Official Letter From The Free Syrian Army (FSA)
My fellow “Free Syria” activist and I have been following the situation in Syria closely for a long time. I can’t tell you how many countless man-hours over the last few years I have spent researching the situation in Syria. From that time I have been a supporter of the Free Syrian Army and have continually defended them from people who unjustly blamed them for war crimes and crimes against humanity that happened in Syria. These crimes were often internationally proven to have been committed by the Assad regime, but people with malicious agendas tried to pin the blame on the FSA. These people simply did not know what they were talking about and were getting their information from the likes of Assad propagandist, Russia, and the right-wing extremist talk show host Alex Jones. I can’t fully express how disheartened I have been with all the misinformation and false propaganda that has been spread about the Free Syrian Army and their allies in Syria. Between my fellow activist and myself I can’t tell you how much of our time was devoted to research just to disprove the lies and half-truths out there.
First and foremost let us clear one thing up the FSA and (IS, ISIS, ISIL) are not affiliated with each other in any way. Moreover they are considered enemies to the FSA and they have fought them and their affiliates on the battlefield many times over the course of this war. In recent times the Free Syrian Army has been having to focus more on fighting such extremist groups as those groups have expanded into suburbs and regions within Syria. This has taken FSA’s and other more moderate forces’ focus off of Assad and allowed his regime to recapture more territory. Worse yet at the same time groups like ISIS have also expanded their territory. This has left the FSA and the more moderate of the Islamist groups caught in the middle fighting these two evils. This is not to mention Iranian and Hezbollah fighters that have acted as mercenaries for the regime. The moderate middle has been shrinking in Syria on the battlefield for some time as the two tyrannies of the regime and extremist have been gaining. This has left the Free Syrian Army in the perilous position of being pursued and murdered by both sides of this dual tyranny.
The Free Syrian Army is the oldest, most organized, and professional army among the more moderate forces in Syria. Notice I said more moderate, as moderate means different things to different people. They have often teamed up on the battlefield with the more moderate of the Islamist groups fighting on the battlefield. This was done for strategic purposes as ISIS and the regime are too powerful to be fought by the FSA alone. Their size has been decreasing as they have been killed by the regime and extremist forces, Islamist groups have made gains in new young recruits, and finally some of the Free Syrian Army soldiers leaving the FSA to join mostly moderate Islamist forces. Lets face it they have also been greatly neglected by the United States and other Western supporters, in spite of promises for large increases of assistance up until now. This has been most unfortunate as the Free Syrian Army is the most pro-Western, secular, and moderate group fighting in Syria. Though a more accurate portrayal may be more pro-Western, more secular, more moderate group among the more moderate groups in Syria. The FSA is an army we should support in our effort in Syria as they are among the only friends we have in Syria.
None of this is to say to the FSA are boy scouts, they are battle hardened fighters who at times have crossed over ethical, moral, and legal lines. Sure people can demonize them for this, but I ask them have not even our own Western troops crossed over some lines as well over the years? Long, hard-fought wars, tend to test the nature of men and as we are all painfully aware that nature has a dark side. I am in no way being an apologist for the Free Syrian Army nor have I ever been. I have always held them to the same standard as any other foreign army. That standard is there is something called basic human rights, international law, and the laws of war that must be adhered to as best as possible even in wartime. When those standards are violated people and groups must be held to account and internationally criticized for those actions. I have praised the FSA when I felt they deserved praise and have criticized them when I felt their actions deserved criticism. I am in no way talking down to them, only mean to say I have not hesitated to speak truthfully my opinions about the Free Syrian Army. Overall I see the Free Syrian Army as worthy of our support in spite of some of the wrongs they have committed in the past.
A significant minority in Syria are mostly pro-Western, quite secular, modestly liberal, significantly pro-democracy, and basic human rights supporters that we in the West would prefer to work with. I have met several who are of that minority in the course of my activism. They were all under 35, spoke English well, intelligent, knowledgeable, polite, technologically savvy, and were very good at social networking and getting their message out. I found them to be more mature than most in the West of the same age range. I talked online to this one activist in Syria who I figured to be at least 30 judging by how well written, informed, intelligent, and mature she seemed. She knew the situation in Syria as well as any expert I have heard on the subject. Later she volunteered that she was 16. I imagined before I was talking to some professional and long-time activist; it was surprising and unexpected. She told me earlier she was living in Syria with her family, that her brother was killed, that Assad’s soldiers nearly raped her sister and her after they forced their way into her family’s home, and how she felt like crying everyday because of what was happening to everyone around her. Thus when I learned she was only sixteen, her story broke my heart even more. I talked to several other Syrians both still living in Syria and as refugees in surrounding Countries; all had a lot they had to overcome and all made an impression on me. It opened up my eyes to how these younger Syrians were not that much different from younger people in the West. At the same time much more mature and knowledgeable than most of their Western peers. This showed me a face of Syria that is rarely shown in the media. It also gave me hope for the future of Syria.
The idea that Syrians are mostly religious zealots, that hate America, and all things Western could not be further from the truth. Even ISIS arguably the most anti-Western of all the groups in Syria is actively using Western technology and social networks to disseminate its message to the world. Yes ISIL is using them for evil purposes, but the fact they are using them at all shows how much influence the West and it’s culture has in Syria even among the most extremist hardliners of the population. As far as everyday Syrians you will find them all over the internet and social networks, many speaking English. You will find some in person with cell phones, wearing t-shirts and jeans, watching Western media, and sounding not that different from many Westerners. The fact is groups like ISIS may be growing on the battlefield but they have support of only a small fraction of the Syrian population. Most Syrians want the same thing we want in the West; to live, to be free, to love, to laugh, to cry, to be a human being. My love for the Syrian people has only grown in time. Their determination to go on in spite of all the evil and hardship that surrounds them every single day of their lives, has helped inspire me to go on. They are an inspiration to myself and countless others around the world. They deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They do not deserve the fate that has befallen them. They deserve our respect, love, and support. We must continue to help the Syrian people both in a humanitarian sense and militarily. They have suffered too long, been ignored too long, have been forgotten when they needed us the most. My only goal for supporting more action in Syria is for the people of Syria to have a better life. Assad’s regime and ISIL: As long as they are hurting Syria and tearing it apart, there will never be peace in Syria. Let us as a world finally help bring justice for Syria and the Syrian people and ultimately towards a chance of at least some peace.
Wishing For A Free Syria,
Alan Curtis Montgomery – Founder and Editor of The World Human Rights Blog