Monday

5th Dec 2016

Syrian rebel officer: 'Why isn't Europe helping us?'

  • Al-Hamoud: 'They are afraid of what will come after, an Islamist government or civil war' (Photo: Travel Aficionado)

As the EU stops sales of perfume and truffles to Syria, one officer in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) wonders why it is doing so little to really help.

EU ministers imposed the ban on luxury goods at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (23 April). Based on a list drawn up for North Korea in 2007, it includes art and race horses, as well as perfume, truffles and fancy glassware.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

British foreign minister William Hague admitted it is "obviously not as important" as previous measures, such as last year's oil embargo, let alone potential ones - such as military assistance to rebels.

In a sign of how the truffle ban might be seen by the Syrian opposition, one rebel officer - lieutenant Khaled al-Hamoud - recently told this website he is worried the West is preparing to do a deal with President Bashar al-Assad.

"If European politicians are thinking or hoping that al-Assad will resist, it will never happen. Al-Assad will fall," he said.

"Why aren't Europeans demonstrating in the streets to stop these crimes and to condemn European politicians? If some elephant is killed it is more important than Syrian people who are being killed every day," he added, referring to last week's media outcry on the King of Spain's hunting escapades.

Al-Hamoud spoke to EUobserver on 18 April by phone from a secret location near Lattakia, in north-west Syria.

The 37-year-old paratrooper was initially assigned to guard the airport in Damascus. He said his unit became caught up in the killing of civilians and that he fled to Turkey in October when superiors found out he was smuggling arms to rebels.

He added that he went back into Syria to "kill or capture" serving officers. But the FSA told him to halt operations due to the recently-agreed UN ceasefire plan and he is now gathering names of officers involved in ceasefire violations instead.

"They are still bombarding people. We raised the independent Syrian flag up high in one place to see how they would react and five tanks opened fire," he said.

He denied reports that Nato powers France, Turkey, the UK and the US, or anti-Syrian Gulf states such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are helping to equip and train the FSA.

"Nobody is helping us at all ... the Turks arrest anybody they find who is carrying even a little gun. There are no foreign soldiers, no Libyan fighters. The only foreign fighters in Syria are [Lebanese militants] Hezbollah fighting with the regime and [Iraqi cleric] Muqtada al-Sadr's people fighting with the regime."

With Tuesday's EU communique also urging rebels to create "an all-embracing opposition platform," Al-Hamoud showed the level of mistrust between rebel factions. "The SNC [Syrian National Council] is infiltrated by [Assad ally] Iran. The biggest mistake the West could make is to rely on the SNC," he said.

He noted Western concerns that if the Sunni Muslim opposition gains power it will harm minorities such as Christians or regime-allied Alawite Muslims.

"They are afraid of what will come after, an Islamist government or civil war. But this is propaganda by the Syrian regime. We want to live in peace with everybody. We want democracy and we want to live in dignity ... Religion is for God and Syria is for everybody," he said.

Asked if an FSA-led Syria would make peace with Israel, he answered: "For me, I am tired of this resistance against Israel. Our main concern is to rebuild our country from within and to live in peace with everybody."

Commission won't call Castro a dictator

The EU executive says that a statement decribing the former Cuban leader as a "hero for many" is balanced and suggests that the use of the word dictator by a commissioner doesn't reflect its position.

News in Brief

  1. Idea of road transport agency gains momentum among MEPs
  2. EU dismisses euro crisis risk after Italian referendum
  3. Italy result poses no risk to the EU, Sapin says
  4. EU asked to clarify links to Iran executions
  5. Italian economy minister tipped as caretaker PM
  6. EU tells US tech giants to act faster against hate speech
  7. Iceland's Pirates in bid to form government
  8. Danes are the happiest workers, study says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  2. CESICESI Congress Focuses on Future of Work, Public Services and Digitalisation
  3. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  4. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  5. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  6. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  7. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First
  8. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  9. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  10. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Transport and Mobility in Rome
  11. SDG Watch EuropeCivil Society Disappointed by the Commission's Plans for Sustainable Development Goals
  12. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhD Positions Open – The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU (PLATO)