Wednesday

8th Feb 2023

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Opinion

Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'

The scars of Brexit have left their mark in communities across Wales. The Menai mussel industry has experienced a sharp decline having once been a staple in fish counters and restaurants across Europe; its business model wrecked by post-Brexit rules.

Opinion

The return of Lula means now is the time for EU-Mercosur deal

The EU must realise the need for a trade agreement with Mercosur. The timing has never been better. The recent election of the president of Brazil, Lula da Silva, marks a fresh start to move forward on the Mercosur Agreement.

Latest News

  1. Polish MEP also went on freelance Azerbaijan trip
  2. Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue
  3. Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'
  4. MEPs to vote on risky 'hydrogen for home heating' rule
  5. The man who won't stop filing info requests until every EU doc is public
  6. EU hands Libya coast guard boats ahead of migration summit
  7. Eleven suicides daily — Spain's not-so-silent pandemic
  8. The return of Lula means now is the time for EU-Mercosur deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWWEU Social Dialogue review – publication of the European Commission package and joint statement of ETUFs
  2. Oxfam InternationalPan Africa Program Progress Report 2022 - Post Covid and Beyond
  3. WWFWWF Living Planet Report
  4. EFBWWEFBWW Executive Committee report on major abuses, labour crime and subcontracting
  5. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  6. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us