photo licences @donabozzi
One of the front lines of Aleppo is at Kafr Hamrah, between two buildings, not even one kilometer from one another, in the northwestern countryside of the rebel held east side.
One of these buildings is under the Free Syrian Army, the opposite is regime held. The katiba (battalion) defending the FSA’s building is named “The revolutionaries of Manbij”, one of the most respected and effective in Aleppo. Within the FSA, this katiba operates under the banner of Al-Tawhid. Every katiba has a Mullah, who’s also a combatant, teaching the fighters not to steal from, and not to hurt the people in captured territories. This katiba also has a doctor, a teacher of primary school, and a mechanic. The headquarters are in a previously magnificent Scarface-style of villa, complete with dried out swimming pool, that the revolutionaries have taken over from whom was wealthy enough to escape the remains of murder. We met the fighters over a breakfast of dried out dates, stale bread, and the only available safe drink, ubiquitous mini bottles of saccharine orange juice which made us thirsty. In not yet beard peaked Aleppo, some boys had grown enough hair to look, at worst, rogue renegades on the margin: the home grown Aleppo mujahid were not going to carry out jihad, just practicing the business of amateur insurgence.
Anas Alhaj, our fixer, with the Relief Committee of the Council of the Aleppo Governorate, said it’s a good thing that Hezbollah, the party of Satan, and Iran , came to fight on Bashar’s side and unveiled their true colors to the Sunni of Syria, who now knew who the militia really stood with. In fact, before the revolution, the Sunni used to root for Hezbollah, because they also were Israel’s enemy. ” Back then, even Iran was not an enemy”. In his fervor, Anas disregarded that Hezbollah did remain Israel’s enemy, even if, in the topsy turvy politics of the Middle East, having a common enemy doesn’t necessarily make an alliance.
At the helm of the oddly luxurious command post, Commander Abu Farouk, one of the most respected leaders of the FSA in Aleppo, candidly declared a nom de guerre: who would give his real name to a journalist in Kafr Hamrah, anyway?
Before taking us to the front line, he coached us word-by-word to recite the Shahada, the Islamic creed declaring belief in the oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as God’s prophet, which would make us, just in case, die as Muslim: “Ashhado ana La Eelaha eLa Alah, wa ana Mohamad rasool Allah”, “There is no God like Allah, Mohammed is the prophet of Allah”.
The “front line” is about a five-kilometer drive from the villa. We climbed to the top of the building. A rebel showed us the blood, on the stairs, of the last body that was dragged out, “about a week ago”, they said. On the top, two awfully young boys kept on guard, seated by the open wall, their back stuck to the back of their chairs, staring at a broken mirror reflecting the enemy’s position.We asked Abu if he could tell, from the shouts from the other building, who was on the other side. ” Mostly Farsi, from the Basij, (the militia established in 1979 by Ayatollah Kohmeini) and the pasdaran (the Iranian Revolutionary Guard)”, he replied. “Lebanese, Iraqi and Yemeni Shia accents. Turkish spoken by Turkish Alawites, and some Russian, probably spoken by Kazakistani, whose country is eighty per cent shia”.
“When we shout Allah uakbar, we hear scared voices from the other side invoking: “Oh Hussien, oh Fatima”. (Hussien was the son of Ali Bin Abu Talep, the cousin and son- in- law of the prophet Mohammah. Fatima was the daughter of Mohammad)”. They can hear the Rafidah, (the infidel shia), by ingeniously tweaking the wavelengths of their sort of old fashioned walkie-talkies.
“These gadgets are part of the “non lethal aid” recently supplied by the US”, together he added ironically with a grin, a subtle smile, The “Friends of Free Syria” did not open the gates yet to flood Free Syria with the MIM – 104 Patriot anticraft! Commander Abu Faruk was kind enough to take us back after a few camera shots, besides those aiming at us from the opposite building. However, before we left, we had one last question for him: – Wasn’t it wicked of Al Zawahri (head of Al Qaeda) to urge the merging of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham with the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda, Al Nusra? Trying to deter arm shipments to the moderates by further contaminating the opposition resulted in augmented hesitation by the west to support the revolution all together. In fact, Al-Zawahiri himself had to retract the invitation, in the aftermath of the atrocities committed by the network of death. Commander Abu Faruk, a military man and not a think tank strategist, didn’t have an opinion on that: he was a Muslim revolutionary from the FSA, and didn’t give a damn about the Islamic State.