Summer 2013. In the Aleppo countryside, the Al-Aqsa Brigade of the Free Syrian Army fires down below at the Hezbollah militias who have penetrated the villages of Nubbul and Zahara.
Of all the FSA commanders we met, Yaser Sokar, head of the Al-Aqsa brigade, an unprejudiced, soft-spoken man, is the only one who dared to shake our hands, wiping his own afterwards as a joke. The villages of Nubbul and Al-Zahra have been penetrated by Hezbollah; “Can the siege be broken by the SAA?”, we asked him. “No, never, we’ll eventually rout them out!” He gave us the green light to go to Jabbal Shewehna, a front line at the bottom of a hill a few kilometers from Hraytan. The Al Aqsa fighters stand on one side of the hill, and the regime troops stand on the other. “If we take this hill top, we’ll take all of Aleppo!” says one Al-Aqsa fighter, still foolishly trapped in the magical thinking of victory over “Gaahesh”, that’s what they call Bashar here from the donkey’s genes that shape his face. The rebels complained about the enemy’s superiority given its use of the Shilka, a tank with a sniper capable of shooting 2400 bullets per minute.
The FSA fighters have received a few Concourse missiles, basically zapper guns, but still lament the weapons of the poor. They particularly badly need RPG-type of rocket that can better track and follow enemy targets, primarily the Russian made T-72 tanks.
The FSA base, a huge barrack behind of a two-kilometer long wall used for sniping through the breaches in it, “is manned by about 400 men, or so the regime thinks!”, says a young fighter, laughing. Standing out beside an antique mystery cannon and home made attempts at casting their own barrels, is a “Dushka” machine gun, pilfered from the regime and fitted with a 14.5 mm cartridge that can release 300 bullets per minute.
Commander Yaser Socar’s dinner invitation had an hidden agenda; it was a cry for help. The comfortably furnished rooms of his house exuded culture and open mindedness, and moderate wealth. Too unpretentious to present us with an exclusively Syrian meal, he added a European-type of course to the dinner to make us feel more comfortable. Then he exclaimed, painfully:
“We are the real Muslims of Syria. Do we look like terrorists to you? They killed our children, they burned our houses. Did they call them terrorists? We are the ones they called terrorists! The true terrorists were released by the regime in 2011 from Saidnaya prison, under pressure from the international community in the first few months of the uprising, as part of a smokescreen amnesty.
Our battalion, the Al Aqsa Brigade, didn’t get all the media attention that Al-Tawheed did, and therefore didn’t get the needed military supplies from Qatar that they did. We didn’t even get enough bullets from the military council of the FSA, let alone foreign powers!”
He said he would take us on the following day to Nubbul and Al-Zahra, two Shia villages on the outskirts of Aleppo, with a combined population of about 5000, where Hezbollah reigns and even the women carry guns. Here, the Al-Aqsa men enjoy a formidable vantage point: the terrace of yet another elegant private mansion turned into an FSA headquarters. We were actually facing Nubbul and Al-Zahra from about three kilometres away. The rebel’s elevated position above the villages definitely gave them the upper hand. Suddenly, the men ducked in a row behind the terrace wall to exchange fire. Suddenly, one of the Al-Aqsa fighters shouted “Allahu Akbar,” leaping excited with his Kalashnikov lifted in the air. It then became still. He had just killed a man. When asked why Hezbollah woudn’t dare to retaliate the injury, they said that daylight doesn’t allow them to clash comfortably enough. All throughout the clash, our fixer and our friends held their back glued to the terrace floor. On it, lay a dozen or so empty bullet casings landed from the other side.
Zakaria Jrab, leader of the Katiba Shams Alhak (The Sun of Righteousness), is a member of the military commitee of the Council of the Governorate of Aleppo. I asked him:
“Mr. Jrab, what is the ideological difference between Ahrar Al-Sham and the FSA? The way Ahrar members dress, in black from head to toe and wearing black kohl around their eyes, is not exactly reassuring”.
“There is no difference between the two: we are brothers, we coordinate with each other on the front line. However, Ahrar Al-Sham is more devout and more rigorous in the observance of the Sharia then the FSA, where some elements may be nonchalant or plain aloof. We can definitely say they are Islamists, but we work together because they are not radical.”
“Does the FSA has more affinity with Ahrar Al-Sham than with Al- Golani?” Ahrar Al-Sham is easier to deal with, more open minded and doesn’t have an agenda. Mr. Golani wants to take over the country after the revolution.” “Why can’t you get good antiaircraft from the United States, like Turkey did? “Because the United States has a precondition: they want to give Idlib and Aleppo to their ally, Turkey.”
” What about Qatar? Why they don’t help you more?” “Because they don’t have the OK from the United States. Recently a shipment of RPG made in Austria, from the UAE to Syria, was stopped by the United States. The regime has Shilkas with snipers capable of shooting 2400 bullets per minute. We have 45 mm “Dushka” machine guns at 300 bullets per minute” And a sleek, albeit quite lonely, M16 from the United States; plus, of course, MRE, “meals ready to eat”, repurposed from Iraq and Afghanistan. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33997408
The old district of Bab Al Hadid, the Iron gate, surrounds the ancient Citadel and its hill. In the neighborhood, every battalion has its own front line, except for larger brigades who fight on more then one.
A woman with more then one stray wisps of hair poking out from under her veil, and ash blond at that, walking down the cobbled streets of Bab Al Adid, waving to a stranger, didn’t fail to impress commander Sheik Kattan, who pulled over his pick up to engage in conversation. He is in charge of the artillery of the Ahrar Syria brigade ( the Free people of Syria) one of the largest in the city, about 5000 men, and he is willing to show us the rebels’ experiments at casting their own barrels. On the way, he lifted the cover of an intriguing tunnel, looking from the asphalt like the regular cover of a city conduit, but used instead by the rebels to penetrate into enemy’s neighborhoods.
Where exactly the tunnel would end up, he wouldn’t say. At the command center, he produced for us the performance of fire by lighting what he called magic cotton, which is regular medical cotton which underwent a chemical treatment with potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate and acid. “What kind of acid?” , I asked him. “Acid, just acid.” As a result, the cotton becomes highly inflammable and it’s used, as he demonstrated, to fill up plastic cartridges to be inserted in equally hand crafted guns. “Where did you import the process from? Afghanistan?” “No, we were discouraged because nobody wanted to help us, so we searched the internet”. Commander Kattan then proceeded to show us a home made rpg shell which costed him 5 dollars to make, as opposed to the ones found on the dried up Lebanese market for 800,000 dollars. The 140 mm artillery and the shell which he dropped in it were also products of their own experiments in metallurgy , and so were the 3 kg missile and its launcher.
The jewel of the ammo was an ingeniously thought out dynamite launcher gun they nicknamed bombaction: the empty casing of a doshka bullet is filled with dynamite powder, then dropped into the tip of the gun. A cartridge filled with magic cotton is then placed inside the gun, which gets ignited at the triggering, thus propelling the dynamite launch.
Asked if the defeat of Qussair represented the loss of a supply route and troops to the Idlib province, Mr Kattan replied that the road was still in use, and they withdrew temporarily just to save civilians lives. “In Aleppo, we pushed the shabiha back to their neighborhoods and the citadel is ninety per cent taken”. Then we asked Mr Kattan to take us to the real thing. His men took us to unsuspected front lines, on the top floors of ancient burned buildings concealed by regular looking facades, up on the familiar tour of the rubble: In Aleppo’s Bab Al-Hadid neighborhood, or Iron Gate, between buildings held by the Free Syrian Army and the regime, shouts, then fire, were exchanged. The men of the Ahrar Syria Brigade (Free Syria) were the stokers; with temerity, they yelled “Shabiha! Shabiha!”, through rubbly breaches, standing around a building corner, atop ramshackle roofs, into surrounding regime held blocks. Annoyed that the mice hadn’t come out of their holes yet, they continued to shout insults: preferring to wait for darker hours, the Shabiha didn’t accept the invitation. So we would wait too, standing with our back against a putrid wall, feeling unsheltered as we looked out the wall-less side of the kitchen, now become an unglazed panorama over the remains of the Iron Gate.
Our friends, pointing at the snipers’ shots on the wall behind our shoulders, advised us to move over to a surprisingly safer spot: right in the open. We preferred to move. While moving building to building or even from a kitchen to a bedroom, missing or broken wall occasionally exposed us to the Shabiha’s view. We were thus advised to run. And so we did along the sniper alleys of the Iron Gate, back to the future from the siege of a city in a previous European war, two borders up, promised to be the last mass grave, the last stolen country.
Back to Bustan Al Qasr. Toni, the head of the AMC, proceeded to recount the real story, or history, of ISIS: “More and more Iraqi fighters were coming in, joining Al Nusra, sent in by Abu Baker Al Baghdadi to cause trouble, starting to interfere with people’s lives and kidnapping journalists. Baghdadi himself announced the merging of the State of Iraq with Syrian Al Nusra (the Sham); that made the Iraqi elements feel entitled to steal our weapons and money. Al Nusra’s high profile men lost control, and kept their head low, waiting for orders from their chief Al Golani, who declared he did not want to merge with Abu Baker and ISIS, however he did pledge allegiance to Al Zawahiri as a leader and a person, but not to Al Qaeda as the group. Al Zawahiri then disbanded the merger (we forgot to ask if he did encouraged it in the first place) and ordered Bahgdadi back to Iraq, and Golani to stay put, thus encouraging fighters to defect back from ISIS to Al Nusra. Baghdadi violated Zawahiri’s order and stayed in Syria, thus radicating terrorism in our Country.
Back to our rooms, we celebrated a long awaited trickle of water, tapping into the resource at a prodigious rate to fill a dozen bottles before it came to an end, and taking showers as if there was no tomorrow. Then by the light of the beam of the open mac book we went downstairs, mischievous kids popping out of dark corners, one of them pulling a serious kitchen knife out of the dark, all he had found to play with.
In the heyday of the Aleppo revolution, supper was extravagant even for spoiled western European standards: about twenty kids would take a break from laptopping the revolution, stand around a chairless table, stick their bumpy flat bread into tahini butter, made from freshly ground sesame, picking up roasted chicken with the folded circles, complaining that the cook wasn’t up to snuff, and wondering if I had a younger sister.
The first jihado nicknames however would start to bubble up on FB, and bad looking dudes in black with guns at the AMC gate, would gesture unfriendly to us “picture verboten”: the media center was soon to become an oxymoron for journalists, along with the fact that the regime, probably according to a “pattern of life behavior” had started to pick on us with what sounded like grad-thuds on our roof around 5 o’clock am.
But times were changing, as experienced by this writer, caught one morning inadvertently veilless at breakfast: veilless at breakfast is anathema enough in any Muslim country, even in tolerant not yet beard peaked Aleppo: Sami, our fixer, revealed that rumors had been circulating in the building about an undetermined number of wisps permanently poking out from under my hijab. The Administrator, look from jihadi central casting, disclosed a long buttoned up feeling, unbuttoned: he drew endless loops with his index finger around his face, meaning “the veil”, then he flashed his swinging open palms up at me, clearly conveying the international “that’s it” injunction. We were escorted to the available ramshackle car, Sami in the front seat, as an interpreter if needed. We drove up north 20 miles from Azaz, where we were courteously dumped at a bus stop, not in an unfriendly manner, bus fare to Kilis courtesy of the house. Sami ordered to write as soon as we had crossed the border, and I obliged to his 10 years older then real birthday Fb profile; he confirmed to my next fixer, that he “protected me as a woman in a warzone” and reiterated not to worry, it’s not uncommon that Syrian may be wary of journalists, even those who not so covertly root for the revolution.
Our contact in a Turkish city which cannot be named for his protection is Ammar Cheikh Ammar, a German/ Syrian army deserter become media darling, interviewed by the New York Times Soldier Says Syrian Atrocities Forced Him to Defect and by German television DW, presented by them as Omar Sheikh Ammar, and showing in the comments as, what else is new, “a Jew on the whorish media’s payroll”. He’s our liaison with Aya in Gaziantep, where the fashionable spaghetti straps of Istanbul and Antakya give way to non-sexual dark veils. She is with Nsaeem Syria FM, (a pro Revolution radio station), meaning “Gentle wind” and claims to be a part time fixer, having helped into Syria la crème de la crème of international journalism.
In her room, a blood type silver tag with the words Al-Tawhid, and Free Syrian Army, oddly engraved together, lay on her bedside table. In NPR Fresh Air, May 1st, 2013, https://www.npr.org/player/embed/179855633/180037134, New York Times correspondent J.C. Chivers described indeed the most effective Aleppo brigade as an Al Nusra affiliate. Whether this is the case or not, in Aleppo Al-Tawhid is considered mainstream even by the moderate opposition itself: “The FSA and Al Tawid are actually the same thing, in that Al-Tawhid operates under the umbrella od the FSA”, Anas Alhaj, with the Council of the Governatorate of Aleppo, will proudly explain later to us in Aleppo.
Aya never procured us a fixer, although she went on a shopping spree with the money we gave her so she could find us one.
Bab Al Salam
The Kilis crossing is actually at Bab Al-Salam, which is almost a proper border, in that one is not required to show a passport. We easily got a lift to Azaz,safe zone mainly because it’s “no Bashar”, having been liberated by the FSA in 2012 from the regime, taken by ISIS in Oct 2013, and reliberated by the FSA in Jan 2014. Our host is Ibrahim, a Syrian refugee at Kilis’container who occasionally goes back to Azaz to check his house: in the face of the warnings against the Shabiha, (Shia militias), the mukhabarat (secret government police), and ISIS, we took a cab to Azaz, no men with guns with us: that’s what ordinary people do in Bab Al Salam: the taxi drivers wait after the second Turkish Gomruk – the custom – clean shirts ironed just across the border, faces also shaved in Kilis. Ibrahim’s granite house is the color of warm curcuma, he built it and then abandoned it to save his life. Touching the warm stone, then jabbing at the air above with his hand, he reiterated “granite, granite!”, obviously for “money down the drain!”. He started the generator to give some power to our computers, then said he would take us to Aleppo.
In starving Aleppo, a fixer’s fee averages at a reasonable 75,00 dollars a day; the days of Misrata 2011, when the journalists were put up at the Gozelteek hotel, courtesy of the local media center, and the rebels in flip flops would pick up the freelancers hitchhiking to the Dafniya front line, seem like a fable. At the Karaj al-Hajez crossing, the rebels carry back from the regime area the body of a fighter, on a stretcher, into FSA controlled Bustan Al Qasr. The stretcher bearers pop up from around the separation barricade, a bullet ridden bright red bus. The man in the front has his hands taken, his arms stretched backwards, at once trying to dodge my camera by bending his shoulders, and carry the body in the back, thus making him so unbalanced, that he had to bring himself back up, his cry unwillingly straight up to the lens. I wished I could have told him I hated to do that.
After a day’s visit to Aleppo, Ibrahim had to go back to his house/container at Bab Al Salam, and since we turned out to be “mushkela” (trouble makers), for overtripping the shutter, we negotiated a fee to stay for three more days at his friends’: thereafter, we had to cross the border again in order not to abuse.
Kilis: we are still the only journalists even on the safe side of the border; on the semi touristic main, Ahmed Abu Faraj, – not his real name, you bet!- the unipole of power for the provocateurs this side of the border, and a decoy fixer himself in Kilis, waved at us but oddly stopped short of walking over, sending instead his promenade companion over to us, a naive looking US student who furtively inquired about our plans in Syria in order to get help “for his humanitarian project”.
Hotel Paris, basically a social housing for refugees; in the morning the manager would serve us his mobile along with chai: a voice in broken English, in the business of naming, spooking us, and framing us as personae non gratae to the opposition, would challenge us: “you can’t go to Syria, you are on the black list!”, probably purporting we were in bed with the same Shiites of Syria we ourselves were fighting, albeit by way of a different type of machines and firepower. Getting uncomfortable, we tried to move to the three stars Mertur, where the manager flashed his palms at us meaning “no vacancy”, albeit exuding sophistry, then moved on to check in the Syrian behind us. The man removed his sun glasses, he looked like Ahmed Abu Faraj. Determined to unmask the snooper who shared our political sympathies, we called the Turkish police, forgetful of their records with foreign journalists, let alone Turkish journalists. Trying to drum up support from the Turkish cops was not a good idea, the officers didn’t care that the man smacked of snooping on us, and that the hotel was so vehemently off limits for us. They wouldn’t care about the fact that the man who had just checked in, had messaged us from his “news media” FB page, his profile picture matching his ID, and that he had approached us claiming to be a fixer. They didn’t care that he didn’t engage with us down the street, and he was faintly aloof while smiling. Useless to look for help for feeling followed, we stayed unfazed, and messaged some FB “people we may know” in Aleppo, in order to get some badly needed ammo. They turned out to be, as per FB timeline, true members of the Council of the Governorate of Aleppo, among them Anas Alhaj, who singularly rescued us from Turkey into Syria. We paid for the rooms for our last night, which had become unbearably hot. The small window above the door in our own room was stuck, and we had to poke it open with a broom handle, thereby breaking it, and promptly paying the manager for the glass we owned: the same man, later on, reported to our agency that we had damaged the hotel, but we already knew there was no place to hide for us in Kilis.
In the morning, Anas and his FSA pick up easily got check point cred at the crossing, where it basically works by rolling down the window, saying who you are and who you know, and getting waved off, no particular vetting needed, let alone getting checked against a conjectural black list.
In the Aleppo countryside, we are Anas’s guests. He put us up on the whole top floor of his uncle’s typical northern Syrian affluent class mansion, the warm colored granite of the terrace exudes wealth, sadly I am not allowed to step out on it, not even with the veil. I am given a second skin to wear under my ankle long black dress, long enough to stumble on it, thus learning to live with the heat of Syria under my layers, out of respect for the Sunni of Syria. I said to Anas that I had no clue, before coming down here, of what the Sunni of Syria would be like, other that they were among the People of the East, who crossed the sea under the Roman empire to make a glorious melting pot of our Nation: they have a way of life influenced by the Sunnah, interlaced and tinged with a European flare: under Bab Al Adeed’s rubbles, amongst human detritus, a reporter recounted to have lifted a trembling stone to find Shakespeare’s scattered verses, wondering if the dead boy under the rubble nearby had been reciting them, interrupted. I told him that our people must have rubbed off on each other during the centuries, as my Syrian friends on FB call me “more Syrian than Syrians”, although they never met me.
Every morning, Anas would come to pick me up and drive me to different katiba, brigades of fighters under the same umbrella of the FSA, to visit who’s wearing the boots who are doing the work on the ground.
In a shack, in in the village of Tal Shaier, 15 km from Aleppo, we met Mr Kalid Alhaj, the chief of the katiba The Martyrs of Gaza, under the umbrella od the FSA. Behind a long white beard and a jihadi central casting look, his nom de guerre Lion’s heart, he’s the most tolerant man one would ever expect to meet in the pantheon of the jihadi. He demanded that we didn’t respect the ramadan and offered us “eariq alssus”, a drink with a taste of liquorice.
He then introduced us to his two wives, and his katiba, the “CIA backed rebels'”, in the full vest of gun clips, and that was it for their war armamentarium: their arsenal , the same AK47 and rpg, as in 2012, early Libyan revolution style. A beardless young rebel, formerly a disgruntled student, performed for us the throw of a hand grenade with a slingshot, sarcastically describing the device as the latest non lethal assistance being pumped from the US, along with MRE, meals ready to eat: Arming Syrian rebels: Where the US went wrong
”Mr Alhaj, do you believe in the conspiracy theory, widely spread among the opposition, that the US, having realized that they can’t decapitate Assad from power, a triangulator in the region who hasn’t bothered Israel for over 40 years, has agreed with Russia to let Syria destroy itself like the proverbial slowly boiling frog? Isn’t that a little far fetched, considering that it has been confirmed for over a year now, that the CIA is shipping arms to the opposition from Jordan?” “ Bashar Al Assad has sold Syria to Russia, but the real charade is from the US, because of their agreement with Russia: when the FSA has the upper hand, they reduce the help to the rebels, when the regime is gaining ground, they increase the support to the opposition”
“A few radical groups of the Aleppo opposition seem to feel obliged to justify atrocities by radical takfiri such as the shooting of the boy with the coffee cart who “would refuse to offer free coffee even to the Prophet”, and the killing of Mr Kamami, a commander of the FSA, at a check point of the State of Iraq and Sham, by affirming that he was a spy of the regime”.
“ The noble verses says that those who swear at God should be whipped on the back, not killed, and that all innocent lives are sacred and equal in Islam. There is no difference between the rich and the poor, the man and the woman, the free and the slave. All are equal in the eyes of Allah Almighty; Allah Almighty did order all Muslims to offer and make peace with the enemy whenever it’s possible”.
Back home, an email from our Registry, advised: “We are busy updating a few systems and processes including memberships. We have recently had some complaints about your conduct in the field. Having revised the details, we feel that you are not meeting the Code of Conduct you had signed up to when you joined the FFR, the reason being damaging a hotel room, and attempting to have a colleague arrested. As such, we think it best that we disable your membership for the time being”. After the “time being” we recontacted the Register for reapplication, whereby they advised that it was not a suspension, but a removal. Sami, our real fixer at the AMC, confirmed later on not to worry, that indeed foreign journalists in Syria are often suspected to be sleuths. Actually, in Syria, they just call us spies
I can tweet now but I might not do it forever. please save my daughter’s life and others. this is a call from a father.
I'd look into the pre-term babies being bombed but some chlorine gas got dropped on people tonight as well, so I have to pick which atrocity I spend the evening looking into. Hope it's the one people give a shit about!
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?
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.