Syrian Army deserter: 'We were ordered to shoot on the people'
Darwish Mohammed Fidou deserted his unit after he was given orders to fire directly on civilians. His story bolsters growing reports of dissent within Syria's military.
Amid the gathering human toll of Syria's three-month rebellion, a rare interview with one deserting soldier may appear little more than a footnote.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Fidou was part of a military unit ordered to fire on protesters in the city of Homs, who refused and then deserted, taking part in antiregime protests in the northwest town of Jisr al-Shughur.
As he escaped the violence there last week, he says he witnessed soldiers shooting at each other, an Army divided further by orders to kill demonstrators.
“My heart is broken to watch my people die, the Syrian people die, to see such a thing as this,” says Fidou. “It was the same when I had orders to shoot on the people – it broke my heart.”
'Cows killed, harvest burnt'
Syria has effectively banned all foreign reporters from the country, making it impossible to verify Fidou's claims.
But already 7,000 Syrians have crossed the border into Turkey in the past week, fleeing before a Syrian military advance to avenge the deaths of 120 police and security forces in Jisr al-Shughur.
The town fell with little resistance, and refugees and Turks living along the border say the offensive has spread to a string of villages around the town.
“The cows were killed, the harvest was burnt,” says a young Turkish man who gave only his first name of Ali, who has traveled with a video camera to the contested areas in recent days and witnessed the onslaught. His footage has been running on Turkish news channels.
In one house with “blood all over the walls,” says Ali, “we couldn’t breathe” because of the stench of bodies of three men, eight women, and three boys.
Syrian military helicopters spotted Ali’s group, and one member was killed – struck in the head by rounds from the helicopter – as they ran for seven hours trying to hide. He witnessed first the tanks firing upon the houses, “then the Army troops were coming and were burning everything.”
Reservist called up for duty, ordered to shoot people
It was this kind of anticivilian action that soldier Fidou, in his early 20s, refused to perpetrate. Of slight build and with a thin beard, Fidou wears tennis shoes dirty from a long journey.
In his pocket he carries a carefully folded document, proof that he completed his mandatory military service in 2008 in Jisr al-Shughur.
As a reservist he was called up in April – not long after the Syria’s uprising began against the dictatorial rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
Fidou reported for duty and says he was given 15 days training in riot control techniques. He was then deployed to Homs, where his unit was ordered to fire directly on civilians to put down unrest.