Wed 21 Aug 2019

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Daraa Mourns Its Sons’ Death on Both Sides of Idlib’s Battles

Militant of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) carrying an individual weapon in rural Daraa – 2017 (Reuters)

Militant of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) carrying an individual weapon in rural Daraa – 2017 (Reuters)

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“Sham is our Sham, you son of the fool,

And the revolution is our revolution, even if an orphan

Its soil is dear, we will leave it to no other

To forsake you Idlib, we will never

While we keep our sense of honor”,

these are the lines that Qasem al-Jamous, the son of Daraa governorate, sang among his comrades on the fronts of Idlib in northern Syria, during the battles he is participating in against the Syrian regime. And these are his anthems that Daraa governorate came to know as an expression of solidarity with the Syrian revolution since its outbreak in 2011.

Qasem al-Jamous, along with several of Daraa’s men, is in the ranks of the opposition’s armed groups, participating there to combat Assad forces’ assaults on the rural parts of Idlib and Hama, less than a year after their displacement to northern Syria, accompanied by hundreds of other men for their refusal to reconcile with the Syrian regime.

However, on the other side of the blazing fronts, others of Daraa’s sons are fighting beside Assad forces, for they have been thrust into the battles’ frontlines following the reconciliation of their status in September 2018, when Russia and the Syrian regime took over the southern governorate.

Dead on Hama’s Fronts

The Martyrs’ Documentation Office in Daraa has documented the death of 12 young men, who were fighting in the ranks of the opposition factions, and other five who died while fighting alongside Assad forces. These young men have all met their fate on the fronts in rural Hama since the start of the latest battles last April.

Of the dead who were fighting along with the opposition factions, the following were identified: Mohammad Hussian al-Masalmeh, Ahmad Khalid Abu al-Sel, Ahmad Mohammad Eid al-Nijm and Mohammad Hassan al-Salahat.

Bashar al-Hamad and his daughter Zainab also died, in an aerial attack on their house in the vicinity of Ariha town, southern Idlib, knowing that Bashar is one of the first to defect from Assad forces in 2011.

Young men from Daraa, former Assad forces defectors among them, are fighting on the side of the National Front for Liberation (NFL), under the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), and other factions operating in Northern Syria.

Daraa’s fighters left the governorate to northern Syria following Assad forces’ control of the area, supported by Russia in September 2018. The reconciliation agreement signed by the two sides provided for the evacuation of those who refused the deal to Idlib and necessitated that the defectors and evaders of mandatory military service from the governorate join the ranks of the regime.

The Martyrs’ Documentation Office has previously recorded the death of 16 fighters from Daraa in Hama governorate last March, who died either while living in Hama or during fighting alongside Assad forces.

Dissidents Refusing to Fight

On the other side, Daraa governorate has, in the past a few weeks, bore witness to several defections on the part of “reconciled militants”, who participated in the Assad forces battles in northern Syria, which they did after their return home for leave.

Enab Baladi’s correspondent for Daraa has documented 20 cases of dissent in the past two months, the majority of the dissidents are militants on a leave, who upon returning home refused to go back to their barracks, escaping being thrown into the violent confrontations that rural Hama is facing.

Most of the defectors, who have been monitored by Enab Baladi, are located in the western parts of Daraa governorate, on top of which are Masakin Jaleen, al-Shajara, Tafas, Tal Shihab and others, namely areas classified as out of the regime’s security grip.

Abuse and being indulged in the battles’ frontlines are the principal motives for the dissent of Daraa’s young men, for those whom Enab Baladi interviewed have described the confrontations on Hama and Idlib’s fronts as “hell,” in which they were forced to participate after they were coerced to join the ranks of the Syrian army under the reconciliation agreement.

It is worth mentioning that Assad forces imposed on the evaders and dissidents the “choice” of joining one of their military formations and fighting next to them, in return for not arresting them on “terrorism”-related accusations. This forced the remaining men of Daraa governorate to join these formations, which then came to be called the “factions of reconciliation.”

The “factions of reconciliation” have participated alongside the Assad forces earlier on, as a spearhead in the battles aiming at controlling the Yarmouk Basin, western Daraa, after which they were present in the battles against the Islamic State (IS) in Sweida, before being ordered to participate in the military action in Idlib.

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