Journalist Spends 'Seven Strange Days' With Syrian Rebels, Perfectly Captures Humanity Within A Brutal War

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Reuters Syria Rebels

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Members of the Free Syrian Army play with a cat in the old city of Aleppo March 2, 2013.

In March freelance journalist Danny Gold spent a week with Free Syrian Army rebels in the northeastern Syrian city of Ras Al Ayn, which lies right on the border with Turkey.

The dispatch, published in Esquire, is equal parts fascinating, sad, funny, and informative.

His hosts were the Mashaal Tammo brigade, a mixed Kurd and Arab group of fighters aged 16 to 36 who were experiencing a lull in the fighting.

Gold's anecdotes capture the fact that "though they are caught up in one of the most brutal wars in recent memory, with no end in sight, they behave like young men."

That involves girls, Facebook, talking shit, smoking weed, and generally killing time during the greater campaign of fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

One of the men, a Syrian Kurd named Yilmaz, used to lead demonstrations during the peaceful part of the revolution (i.e. the very beginning). He now serves as a "media activist" who uploads videos and releases statements for the FSA — while remaining nonviolent to this day.

Another, a 36-year-old Iraqi named Abu Muhammad, "is partial to Mariah Carey, the Backstreet Boys, and sad songs about Iraq," Gold reports. Abu Muhammad says he fought in Fallujah against Americans before being imprisoned and tortured by the Assad regime in Syria.

The article is an amazing window into the lives of Syrian rebels, and serves to counter the generalization that all Syrian rebels are terrorists.

Some choice quotes:

  • “It is not just Allahu Akbar and fighting, you understand?”
  • “The peaceful revolution was more beautiful.”
  • “When we are here, we are cool guys, but when we are fighting, we are bad fucking guys.”
  • “We’re not afraid of anything but the airplanes and the snipers.”
  • “This country, I love, but everybody, child, woman, baby die. Die die die. I just want my home. ... I want my wife, I want my babies. This, I hate this. I hate guns. My mother, my house, my work is in Damascus.”
Check it out at Esquire >

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