid of allowing the children to go outside on the streets. They really want to go outside, as we as kids, but we forbid it. We fear that something is happening to them. We have also fears when they go to school; the rebels often bombard the schools.
We are afraid to go to the bazaar (market). I go nevertheless, and I am thinking: what if I am kidnapped? We really just want the simplest: to be able to rest quietly. Now, the gun or the machine gun is always with us. We barricaded the doors, we walk through the garden every half hour due to the fear that somebody has thrown anything in or that somebody has attached an explosive device there.
I sleep at night with horrible thoughts: what if we are attacked, are raped in front of my husband`s eyes and then get killed?
Evgeny Lebedev, an assistant director of “Rossiya 24″
This explosion happened around 7 o’clock in the morning. The children were just on the road to go to the school. Their parents drove them. A school bus is completely burned out; toys lay around. Many children have died.
How can somebody fight for liberty and thereby kill children, especially so barbaric, cruel and in blind rage?
We will continue to care about this humanitarian issue, we support the Syrian opposition, and we are committed to the plan for a political transition in Syria.
0831-0850 19s from Aleppo
Both mosques and churches in Syria are still named with the same word: a “temple”, in which all have admittance, regardless of their religion. The soldier from our escort is Muslim; he touched the icons and prays together with the Christian woman – in his own way.
It does not matter where and how you do that. The main thing is that the peace will return to Syria.
0853 Popova Live (Subtitles)
That must have been a violent banging. Here, they have tried to separate two parts of the city from each other: a Christian and a Muslim. The people did not want that, so they (FSA) blew up the houses and expelled them…
0905-0909 4s Yara Saleh, a reporter for Al-Akhbariya (Al-Ekhbariya)
We saw a Libyan, and another one, or more from Saudi Arabia.
0956-1004 8s Nabil
They do not know what faith is. They, however, say that they are Muslims. They have absolutely no idea what that means. They know nothing. They are not Muslims at all.
1029 Popova Live (Subtitles)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
It has happened so often, that we catch one and he is sitting there with a machine gun in his hand. He shakes his head, is completely mentally incompetent and stammered: “I’ve done nothing.” We take his blood for an analysis and then, drugs are found. We often find powder or tablets in the bags.
Another time, one came out and he went on the middle of the road while he has been shooting at us. We take cover and fire back – and we hit. But he is still going further; he is completely insensitive to pain. Something like that happens after taking a drug which is called “Raserin” [they are usually, according to a recent report by ANNA-News, Captagon tablets (Fenethylline) – apxwn]. Anyone who is taking such drugs has no more an idea of what he is doing. He recognizes no one anymore, he is able to kill his brother, his father, and he completely loses the orientation.
1132-1142 10s Iyad
They say that they are doing all this because of the faith. They say to kill an infidel and to slit his throat would be a great honour for them. They believe that they get closer to God when they are doing this. There are actually also those.
They are killing peaceful people, and then they shout the “Allāhu Akbar”-Takbīr in order to soothe their conscience – if they have such a thing – and to show others that they are on the proper path.
Those, who are fighting there, are thinking in the following way: when I die, I will arrive to paradise and I will have many virgins. Yes, I am not speaking about the leaders, but about the common men. They are completely clueless.
One of them told me: You’re yet a journalist, and you know more than I do. Tell me, what will happen when all this is over? I told him: Well, look. Let’s be realistic. The Americans have never loved us. Obama doesn’t love us. Israel doesn’t love us. They do not give a damn about the Syrian people. Just take a look what has happened to Afghanistan and Iraq.
He says: I know. And so I said again: Well. Why do you then take money from them? You do not think that they give you money so that you can fight for your freedom? He said: No, we do not take money from them. – Well, but who gives you the money then? – The sheik. – And from where does he get the money? – I don`t know. – Aha, you have not asked yourself about it.
Another time, I told him then: You can be sure every time when there is an agreement. – What does this word mean – “agreement”? – Seriously, I am able to swear to that! So I said to him then: Nothing, sorry, just forget about it. Who can explain something to such a person? He does not know anything. And he is not the only one.
Another told me: I have been in all prisons in Syria because of drugs, theft, and such things. – Well, what are you doing now? – I think God has forgiven me. – But you have not asked him, to forgive you? You think he has already forgiven you everything? Why? Who has told you that? – The sheik. He said that God had forgiven me, but now I have to fight with them.
1331-1344 13s Bandit
I have killed three friends; I’ve cut the throats of all. I was told me that they were be traitors, that they would support the government. Then we have placed explosives in the houses, where we had previously killed people, and ignited it. It should look as if the Syrian army has carried out some artillery attacks there.
1348-1445 58s N…
They are bandits. There are not even human. They have a completely different perspective on the life, on the faith. They are no ordinary people. Nobody knows what they are really thinking or what they want. They want freedom? What kind of freedom? Killing people, what kind of freedom is that? The slaughter of humans as if they are chickens or cattle.
How can you do such a thing, what’s this for a faith that allows to stab people and then to dance for joy? I am now 50 years old and I have been to many places and I have seen a lot, but what has now befallen over us here – I´ve never seen this or even heard of it. Nobody knows from where these people come.
1509-1513 4s Obama
The Syrian government must stop shooting at demonstrators, and they must allow peaceful demonstrations.
1529-1613 44s Mikhail Witkin
We have filmed a lot of corpses, both on the streets and in the hospitals, and in one hospital, a pathologist has told us that all those who were in the captivity of the rebel fighters, were maltreated without exception. Children, adults, and even the elderly.
The violence is exorbitantly. The people have even started to acquire hand grenades – that’s not an isolated case, we have heard from many – they obtain hand grenades for the case that they are able to blow up themselves if they are stopped by the “Free Syrian Army”. Nobody wants to fall into the hands of this scum – they rather put an end to their lives.
1620-1704 44s Yara
They receive their instructions from abroad. I am able to explain it why I know this. When they have kidnapped our film crew in the Syrian city of Al-Tal, they reported it to the “Syrian National Council”. It calls itself only “Syrian”, but was first in Turkey, then in Qatar. They were given the instruction to record two video messages.
One video message in which all three of us are visible and another video message with their commander. They have previously sent all the conditions of the release, every single sentence, which we were forced to say over satellites to other countries, and they received back a corrected version of the text.
I wrote the text from the phone to paper because scarcely anybody of them was able to write. Well, it was a message from a foreign number, more than 10 digits, and a few points. Qatar and Saudi Arabia were involved in negotiations with the Syrian government. Well, if you even get your instructions from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are you then – perhaps Syrians? I do not think so.
1707-1722 15s N.
Yes, there are also Syrians who are, let`s say, weak. You can lure such people with money. But the majority of these people are not from Syria.
1738-1746 8s Yara
Yes, that’s the first question: where are you from, what`s your faith? For example, our cameraman is a Christian but they forced him to pray like a Muslim.
They gave me a scarf and told me: cover your head. I asked them: when you are really fighting for freedom, why don`t you then respect my freedom and why do you not allow me to dress me like I want to? They said: no, you cannot be without a hijab. – They even wanted to kill us for what we have said.
1809-1821 12s N.
They don’t do it for our people. On the contrary, they kill us and our children, they are destroying our lives. This is such a policy.
1824-1829 5s Davutoglu
We are all interested in an advancement of the situation in Syria. We may have partially different views, but our goals are similar.
1836 Mikhail Witkin
Once we have filmed at night, we even had a thermal vision camera with us, and we went to the frontline with the camera.
1847-1858 11s Popova Live (Subtitles)
Well, the cleansing operation drifts into its active phase, you are able to hear it, what a shooting is in progress. The military personnel are moving from house to house, first, they carefully check every step to make no mistake. Turn it off!
We move almost entirely groping forward through the destroyed houses and take a strategic position in a high house, from where one is able to see the entire city.
1908 Mikhail Witkin
After some time, a bullet flew past my head, just a few inches away.
Witkin 1914 live (subtitles)
This is sniper fire. That’s the worst. I just had luck that it hasn’t hit me now. Only 5 inches lower, then we would no longer talk.
We are currently not able to get ahead further. We stay in the high house and wait until the shooting is over. At dawn, it continues; the designated target, a house filled with rebel fighters, is one kilometre away from us.
1945-2006 21s Witkin
The first feeling is such a cold which crawls down your back. I jumped from the ladder, came down, and behind me was the colonel, who accompanied us there. I think he was even more scared than me and talked to me whether I was hit and if everything was ok and so on. We then found out, two days later, that this colonel was killed by a sniper.
First, they have tied our hands, then we were beaten with thongs every day, we were kicked. They also tried to rape me; yes, this also happens. Then they killed the camera man because they have found pictures with the Syrian flag and pictures of soldiers on his mobile phone.
The sheikh had decided that we all deserve it to die, but the camera assistant was the first. They took him out of the room along with our driver Hussam – Hussam got a blindfold. He heard gunshots, and then they took off the blindfold and said to him: look at this; you will be punished the same way if you lie. You have to provide us with information that we do not have yet. They shot 60 bullets at him, two magazines with 30 rounds.
2053-2122 29s Iyad
It does not matter where these rebel fighters appear; the first thing that they are doing after they have penetrated into a territory are the public executions of civilians. Thereby, it doesn’t matter who these people are and to which religion they belong.
They are killed and it is filmed with mobile phones in order to upload it to the internet, so that anyone is able to see it. This also happened in the district of Sirian in the Syrian city of Aleppo: two pedestrians were caught and then stabbed on the street in front of the eyes of all other people. The rest of the inhabitants are so gripped by a sense of fear.
They see how someone’s throat is being cut and they imagine that they could be in the place of these unfortunates. So the civilians flee from those areas, they leave their homes, at least those who have a place to which they are able to go.
2134-2213 39s Yara
You say, however, that the Syrian press lies a lot, right? Well, let’s suppose that we lie. You know, that we lie, and the whole world knows it, too. Then let us lie – but why do they kidnap and murder journalists, why are offices of our channel raided and why do bombs detonate in the building of the Syrian television? What for? If we really lie and if really no one believes us, as they say it at Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya and Ariyen TV; why do they then have fears of us in this way?
Just let us continue to lie if it is so. But that’s just not true. The rebel gangs are committing many atrocities – we show this and report about it. That`s why they hate us, and so they want to kill and destroy us. All journalists, who are working on the government side, are targets.
2237-2244 7s Yara
If you are moving with the army, you are the first and most important goal of the rebels. Who has an ugly face, does not like it to hear the truth about them.
2246 Al Thani
Given this, I think it would be better for the Arab countries themselves, out of their national, humanitarian, political and military duty, to intervene and do whatever is necessary…
On the day when we started, already 35 people among those we knew have died. According to unofficial data, more than 9,000 military personnel have been killed already now. And I am especially not speaking about the civilian population, how many of them were perished by the hands of these so-called “Free Army”, by these freedom fighters…
2315-2257 42s Grand Mufti
The provocateurs only want one thing: to divide Syria along sectarian features in order to create a number of individual states on this basis. There is no consensus in the ranks of the opposition. Some want to establish a secular state; the others want a self-contained theocracy. Still others simply take up weapons in their hands and destroy the country. They are all the time arguing among themselves and with each other, as well as with the Syrian people and Government.
This opposition acts at the behest of foreign countries, it is controlled from outside. This opposition has no political ambitions; their job is it to create chaos and confusion. I have invited everyone to the negotiating table, even those, who are living abroad. They have declined the invitation.
Their goal is just to seize power. They always talk about it that the President has to go, only then, negotiations would take place. The only question is: with whom do they want to negotiate then?
2410-2428 18s N.
Where I have been underway with you the one and the other time – these neighbourhoods are already dead. In the areas where the rebels establish themselves, the life comes to a standstill. They destroy everything there; they expel the people from their homes.
2432-2456 14s N.
They steal everything what they do find in these homes, they destroy everything and then make such movies in order to blame it on the Syrian army; they want to make the entire world believe that the Syrian army would progress like this. Everything evil which is visible – the Syrian army would have been responsible for this, and all the good, that would come from those who want the freedom. They also try to spread that the Syrian people would be on their side – but this is also not true.
2513-2533 20s Iyad
Are you able to remember what has happened to the mighty ancient city of Troy? It’s the same with us. The word “freedom” is a Trojan horse, too. It has destroyed the freedom and the carefree life, just like Troy has been destroyed. But nature gives us strength, I know that the “Good” will win and I am sure: no matter what happens, we will love each other and live together in peace, because we are part of this sacred land, which is Syria. We are living for this country’s sake.
2600-2646 46s Hanni Asishaid, mother of a dead soldier
I have not seen my son for more than 2 months. He called and said he wants to come home in the next morning, but the mother’s heart felt a looming disaster. He did not arrive, and then I called him, but there was no answer. Then I learnt what has happened. His unit defended the main mosque of Aleppo, they were surrounded by rebel gangs, and snipers have opened the fire.
Then they tried to blow up the gate of the mosque, ultimately they broke through the wall and they entered the mosque from the other side. We are actually Christians, but my boy has said that he will defend the mosque because this temple is a sacred place. He has even fought barefoot inside, due to the respect for the traditions, quite irrespective of the broken glass and the fragments of the plaster.
He was grazed by two bullets, and also his friend was wounded in the leg. He carried him out to the ambulance on his hands, but he did not wanted to get treated himself, he said that he will not abandon his comrades. As he returned, he was hit by further bullets. He was shot on the steps of the mosque.
2647-2706 19s Estel Asishaid, sister of the slain soldiers
I have told him that I am praying for him. But he has corrected me and said: pray first for Syria, and then for me. Syria was always the most important thing for him, more than anything else. I have not seen him for a long time, so called him often and said, please come home, I miss you and I want to see you soon. But now I was not able to see him again.
On one of the days we were underway together with a unit of soldiers, not on the streets, but through the courtyards, houses, through kitchens and so on…
2732-2757 25s Popova
…and in one of the houses we met an old man, who already was very frail. He only lived there because of the army, and only had contact with the soldiers. He had no relatives anymore, and the soldiers always brought him food and water, they took care of him. And at every soldier, whom he saw with his eyes – he was blind in one eye – he jumped up, and he actually said to any of the soldiers, even if there were ten or more: welcome, welcome.
2804-2820 16s Witkin
This old man was then found dead. These animals have fired 17 bullets at him. They wrote on the wall: You are executed for your “long tongue”. In this way they have challenged all Christians who are living in Syria.
2829-2833 4s N.
Maybe they’ve seen him afterwards on TV? Therefore, they will have killed him.
2842 Nadia, Wife of Bessam
I have just one question to the gunmen: If there is a God who has created the world and all people, and if according to the scriptures all people are equal in their dignity and do not differ in their dignity, why do you kill us? Why do you say that you are killing for freedom and Allah? What have I done, for example, that you seek my life every day? Why do you kill peaceful people? Why do you kill the soldiers, for what?
For them, a murder is like a joke; it is worse for them to behead a ram – than to behead a normal guy. They have no feelings, no heart, and no dignity. They only think of themselves, they think they need to kill more people, so that the others have to deal with the fear, so that we fear them. We are tired of death, we are tired of killing, we are tired of all this.
2928-2350 22s Bandit
We have built up our position on the road to Hama and then stopped a car. An Alawi (Alawite) family sat in the car. We have arrested the father; his six year old daughter was raped. Then the coordinator called me, he appointed a meeting point, there he gave me a machine gun that came from Turkey; and he sent me to blow up a building of the military counterintelligence.
Back then, I’ve shot 7 soldiers. I took an axe and started to chop up one of them. I wanted to see if he has blood in him.
2952-3059 67s Witkin
How can somebody call this people ever as “peaceful opposition”? Or as freedom fighter? This is absolutely nonsense. I think, every person who thinks like this, should just travel to Syria and see it for himself, that there, where the army has the control, it is quiet. The army protects its people. I have the impression that on the other side, only completely demented idiots are fighting, people to whom nothing is sacred, really nothing.
Such people do not only betray their home, but also easily their families, mother and father. Just look at the pictures, would you want those democrats to govern your country? That they run around on your streets and play with your children? Just take a look in the faces of these people, or are they more like monsters? To whom do they resemble rather after all the crimes which they have done? I do not know if you would like to have those kinds of liberators in your own city, which fight for your security, your freedom and democracy in such a way.
3108-3206 58s Bessam Abu Haidar
I got a call from an unfamiliar number; somebody asked if I am the brother of Ramez. I should pick up “my dog“; they would have killed him in the district of Wadi Shah. When I saw my father and my brother in such a state, I was not able to believe it. There were dozens of deaths, and the rebels fired on the corpses, so that we could not recover the bodies.
One of the residents, who were brought to a safe place by the army, told then: the rebels have positioned the local residents in front of a wall and they set about to shoot them. But then a car came; that were my brother and my father.
They wanted to put a stop to the bandits. They were wounded, and then pulled out of the car, and they have thrown them on the tarmac. They drove with the wheel of the car several times over their heads as they were still alive. I am still unable to believe it. They lived still. Especially, since they initial have killed the son in front of his father`s eyes and then they killed the father.
One of those, who were also killed there, was a pregnant woman. They have sliced up her stomach, pulled out the unborn child and kicked it through the area (Notice: like a football). You cannot imagine that. Nobody is able to imagine that. That is inconceivable.
They rape women, kill small children – why? To have such things already just in the mind is completely unimaginable for me.
3213-3242 29s Nadja
You became acquainted with Bessam. He is a very good-natured man, regardless even of the whole suffering that is happening at this time. He is fond of children, he loves our four girls. He likes to play with them, he deals a lot with them, but currently he is rarely at home, the children do miss him much.
He walks out of the house very early and comes back very late at night. We are very concerned. The rebels seek his life; they have even published a photo of him on a website. They show it on their channels and they have put a bounty on him. I call him often, but he doesn’t answer the phone – he has a lot to do.
Then he calls back and calms me down. He says that he does not come for lunch, he remains with his comrades. He is afraid that something happens to them and he is not there so that he would be able to help. He loves his country and is willing to sacrifice his life for his country. Syria is more important to him than his wife, the parents or the children. I understand and support him. I’m willing to take that all on me [32:10f].
We are now ready for anything: we are ready to lose the fathers, sons and husbands; we are also willing to even join the army to regain the peace again, in which all have been living in Syria before.
When I go into the fight, I look death in the eye, but I do not fear it, because it is a great honour for me to sacrifice myself for my country. So, as my brother and my father did. The most important thing is to restore the peace in which we have previously lived.
3339-3402 23s Iyad
My dream? I want to see Syria as it has been before, back then we have lived in silence and peace. I want that Syria persists in this world war. Sometimes you have to walk on a very difficult and arduous path if you want to climb a mountain.
We have to sacrifice a lot of things: relatives and friends in order to save Syria, to finally stand on the Mount Olympus, from which one is no longer able to see the other peaks. This is a big dream – to once again live in peace as it was back then, and that it will always remain this way.
3410-3512 62s Yara
We have visited 6 different locations in six days and have nowhere seen people. They have told me directly that there is no longer a single woman or anyone in the city, only those bandits. One night, we were taken to another city.
Then suddenly, a stun grenade detonated, the Army took the bandits under fire. I fell to the ground and waited until the shooting was over. The soldiers then shouted: Yara, we know that you are here, we hope you’re okay.
I was only able to say: My God, I thought I’d never see my mother again, it was like a joyful outcry: I am finally free! I got up and ran towards them. When I saw our soldiers and our flag: you know, such a beautiful red, white and black and two green stars, I only thought: oh god, I’m finally free.
I was no more able to walk. An officer carried me then; I was crying and he said: don`t worry, Abdallah is already with us. I jumped up, and just a half minute later, I already embraced my cameraman and said that Hussam, the driver is still in the hands of the “Free Syrian Army”. It pains me to say this, because they are neither free nor Syrian, nor an army. The officer said: no matter what it costs me, I’ll get him out of there. And he really did it.
3545-3618 33s N.
The army is like our family. This army and the people live together like a family. Like brothers, like fathers and sons. We believe that our army is also our folk. They just work in the army. Others work elsewhere, but we are a family. So we have lived, we shall live this way, and – may God grant it – so we will continue to live!
3626 Popova Live (Subtitles)
Remarkably: when a helicopter arrives, the people start to walk with flags on the roofs and greet the helicopter…
3647-3742 55s Iyad
If one looks at the soldiers in the battle, you may think: they are so callous and tough, they are focused and serious and at any moment ready to sacrifice themselves in order to put a stop to these rebel gangs. Everyone is willing to stand before his comrades. They are determined and courageous, although many of them are very young.
Even many wounded ask that they are not being sent home, they want to return to their unit. If the operation is over, you are unable to recognize them again: the same brave soldiers, still warm from the fight, but they joke like little children, they are joking with each other, sit around and drink tea or Mate. This is our favourite tradition. The youngest is sent to fetch water, another has to fetch sugar, and somebody else has to fetch the tea kettle.
They laugh and joke, as if nothing happened. I see them and I hardly believe that they are the same soldiers who have just fought so bravely. And every night, they say goodbye to each other as if it would be forever. Who knows, maybe they are no more able to meet again in the next morning? They live only for a day, between life and death; no one knows when he will die. Therefore, they always say goodbye, as if it would be the last time.
3838-3909 31s Bessam
Amir was my friend; we were together from the first day of the war. We have fought together, worked together and we also have spent time together. He has three children. He was a very brave and strong fighter, he was not afraid to take part in any operation, thereby, he was very good natured and calm, and he was joking frequently and helped the refugees.
We were sent on a mission to Aleppo. On the way, he felt that he could die there, and said: I beg you, please take care of my wife and children. I feel the smell of death. I told him: stop the nonsense, but he began to sing such sad songs and said: I sacrifice myself and I will not come back to Homs. Two days later, he was kidnapped.
3911-3956 45s Popova
The last time, we saw each other in Damascus. He called and said that he was in the area and he wanted to meet us. We met and I have barely recognized him: he was always so good-natured and funny, he was always joking. And here, he was bleak as some heavy clouds; it was like a negative energy which is coming out of him.
Back then, I yet thought: who knows, maybe he forebodes something bad. However, I have rapidly displaced this thought. Two days later we were informed that he had been kidnapped and that they demand money for him. We thought about what we do and how we can help, we wanted to at least do anything for him. Back then, an officer escorted us, and he said: if they get hold of military personnel, he will never get out alive.
4006-4032 26s Zeynab, the wife of Amir
I tried to call him; he did not answer the phone. Then I called Bessam who said that Amir went away to buy something. I dialled his number again, a strange voice answered and said that he is from the “Free Syrian Army”, your husband is with us, and we have kidnapped him. Either you give us a million lira, or we kill him. Then they turned off the phone. I called my uncle and told him that they had captured Amir, and later there were other calls. They made fun of me.
4113-4153 40s Bessam
We have tried to reach an agreement with them about the ransom, we tried to get money, but they did not answer the phone anymore. We spoke on the phone several times before, talked several times about the money. Then they turned off the phone. They called the next day and said that they had left Amir in a suburb of Aleppo and that we can come and get him. We found him with a separated head.
Another three soldiers were lying beside him. They tortured and abused him, and then they murdered him – not with a knife, but they have laid him alive on a saw bench and then they have sawed off his head. For me, it is a really great loss, but why had they to kill him so brutish? They’re like animals, or better, not even animals act in such a way, so perfectly bestial. They always do it like this, before they kill someone, they cut off his limbs, slowly and carefully, and then, ultimately the head. I have no words on how someone can really do something like this.
4210-4231 21s Zeynab
He was a very good man. He loved God. He was so good that he gave all to the people, even if he needed it for himself. He loved the people, he helped everybody, and he loved me, our three children and our parents. May God never forget that they have murdered my husband. May their loved ones be taken away so that they feel what I’ve been through.
4239-4246 7s Zeynab
The “Free Army” has destroyed our peaceful and beautiful life. God will not help them and he will punish them.
4253-4258 5s Clinton
The transition to democracy in Syria has begun, and Assad must go away from the way of this process.
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