Revolution Betrayed: Corrupt rebel leaders confiscate Syria
dream of freedom
Bitter Abu Mahmoud, respected rebel leader, accuses fellow
commanders of marring revolt through corruption.
By Herve Bar - ATME (Syria)
February 13, 2013 "Information
- "The real revolution in Syria is over, we have been
betrayed," laments a bitter Abu Mahmoud, a respected rebel
leader, accusing fellow commanders of marring a "beautiful"
revolt through corruption.
"Our beautiful revolution has been confiscated by thieves
and corruptors," Abu Mahmoud says as he struggles to hide
his bitterness at the way the revolt against President
Bashar al-Assad's regime is being fought these days.
Some rebel leaders have "enriched (themselves) shamefully at
the cost of true revolutionaries who die on the front line,"
Abu Mahmoud's remarks confirm growing reports of looting and
corruption by leading insurgents in rebel-controlled areas
of strife-torn Syria.
Speaking from his home in the town of Atme -- a key rebel
rear base on the border with Turkey -- Abu Mahmoud says he
now watches his back, taking his Kalashnikov with him when
he heads out "chopping wood or grazing goats in the
Rebel fighters who took up arms against Assad's forces in
the initial days of the rebellion are increasingly
abandoning their fight, frustrated at the level of
corruption in their leadership, he says.
"These so-called commanders send us to die and they
themselves stay behind to make money. They don't come to the
front line to fight and yet they are the ones who are
heading the rebellion," complains Abu Mahmoud.
"Wherever they go, they rob, they steal whatever they can
carry and sell it illegally in Turkey -- be it cars,
electronic goods, machines, fuel, antiques, anything you can
Abu Mahmoud cites the names of a dozen commanders from the
rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) -- the main group fighting
Assad's forces -- who he says are engaging in such practices
in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.
One officer, whose unit of around 100 fighters is reputed
for "raids" on abandoned apartments in Aleppo, has sold
"arms, cars and even his office in the border town of Bab
al-Hawa" to build two beautiful homes and marry a third
Abu Mahmoud also tells of a former craftsman from Atme who
was broke before the uprising but who now controls a fleet
of luxury cars through assisting the FSA in coordinating its
logistics and moving internally displaced people.
"The problem is that a lot of these officers are getting
Abu Mahmoud, a former regime officer in his 30s who defected
to the rebellion, is now chief of "Battalion 309", a unit of
35 men staying in tents in the olive groves.
He is known for his honesty and his fighters praise him for
his courage and modest lifestyle -- evident from his old and
rickety 4X4 vehicle.
His tiny group of fighters have fought almost everywhere in
the region, most recently in Aleppo -- a fierce battleground
since last July.
"We fought with only seven Kalashnikovs that were taken from
the enemy," says a proud Abu Mahmoud.
"My men took turns in groups of seven on the front line," he
says, adding that three of them were killed over the past
He said his group used to receive some money from Mustafa
Sheikh, a former head of the FSA but this support has now
"On the front line we got some ammunition from officers but
no weapons or money. We were being sent like sheep to be
slaughtered. And we had nothing to eat," says a
disillusioned Abu Mahmoud.
"Who are we fighting for? For our country? Or for those who
steal from Syrians and quietly climb the ladder of the
Abu Mahmoud has refused to integrate his battalion with
other rebel units.
"I did not find any honest (group) that suited me," he says,
questioning even the ideology of jihadists who have been
launching some of the most brutal attacks on regime forces.
"I have a problem with the Islam that comes with these
people. It is not the Islam that I know," he says,
questioning the identity and the political agenda of the
Some of his men have left him while others are "working in
the village", he says.
"Today we are here but our heart is at the front," says the
chief of Battalion 309.
"We have abandoned the revolution but the revolution will
not (abandon) us. That day may come when the hour of
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