Syria Direct speaks with Abu Sari, one of about 75 regime troops who refused to redeploy from Suwayda Province in southeast Syria to the front in northern Hama Province in the west of the country.
Abu Sari, 24, served from 2012 to early 2015 in the regime army. He fought on frontlines in northern Idlib, Aleppo, and Ham Provinces and was injured twice. He rejoined the Suwayda-based regiments months later to remain close to home, based on an assurance in a mid-2015 regime degree allowing men in Suwayda to complete their military service within the province’s borders.
Earlier this year, he and other regimental troops completed months of training with Russian soldiers to help enforce a local de-escalation agreement. But in mid-September, about 75 members of Abu Sari’s battalion were ordered to deploy to northern Hama Province.
They refused to go, turning to the Sheikhs of Reason, Druze spiritual leaders with close connections to the regime for help. The order was cancelled.
I assure you, if the war in Syria had been with an external foe, you would see the people of Suwayda at the forefront, as was the case in the past. But since it’s a civil, sectarian war, we’re staying out of it….
I saw it clearly while taking part in combat operations, especially when I was in Aleppo. I saw hundreds of fighters from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, even Afghanistan. They fought with us or on their own fronts, raising religious slogans. When we spoke with Arabs among them — the Iraqis or the Lebanese — they would tell us that they see it as a war over existence, and that they came to Syria with a religious motive, to defend holy sites and shrines. Some honestly say they’re in Syria to fight the Sunni sect. By contrast, the terrorist organizations that we were fighting would also raise religious slogans and banners, calling for the death of all minorities and religious [groups] that differ from [their own].
If you were in such a situation, you would certainly feel that you don’t have an interest in this war. The priority is to defend your family and the land on which you grew up, so you don’t become a victim of a sectarian war for nothing.