‘We don’t know who we’re fighting anymore’: Father of slain Syrian Army soldier says son was killed by the revolution he supported

The last time the Syrian Arab Army soldier spoke with his family was the day before Mother’s Day, when he offered his best wishes to his mother and asked her to pray for him. Just a month earlier, the 32-year-old pharmacist from northwest Syria's Hama was drafted into the Syrian army and posted on the frontlines in the province’s north.

“He told us that he was safe,” the soldier’s father tells Syria Direct’s Bahira a-Zarier. “Still, we could tell there was something off about his voice.”

At the time, his father thought that his son, Anas, was planning to defect—an idea he’d shared with his family before he left for the army—but was too afraid to talk about such a sensitive topic over the phone.

Anas never got the chance to flee the army. On Mother’s Day, opposition groups launched a massive new offensive—the largest in four years—against regime-controlled positions in Hama’s northern countryside.

On March 22, just two days after Anas's final phone call to his family, a rebel suicide attack struck the checkpoint he was guarding in the northern Hama town of Maardas. The explosion killed him instantly.

“Those who killed him never knew how he felt, nor how much he loved the revolution,” says his father.

“We don’t know who we’re fighting anymore.”

Q: How did you learn that your son was killed? How did you and your family take the news?

On the evening of March 22 I was watching the news like I normally do. I read on the news ticker that Assad’s forces were under attack in Hama, a part of the most recent rebel offensive there.

Right away we tried to call Anas, but couldn’t reach him. We called his cell phone several times but the response was always that his phone was out of service.

We didn’t know what was happening since regime television wasn’t reporting anything new. So we started watching Al-Arabiya and other opposition channels.

We waited. We couldn’t do anything except wait for the good—or bad—news.

The next day, someone from the army administration called us. He said that Anas had done his national duty, and that he was martyred.

It was a shock to everyone in the family. We couldn’t comprehend what had happened, nor how it had happened.

 A Hay’at Tahrir a-Sham (HTS) SVBEID hits a regime garrison in Maardas, northern Hama province on March 22. Photo courtesy of Ebaa News Agency.

Q: Tell us about your son. How did he join the army?

Anas was married, and he and his wife had a six-month-old daughter. In 2006, he earned his pharmacy degree, and after he finished his mandatory military service in 2009, he opened a pharmacy near his home.

At 32 years old [the regime] moved Anas from the reserves to active duty, and then he was stationed in Maardas.

My son had no choice. He could have fled the country, but to where? The nations of the world have closed their doors to Syrians. He followed his orders—he left his home, his family and his work to join the ranks of the regime’s army.

Q: What did Anas think of the Syrian revolution? How did he feel about what was happening in Syria?

Anas was with the peaceful revolution, and he participated in several anti-regime protests when the revolution began. He believed that revolution and freedom were the rights of all Syrians.

He believed that it was our right to demand our freedom, and to receive it. When things turned violent and the bombs started falling, he was still with the revolution—but much less so. In his view, all who are dying in Syria are our brothers.

Those who killed him never knew how he felt, nor how much he loved the revolution. They don’t know how angry we were with the regime, and not the opposition.

My son was a pharmacist, and instead of letting him help the country through his medicine, [the regime] took him away to fight his own countrymen. He had no experience in handling guns or fighting battles.

Q: When was the last time you called Anas? What were his last words?

The last time we spoke was the day before Mother’s Day. He called his mom and congratulated her, and he asked her to pray for him and be pleased with him.

He wanted her to talk with his wife for him, and he told us that he was safe and there was nothing wrong.

Still, we could tell there was something off about his voice, but we didn’t know what was bothering him. We thought that maybe he was going to defect or flee from the military, something that he talked about before he left. We figured that maybe he didn’t want to say anything over the phone.

Q: How do you look at Syria today, as the father of a son who was killed by the revolution he supported?

My son was killed by a fellow Syrian just because they were from different areas. Just because of being with the opposition or the government. What did he do wrong? We’re killing one another over international interests.

In Syria, we no longer know who is killing whom, who is against whom or what is happening. We don’t know who we’re fighting anymore.

It makes us all dream of a free Syria without Bashar, a Syria without death and destruction.

Bahira al-Zarier

Bahira is from Damascus. She studied business and marketing before moving to Jordan in 2013. She did volunteer work in support of many refugee organizations before joining Syria Direct.

Justin Clark, Reporter/Translator

Justin Clark studied Arabic at Western Michigan University. He continued his studies at Bethlehem University in the West Bank and the Qasid Institute in Amman. He works as a translator and reporter for the Syrian Voice.