Friday, November 04, 2005

"Why Syrians Join the Jihad" by Abdullah Ta'i

Here are interviews carried out by Abdullah Ta'i with Syrians who went to fight in Iraq just before the American invasion. They explain the various reasons why young men went to fight. I would like to thank an anonymous donor who established the Apamea Fund to allow me to pay a modest sum to journalists such as Abdullah for their stories.

Sex and Terrorism
By Abdullah Ta’i

October 2005
Written for “Syria Comment” with the generous support of the Apamea Fund

Following September 11, American think-tanks devoted considerable expertise to looking for the roots of terrorism. They wanted to find out what motivates Jihadists and terrorists. Most came to the conclusion that ideology and religion are the main motivators to Jihadists. They focused on the “Salafi Jihadi Ideology”. However, I found out another reason behind terrorism and it might astonish as few. During my meetings with people, who returned to Syria from Iraq after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, I was struck that some did not explain that religion had propelled them toward Iraq. Instead, they said the reason was sex.

Abu Ya’arob, which is a pseudonym, is about 25 years old and comes from Raqqa. When I asked him: why did you go to fight in Iraq, he told me frankly: “my friends and I went to fight in Iraq because we thought we would find lots of sex there. People said that sex and prostitution are available in streets because of the poverty and disorder. We wanted to exploit that situation." Abu Ya’aroub is not a deep thinker; he doesn’t plan for the future; but he is not unusual among those who went to Iraq to find adventure.

He entered Iraq just before the fall of the government with a group of friends from Raqqa. The Iraq government put the newly arrived Jihadists up at a hotel in Baghdad. Aby Ya’arub said that while the religious members among the fighters prayed the morning prayer, he would stand on the balcony to look for girls and ask them to come to him. He believed they would say yes. He said he was very disappointed and upset to find that their was neither war nor sex in Baghdad. They saw one battle on the bridge of Diala. He fought in the battle and then fled when American planes began to bomb. He and his team were led by an Iraqi officer. He and his friends got bored after that – there was no war or sex. He often argued with his friends about returning to Syria. They didn’t want to leave until they had had sex. In the end, they had to admit defeat and left for Syria after 20 days in Iraq. They no longer had a place to stay once the regime fell and Iraqis began to look at them with hatred in their eyes. He never accomplished his goal of finding sex. He was very sad about that.

“We were disappointed because we did not find sex but found bullets and fire. I returned and my friends stayed and I did not know whether they found what they wanted or not,” he said.

“ I heard that my friends joined one of the Islamic malitias. One of them got married to an Iraqi woman. He settled in her town in Anbar province. He has a house and is being paid by the militia. I am happy to hear this news”, added Abu Ya’arob. “It was a fun adventure and we benefited from the experience.”

Abdullah Al-Ta'i

The Arrest of Hussein Al-Fayadh in Abu Kamal City on the Accusation of Terrorism
October 2005 for "Syria Comment"

The Syrian Intelligence arrested Hussein al-Fayadh in the city of Abu Kamal, situated on the Iraq border, during the first days of Ramadan this year. He was accused of working with terrorists and helping them to infiltrate into Iraq. Hussein al-Fayadh is 22 years old, a student of Damascus University in the school of Islamic Law. I got to know him in Damascus at university, because the students from Abu Kamal hung together. He is from a middle class family of the Mashahida tribe, which is a branch of the Agedat confederation. In university, he was well liked and was known as a moderate in his religious beliefs. Everyone was attracted to him. He was frank and courageous with a good reputation. He wore his beard long, but also let his hair grow long, making him unusual. He was a religious hippy, which caused him no end of troubles. He like to smoke a water pipe, listened to Iraqi music and loved all things Iraqi because he has many relatives in Iraq. Moreover, Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Kaylani, the founder of the Rifa’i Sufi order, was from Iraq, and Hussein was a Rifa’i.

He wore Afghani cloths, which become the fashion among religious youth in Syria after the war on Afghanistan. By donning Afghan garb, students demonstrated support for the resistance in Afghanistan. He also loved Saddam Hussein because he was a strong and courageous leader. Hussein thought Saddam embodied the spirit of Abu Kamal – the tribal and brave side of the people of Abu Kamal. He also considered women to be the authors of most problems in the world. He did not like the bourgeoisie of Damascus. He believed they were trying to show off and were materialistic and superficial. That was another reason he was well liked, because he was simple and frank in this outlook, and many of the students who came from the countryside and were not used to the wealth and pretenses of people from the big city, enjoyed the way he would mock the Damascenes.

He belonged to the Rifa’i Sufi order and hated the Salafis, as do most Sufis. In Abu Kamal there is a mosque named Umar Ibn Abdal-Aziz, which is the center of the Rifa’i order in the region. This is why Hussein was known as a moderate in his religious belief, but it didn’t mean he was not tough in character. Even Sufis volunteered to go to Iraq to fight against occupation and American conquest.

He joined the volunteers to fight in Iraq in 2003, at the very beginning of the war, and became the leader of a small group of fighters because he was educated and could plan. There were many young men there who were uneducated and didn’t know what to do with themselves, so he naturally became a leader. He went to Kirkuk in Mosul. Roughly two weeks after the fall of Baghdad, he was captured by the Kurdish Pesh Merga forces and delivered to the Americans. He spent 9 months in an Iraqi prison. He told me it was Abu Ghraib, but I am not sure whether to believe this. Most likely he was boasting. He said he was interrogated by American intelligence and by members of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence. When he returned to Syria, he was quickly arrested because by that time, the Syrian government had already imposed its policy of stopping all Syrians from volunteering in Iraq. He spent a further 6 months in prison. After being released, he was placed under surveillance and was frequently harassed by Syrian Intelligence. I spoke to him in Abu Kamal. He was frightened, and when I was sitting with him in shop where he worked, a member of the mukhabarat came in. My friend was courageous and said to the policeman, “Why are you constantly coming by to bother me.” The intelligence officer replied, “I am just trying to look after you and make sure you are OK.” Hussein responded to the intelligence officer, “No thanks, I would prefer to live without you coming to see if I am OK.”

Two weeks later, I called him and found out from his cousin that he was in prison. He was accused of belonging to al-Qa’eda. I interviewed Fayadh a few days before he was arrested, and he said, “The Syrian Intelligence is using me as a skate goat. They are submitting my case to the Bureau of International Terrorism. But they allowed me to go to Iraq during the war.” Since being arrested, Fayadh’s fate is unknown.

Abdullah Al-Ta’i
The case of Hussein al-Fayadh is fairly typical. For over a year, Syria has been cracking down on young men who traveled to Iraq to join the resistance, arresting many who manage to find their way back to Syria and harassing others. Rene Spitz, the First Secretary of Dutch Embassy in Damascus, who monitors human rights issues in Damascus told me that last week the State Security Court dealt with 30 cases. Twenty four of the accused were charged with belonging to al-Qa’eda. He said it was a fairly typical week. Syria claims to have detained over 1,500 potential Jihadists over the last year, many of which have been returned to their countries of origin. There is no reason to doubt these numbers. If we multiply 24 arrests a week by 50 weeks, we get 1,200 arrests. This includes just Syrians. Many other foreigners have been detained by the Syrian police.

Other verification that Syria has been cracking down on Jihadists, potential Jihadist, and members of Islamic groups is easily verifiable from police records. The Syrian Human Rights Information Link (SHRIL) website (Update news- 12/30-October- 2005), maintained by Razan Zeitouneh, a human rights advocate, has several news items posted this week laying out the record of arrests among the Islamic groups. They are charged at the State Security Court for belonging to al-Qa’ida or similar extremist groups. The following news item is typical:
According to the internet site “Elaph”, twenty-seven year old Qasim Bundqaji was released from Saydanaya Prison in early October of 2005 after a sixteen-month detention with twenty-six young men from the region of Qatana in the countryside of Damascus; they were accused of belonging to armed groups and attempting to travel in order to “fight the holy war” in Iraq, and were detained and accused without being sent off to the courts. The authorities released seventeen-year-old Ayham Amran about a month ago. Bundqaji told his family that he was happy in Saydanaya Prison after days of torture in the Palestine Branch belonging to military security. The families of the detainees confirmed that the authorities presented twenty-six prisoners to The State Security Court in Damascus.
The other groups that are being prosecuted or intimidated by the state are Kurds and human rights advocates. The latest target of intimidation is Anwar al-Bunni, who is Syria’s leading human rights lawyer.
Syria: Syrian human rights defenders under attack
Amnesty International is greatly concerned at the continuing harassment of human rights defenders in Syria. In the latest incident, Anwar al-Bunni, a lawyer and human rights activist, was attacked on 20 October in Damascus by three men on motorbikes who stopped him as he was travelling in his car. They dragged him from his car and assaulted him physically, leaving him bruised, and then sped off. In light of other harassment to which he has been exposed, it seems likely that this latest assault may have been ordered or carried out by state officials.


At 11/04/2005 10:33:00 AM, Blogger norman said...

To those who think Syria is the worst country in coruption please look at this website.

At 11/04/2005 10:36:00 AM, Blogger norman said...

that is an insult to islam and moslems ,it is like saying (American went to Afganestan to get free Herowen.

At 11/04/2005 11:54:00 AM, Blogger Yabroud said...


At 11/04/2005 02:02:00 PM, Blogger Syrian Republican Party said...

Kamal just called me to tell me the news--they want people to call the white house press office to get statements to spread the news.

Don't fall fo this scam.

At 11/04/2005 02:39:00 PM, Blogger DamasceneBlood said...

Spread the news, I met with the Prez of the US or one of his cronies. I am a very important person. I might become Syria's next king, err, president.

/this guy is lame. No wonder Syrian opposition is so non-credible.

At 11/04/2005 04:48:00 PM, Blogger sam said...

Detlif Mehlis report points toward Syria, as the most likely culprit, yet the beneficiary is Isreal, the only explanation would be , that the one who ordered this Hariri Murder is very stupid, so he doesnot deserve to be in the goverment. the only choice for Bashar is to change the subject, such as to start talking about uniting with another arabic country. otherwise the sledgehammer will fall over him and his family, the Syrian people should not pay for the stupidity of an official.

At 11/04/2005 09:30:00 PM, Blogger Joseph ALi Mohammed said...

I am disappointed in Kamal Labwani. I had no ide he was so cheap to ally himself with Dardary and Ghadban. These are the scums of Syria's society!


At 11/05/2005 04:12:00 AM, Blogger shamee27 said...

I cannot stop laughing(young Syrians went to Iraq for sex. Ha ha.
The guy who made this report is either blind or stupid.... or both.
You don't have to go and die in Iraq to get some sex. All you need to do is to go to Al-Marja, Barza or Jaramana and if you are Shia al set-zaynab, you can get cheap sex (don't ask me about the tariff because I have never been lol). MashaAllah, late King Asad I and his son after him turned a blind eye to the situation.

Shamee 27


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