Al Arabiya's senior correspondent, Alia Ibrahim, recently returned from territory controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA). In an interview Friday, she spoke to Al Arabiya English about her journey to meet Syrians determined to fight while the Assad regime continued bombing their towns.
“We had to smuggle ourselves inside Syria. We had to cross the Turkish border walking, it's like a four kilometers walk,” she said.
“The difficult part about getting in was mostly that even though these villages are controlled by the FSA, the roads linking those villages to each and the cities to each other are not. Which means we had to take very small roads between these villages to avoid any checkpoints by the military of Assad. That was one part of the difficulty.”
“The other part was that there was always airplanes and always bombings of these places. Even if the ground is under control of the FSA, the air is not,” she added.
People in the area felt alone against the bombs of the Assad regime, she said. The town of Binish was bombed after her crew left, and on their third day they encountered the village of Atareb, that had been completely destroyed but continued to endure bombings.
She encountered many different FSA factions, who had various different ideologies and levels of training, but did not see any sort of command structure.
“When there is actual fighting, all the groups become one entity. There is a small minority of groups that are not at all under control of the FSA. But what happens is these people come together when there’s fighting and they become one group, even if on a daily basis they each gather in a different place and have different headquarters and have different levels even of religiousity and different levels of ideological thinking,” she said.
Asked whether she encountered any foreign fighters, she said FSA members had told her of a handful from other Arab countries and Chechnya, but did not meet them.
“When I asked people about this, they said they went from country to another where there was ‘jihad,’” she said.
But amid the destruction, she said, there was a “general consensus” that no one else on the planet cared about the indiscriminate killing and violence in Syria.
“This is why you keep hearing: ‘Only God is with us. Nobody cares about what happens here. Nobody cares if we all die,’” she said.
“They believe this could take a very long time. They’re not going to stop at any time, but they’re on their own.”