- By Kiran Randhawa
The pair, both 19, of Syrian descent and born in west London, told their families they were going on holiday. Instead they received the briefest of training in how to fire a gun and are now members of a rebel unit in Al-Rab, just outside Aleppo.
They said they wanted to persuade other young British men to join them. “We felt very strongly that we should join the fight, that this was something we just had to do,” said Abu Musef, who asked for his real name not be used.
“Inside Syria, you’ve got bombs dropping on you like rain but you know you are doing the right thing because you’ve got little children in this situation next to you.”
His friend, Abu Omar, who is also using a false name, said the violence in Syria was constantly discussed in their homes and that those who left Syria for Britain are “devastated” by it.
He said: “It just felt like a cause that we could believe in. Because you know in London people don’t really care about things. In Syria we aren’t fighting for flash cars or big homes. We are fighting for freedom.” Abu said the pair joined a unit affiliated to the Free Syrian Army and were given a few minutes training on how to fire a gun.
The teenagers plan to return to London to go to university but Abu added: “If I met another London boy who wanted to go I would ask this, ‘Is your Arabic any good? Do you have money to pay your way there? And, do you believe in the cause?’ If he said yes to all of that I’d tell him to go.”
The United Nations estimates that more than 18,000 people have been killed in what has become a civil war after the state’s violent response to peaceful street protests triggered an armed rebellion.
Clashes broke out in Damascus today as Syrian government forces fired mortar rounds on rebel positions in what they described as some of the heaviest fighting in the capital this month.
The violence coincided with the departure of United Nations monitors whose mandate has expired. Government forces fired from the Qasioun mountain overlooking Damascus, activists said. Southern suburbs echoed with the sound of gunfights between the army and rebels.
More than 250 people, including 171 civilians, were killed across Syria yesterday, mostly around Damascus, Aleppo and the city of Deraa.
Source: Evening Standard