Interview with 'defected Syrian army soldier'

Reportedly defected soldier denies presence of armed gangs fighting regime and says he had orders to fire at civilians.

    International rights and advocacy group Avaaz has obtained videos apparently showing members of Syria's security forces giving in-depth interviews on the reasons for their defection.

    The men confirm they had orders to shoot on unarmed civilians and deny the presence of the 'armed gangs' and 'terrorist groups' the regime has said are driving the unrest in Syria.

    Al Jazeera has translated the video above and interviewed Avaaz about its veracity.

    Avaaz the assured that channel the video was shot by credible citizen journalists working with the organisation since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, but Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the authenticity of the footage.
    Interviewer: This is non-conscripted Sergeant Ali Hassan Satouf from Sahl al-Ghab [the countryside between Hama and Idleb on the Assi river]. He defected from the army and here are the details.

    Soldier: "I'm Sergeant Ali Hassan Satouf. My military number is 467 852 and this is my military ID. I took the order to go to Baniyas city to face terrorist armed groups coming from outside Syria, terrifying the people.

    And theoretically we were going to protect the people in Baniyas and nearby villages against these terrorist gangs.

    When we went to Baniyas we didn't find any terrorist groups. We found only some peaceful demonstrations.

    Some of them were demonstrations by women and others by youth and men and children. Some of the youths were with bare chests and all the chants were for freedom and reforming.

    We headed to the village of Kalaa al Marqab to face a terrorist group. We'd been told that in that village there were 6,000 armed fighters with sophisticated weapons and that they were gathering there.

    So we'd been asked to search that neighbourhood, to surround the village and search it, but we didn't find any fighters nor armed people nor any weapons at all.

    We only found employees of the Pubic Institution for Antiquities, and the soldiers beat the employees.

    After breaking into Kalaa al Marqab we went down to search al Marqab village so we found there women demonstrators and some men demonstrators and among them youth and children with bare chests.

    And we had the order to open fire. We had searched the village and some army members did some acts of sabotage, breaking in and stealing private property like mobile phones.

    And they did material damage to the place. They broke in and we arrested a big number of the residents.

    Interviewer: Who gave you the order to open fire?

    Soldier: On our way out from al Marqab village we had the prisoners and we faced a demonstration by women and the reason why we faced the women demonstrators is because we had took the men from Marqab village.

    We heard the order to open fire when some of the women targeted the cars with the prisoners in with stones. In response to that stone throwing the order came from inside one of those cars. The order came from Lieutenant Colonel [inaudible] Ismael.

    He ordered us to open fire on the women demonstrators and here we had a massacre and four women were killed. And then we went on to break into Baniyas city because they told us that the armed gangs entered Baniyas from al Marqab village.

    But the demonstrations were peaceful and there were no weapons at all, nothing.

    There were heavy clashes between the army and the security services but no shooting from the residents.

    We only faced peaceful demonstrators who had no weapons. We broke into the city, we searched the city, we broke stuff and burned down things, and we broke into mosques.

    We entered the mosques with our boots on and were throwing Qurans. We entered the city and didn't find any armed gangs.

    And I have defected the army since yesterday. I used the excuse that I took an order to go to Hama.

    They gave us two hours to see our families so I went and I didn't come back. Because the things that are taking place right now are haram [unlawful] and shouldn't be happening.
    They are killing my people, our brothers, whether they are Christian Allawit or Sunni.

    We are in the army to defend them against the Israeli enemy. It's not the assignment for the army to kill our people, our families, from all sects.

    We are in Syria, in one country, and this word sectarian it's a new word to us.

    We are all brothers, whether Sunnis Alawites or Christian or any other sects. Again, our mission is to defend the country against the Israelis, not to kill our family members.

    SOURCE: Avaaz


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