Interview with Ahm, Syrian

Ahm (false name) is a Syrian muslim from Aleppo. In part one of this discussion, we discuss the situation surrounding the Turkey / Syria region in late 2014 and the geopolitics behind the actions and motivations of different groups in the region. Transcript and audio below.

Transcript (edited for clarity):

01:08 It’s a promise from Turkey — they are asking the Kurds to do it, they stopped leading themselves in the defense area, stop that, stop any targeting against Turkey, or any problem that they make for the police or the… 

01:32 The YPG?  That’s what Turkey is asking the YPG to do?

01:32 YPG or PKK or whoever, the are asking some of the Kurdish leaders.

01:42 Have the Kurdish armed wings attacked Turkey’s military? 

01:50 They still have some fight before, on the mountain, but now I don’t think because part of the fighters went to Kobane.

01:58 Do you feel that ISIS is uniting Kurds and Turks?

02:02 They will never be united, Kurds and Turks. 

02:13 Do you think this will bring them closer together?  This common enemy?

02:15 Even if Turkey makes villas for the Kurds, they don’t like them.

02:20 Give it a hundred years.

02:25 Maybe more.

02:25 No one’s…you’re not hearing a lot about the problems with Turkey and Kurdistan anymore.  You’re hearing about the problems with Kurds and ISIS and you’re hearing about Turkey taking the Kurds…

02:40 That’s the new strategy.  How you can put your enemy under your merciful hand you know?  Like “now, we are merciful with you, you don’t need to make any problem for me. We are helping you.  You want to come kill me when I receive you in my country?”  It’s a new tactic.

03:05 How do you feel about…are you…what’s your lineage? Are you Syrian?

03:15 Yes, Syrian Muslim. 

03:19 How do you feel the Kurds and the Turks as people, from your point-of-view, growing up, dealing with them your whole life? 

03:29 Our life that started normally…we have different religions in our life.  In Syria you can find a tenth of the religions…we have the Shias, Kurds, Alawite, Druze, **inaudible**, Mullishdi, Samaolli, **inaudible** Yazidi, it’s, different religions.

03:50 Yazidi Christians?

03:52 Yazidi are part of Christian and part of Kurds.  Same on as in Iraq.

04:00 Aren’t they trapped on a mountain [right now]?

03:59 Yes, in Sinjar.

04:02 But, I mean, in Syria before the revolution, like in one building, you could find like five or six families in different religions.

04:06 And it was fine?

04:09 It was ok, we don’t speak about religions, we are friends. Until now I had Alawite friends and some Christian and some Kurds, but the Alawite friends — we never speak about the political.  When we speak about the political we will lose each other.  We keep the political away and we speak about the normal life we have.  I know them before six years.  Don’t need to lose them for different points in the mind.

04:38 What changed that relationship — the peaceful coexistence?

04:48 The Alawites and the Shia and the supporters of Bashar al-Assad, they have *inaudible*… the Muslims, the Kurds and the Christians between both of them — the Sunni or Muslims and Kurds are together but in some areas they don’t fight together against the regime, like **inaudible inshif-mahshud ** is controlled by Kurdish people but they don’t fight against Assad, they support the in the area…the said to the Free Syrian Army, if you want to attack, we can let you go through our area and continue to fight, but we will defend our area.  If you attack us we will defend.  If the regime attacks us we will defend.  Some areas, like in Kobane before, FSA asking a lot of times to make united between the Kurdish brigades and FSA brigades.  Kobane was a supporter of the revolution but they were working alone.  And now in this problem they have, I think they start to ask FSA why they didn’t tell us.  And it’s not a good question to ask if you weren’t united.

06:06 How do you feel about the Free Syrian Army?

06:07 We still have some honorable people, if we didn’t have them we would lose all parts of Syria.  Like in Darayya yesterday they raided the highest mountain, it’s called Tell al-Hara.  I read about some news yesterday, Israel news, it spoke about Tell al-Hara, the one that was raided by FSA.  They said that “in the 70s, when we had fight with Syria, the war with Syria in 73, we were using 3000 soldiers from the Israeli army to attack that mountain, and FSA took it with 400 soldiers.”

07:07 Well look at the Iraqi army, how many of them…

07:15 Iraqi army is just model army.

07:15 I know, they ran away.

07:16 Ordered to run away.

07:19 Is that right? 

07:29 You can imagine 37,000 heave weapons with ammunition, if they open fire against 3000 for one hour they would kill all of them.  All 37,000 they shoot at the same time they can destroy a city, but there is some order to leave everything — all the munitions all the cars all the humvees all the mortars, all the howitzers EDIT OUT you know HOWITZERS YES.  They had to leave them and just go away.  I can show you videos, some soldiers just escape.  No fighting, no clashes.  Just escape.  In Mosul, second biggest area in Iraq, taken by hours?  There are some plans made to give the weapons to ISIS.

08:18 You think that ISIS has contacts in the Iraqi government that are helping them, or do you think it’s something else?

08:31 I can speak freely?

08:35 Sure.

08:35 For me, not for you as American, we are friends *laughs”. But I speak about the political.  I believe, that who make Taliban first time, he can make other ISIS and hundreds of ISIS.  You remember who made Taliban movement in Afghanistan?  EDIT. The CIA.  They spoke about it, “we made them”.  Hillary Clinton said, “we made them”.  It’s not that secret you know.  

09:06 ISIS has a lot of former Saddam Hussein  military inside.

09:18 The leading of ISIS is by former Saddam Hussein, yes.

09:21 Look, the fighter who want to come from away, the man in **inaudible Myrcea**, he can explain to you how the plan is coming, I don’t think the CIA or the other intelligence services around the world are stupid.  Everyone who went to Turkey, they know what he was going to do.  As you, you are going as a journalist, you have your camera, you have your paper, you have everything you need.  The fighter, he went as a tourist.  And you can imagine, traveling from America to Turkey without any problem.  Even at the airport, maybe for you, holding all this stuff, the camera, you have a problem, but when he went, he had nothing.  All his stuff – waiting for him there.  Went from Istanbul.  From Istanbul you can find them near Taksim, you can find them walking with long hair, long beard.  No one can stop them.  No one can ask them, “what are you doing here”?  He’s free.  One time there were two young guys who were wearing the flag of ISIS on a T-shirt, and they were walking in Istanbul, and the Turkish intelligence cannot stop them.  It’s freedom — as there are some people carrying the flag of gays, you know, it’s freedom. My point is you can come from Europe to Turkey and I can take you to some area that you can go from there to Syria without any border, without any Turkish soldiers, without any…

11:13 It’s a huge border…

11:14 It’s 560 kilometer I think.

11:21 That’s a lot of road to patrol.

11:20 There is one area, there is 6 kilometer, no one soldier.  And just 20 meter to go to Syria inside.  And the other areas are ISIS.  Controlled by ISIS.  And when we ask some guys they ask us, “do you want to go inside”?  I was working with the last journalist, he said “no not now”.  We ask what about ISIS members [who cross here]?  He said “Ahhh!  They’re our brothers.  Yesterday, three of them went through with big families.

11:54 The ISIS members had families [crossing the Turkish border into Syria?]

11:59 Sure.  70% of them have families.  The biggest number of families are the British [ISIS members] who have big families with them, and the Chechneans.

12:15 Did you say the British?

12:15 The British.

12:15 But there aren’t that many.

12:15 No they have some…

12:20 There are about 500, right?

12:19 Near 500, yes.

12:21 How do you feel about ISIS?

12:28 Now or before *laughs*?

12:27 Both — what do you mean before, when is before?  What is before, after — what’s the center?  What’s before and after?

12:38 As the went before, to make justice and rules.  In the beginning of our revolution, we asked for support from all the world but we didn’t get it.

12:51 Your revolution against Assad.

12:51 Yes.

12:51 We didn’t have it.  We asked America, NATO, Europe, Arab people, no one helped.

13:01 NATO is not going to do a thing.

13:01 I know.  We don’t have oil.  The first journalist I was working with I told her [at least a year ago], we don’t have terrorist groups.  We don’t have Islamic groups now.  I think it’s the perfect time to support us.  As you said, we support Taliban, and they turned against us.  We don’t need other Taliban in Syria.  But we don’t have Islamist now.  We are defending our revolution, for ourselves — the Regime is killing us.  She say “Ah!  I don’t know what will happen.”  I told her next year, you will find extremists in Syria and Islamists in Syria, and the other next year he went and he saw Al-Nusra, which was the first brigade that went to Syria.  Al-Nusra have a lot of public people….because Al-Nusra from the beginning who were supporting the Syrian people.  And Al-Nusra was supported by Islamic State in Iraq.  It wasn’t Iraq and Syria.   Also by Al-Baghdadi.