At first they served the regime, but now they are fighting against it. Operating out of southern Turkey, units of the Free Syrian Army, driven by hatred toward Assad, are infiltrating their home country and fighting soldiers loyal to the dictator.
Schafik, a 20-year-old who prefers not to provide his real name, is last in the rebel chain of command. Until about four weeks ago, he served in Syrian dictator Bashir Assad's army. As a soldier, he had been ordered to fire on men, women and children demonstrating against the regime. Now, he's waiting for orders to fight against his former comrades-in-arms.
Before the Arab Spring arrived in Syria a little over a year ago, Schafik was a simple electrician. Then, one Thursday in April 2011, he entered the army to complete the military service required of all Syrian men. "Don't kill anyone," his father said before he left, and Schafik was determined not to. Back then, he was just thinking about making it through and going back to his girlfriend of three years. He was confident she would wait for him.
Not much changed when Schafik went from being a civilian to a soldier. While serving under Assad, he was still repairing cables, laying power lines and installing sockets. What was different now was that he was wearing a uniform, sleeping in a barrack, waking up at 6 a.m. and practicing marksmanship.
For more: The Free Syrian Army Front: Deserters Battle Assad from Turkey - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International