The story of being forced to join the ‘rebel’ forces as told by one or two of the young men in the news report is supported by that recounted by Australian businesswoman Dr Fiona Hill in an article for the ABC’s The Drum. Dr Hill was in Syria earlier this year to support her Syrian ‘nephew’ who had been abducted by the “Free Syrian Army”.
Syria’s ‘Arab Spring’: failed or hijacked?
I have just returned from Syria. Like so many who care about what happens there, I went because I wanted to see, listen, ask questions, overhear conversations, watch dedicated 24-hour television propaganda channels (both for and against the government), read graffiti, and experience what sort of realities Syrians are now creating for themselves. There are daily flights out of the UAE. My flight was full.
I also went to Syria specifically to dig out all the details of my adoptive nephew’s kidnapping by opposition ‘forces’ a couple of weeks earlier.
The 18-year-old is in the first months of his obligatory military service and was returning back to his military posting after a short leave pass home, riding a civilian bus between a provincial town near his home and Damascus. The bus was stopped outside Homs by what appeared to be a security roadblock. Eight heavily armed men in military uniform boarded the bus and demanded that those serving in the military raise their hands. My nephew did so, along with a few others. They were taken off the bus, blindfolded, put in cars and driven away.
Two days later the kidnappers called the young man’s family, using his mobile phone, and berated them for letting their son ‘fight for Assad’ instead of fighting against the government and doing his Muslim duty. The family begged for mercy. The phone hung up. An excruciating six days later another call came advising that for a 500,000 Syrian Pound ransom (currently about $8,000), they could collect him.
The heavily armed kidnappers had kept 18 captives in one room and provided food and bedding. Each day of his nine-day confinement, an imam had spoken to the detainees about religious duty. Ultimately my nephew, a Sunni Muslim, had been given four choices – fight with his captors against the government and kill as many police, soldiers, security agents, and non-Muslims (i.e. non-Sunnis) as possible; take ammunition supplied by them to destroy key infrastructure and wreak havoc; pay a substantial ransom; or be killed on the spot.
The young man’s family were able to gather the ransom payment from each household of their tribe and next morning two of his uncles set off to collect him – one unashamed to say he was sick with fear, the other well known for fearing God alone. On their way they advised the local police and security forces of their mission, who in turn advised that if they succeeded in getting the young man back alive, they should take him home for a few days to rest before surrendering him to the military police.
After his jubilant but short homecoming, the military security took him and detained him for interrogation. Almost three weeks later he was released back to his military posting. Out of the fire into the frying pan.