September 10, 2014
FSA-affiliated fighters and Islamist battalions north of Homs city continue to battle the Syrian army in the provincial countryside, fighting off regime attempts to capture their territory since late August.
The rebels have still managed to block the Damascus-Aleppo M5 highway while attempting to cut off other strategic supply routes despite the regime’s firm control over the provincial capital.
Even though the rebels in northern Homs remain steadfast, opposition strength in the central province is a far cry from just a few months ago.
Known within the opposition as ‘the capital of the revolution,’ the thousands of residents inside the city Homs endured nearly two years of a total blockade, with nothing and no one allowed in or out, until its surrender in the spring.
The truce in May 2014 between the regime and the remaining rebel fighters finally ended the stalemate, ceding control of the city to the government while the opposition fighters were escorted by the UN outside the city.
At the time, rebels vowed to retake Homs, whose defeat dealt a symbolic blow to the revolution.
“Fighters who negotiated with the government are afraid to go back to the rebel areas,” a 26-year-old activist who lived in blockaded Homs until the truce tells Syria Direct’s Osama Abu Zeid.
The activist, who asked to remain anonymous, was a member of a rebel group that negotiated with the government to evacuate the city.
“The rebels fear being seen as traitors.”
Q: Why did you hand yourself over to the regime after all the time you fought it?
I am still against the regime. Hunger forced me to surrender myself and reconcile with the regime. Life is precious and I couldn’t see myself dying slowly. I did not have the choice, there was only this step and so I did it.
Moreover, the situation inside [the siege] was bad, especially for the activists. No one cared about us.
Written in Homs city: ‘I love you Homs’. Photo courtesy of Homs Media Center.
Q: Do you think about rejoining the revolutionary fighters again?
No, the situation is not like it was before. Fighters that negotiated with the government are afraid to go back to the rebel areas: they fear being seen as traitors. In regime-controlled areas they will face detention. I am convinced that a solution for Syria’s future is far away, and it may take years to reach stability.
Q: You were one of the people held in the school during the settling process. What happened? Where did you go?
I paid money to a shabiha [pro-regime militia] member who managed to get me to Lebanon. I fled because the regime wanted to enlist me in the army or join the National Defense Forces.
Q: Does everyone have to join the army or the National Defense?
No, only those who did not join the army before and whose age groups were called to service. Sometimes they do the same with defectors, or randomly choose people. Then they put you on the frontline with no training or experience.
Q: What happened to the people in the school after you left?
The schools were evacuated and the people have different fates. Some were released, some were detained hours after they were released, others were recruited into the regime army and some managed to escape to neighboring countries.
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