Below is a conversation with a fighter who said he would be defecting from the Syrian Army the following day. We speak at a house in the Latakia mountains, where FSA fighters have gathered for dinner.
I was at Damascus Airport, working inside. I was security. Before that, I was stationed in Mer. Our leader asked me to move to the airport, where more people were needed to run the security checkpoints. There are security checkpoints around the airport, going out about two kilometers. So I was there.
I stayed with the Syrian Army for two years. It was required. Now they’re killing kids and families, so I felt I had to defect. I’ve felt that way for a long time. The problem was my family — if I had defected, the soldiers would have come and taken my brother, my parents. They are in Latakia.
Now I’ve taken five days’ approved vacation from the army. But I’ve really defected. It’s the fourth day of my vacation, the last day is tomorrow. So technically, I’m not a defector until tomorrow. Today I could go to a regime checkpoint and be fine, probably until tomorrow. After that, it would be bad.
My family is with the revolution. I’m a Sunni from Latakia City. My family knows I am leaving the army. My father is happy. He’ll take the risk to his own security, knowing his son is now FSA.
The officers watch us [in the army.] We can never make calls, they’re always asking who you’re calling. The family was upset that I was with Assad, and they were worried for my safety.
[Before this conversation, News Deeply spoke to a 20-year-old who had defected from nearby Sulas military base the previous day, profiled here.
He concurred on poor treatment of army soldiers by their superiors: "Ninety to 95 percent of the soldiers there will be with the FSA. There are 75 shabiha there and 25 soldiers. Someone checked what I was doing at all times, -- sometimes he checked my phone and messages to make sure I was only calling my family. We each had a personal shabiha minder. For the last month, they've been very kind, giving us food. before that, they would punch us and we got very little food. They are treating us well now because they want us to stay with them. They are scared to lose more people. But everyone still wants to defect. They know that, and they're playing with us."]
I had friends who were in the FSA while I was in the army, but they weren’t upset. They knew I wanted to defect. Fadi [the FSA fighter who owns the house we're sitting in] is my cousin.”
Fadi: I felt happy when he left.
News Deeply: Were you angry with him in the past?
Fadi: [Laughs.] You are right.