Friday

26th Apr 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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."

Former CIA officer questions EU motives in Syria

EU and US intervention in Syria is designed to harm Iran and to protect Israel and Lebanese Christians, not Syrian people, according to Robert Baer, a retired CIA officer with experience of the region.

News in Brief

  1. EU: Russian citizenship plan 'attacks' Ukraine sovereignty
  2. Deutsche Bank hands over Trump loan documents
  3. UN: Europe is badly prepared for new refugee crisis
  4. Macron to set out 'Yellow vest' counter measures
  5. Italy requests EU action plan for new Libya migrant wave
  6. Far-right party leaders meet in Prague
  7. Priest shames politicians at reporter's funeral in Belfast
  8. Putin offers Russian citizenship to Ukraine regions

Opinion

Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all

The foreign affairs minister of Haiti calls for the replacement EU-Africa, Caribbean, Pacific 'Cotonou' agreement of 2000 to be updated to take account climate change, infrastructure and tourism to help the country transition away from aid-dependence.

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'
  2. Far-right Facebook networks removed before Spain election
  3. EU and Japan in delicate trade talks
  4. Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all
  5. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  6. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  7. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  8. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us