Middle East

INTERVIEW: Eyewitness account of the current crisis in Syria

Ibtihal Bsis recently returned from visiting both Turkey and Syria. She travelled across both countries meeting the ummah and witnessing first-hand the uprising in Syria. Khilafah.com caught up with her on her return and put the following questions to her.

Khilafah.com: Media reports have shown there is a full blown war taking place in the country. Can you describe for us what the reality on the ground is?

Ibtihal Bsis: It is very difficult to put into words a situation which amounts to a ruler slaughtering his own citizens and more importantly is most certainly a fair fight. This man (Bashar al-Assad) has tanks, fighter jets, an air force, cluster bombs and chemical weapons, which he will happily use against the old, like my elderly in-laws who are currently living in a basement because of air strikes.

Women are currently increasingly filling up his shabeha prisons, to intimidate their husbands in order to get them to hand themselves in for daring to take to the streets and children, even babies, who have had their knee caps literally torn off their bodies.

When I was in Turkey an 18 year old girl whilst she was making tea for her parents had a rocket land on her leg. Both her legs had to be amputated. The psychological effect that that has on a young 18 year old who had her life ahead of her is devastating, putting aside the physical pain. Her screams in the night could be heard because of the nightmares she used to have – subhana Allah.

Bashar Al Assad has destroyed life and limb. I met young men who had been shot in the spine and are now unable to sit down. I met women in Syria who are now left coping with life without husbands and wandering how they will bring up their young children.

Imagine leaving your home and having to leave behind everything you own, your memories, your possessions, everything, only to find yourself living in a local school or in the mosque with a hundred other families. That is the current reality for our ummah in Syria. That is their life.

Why? Because Assad wants to hold on to his seat of power, all of this is happening because a few people want to control many more people and they will punish, in the worst way, if you dare to to even attempt to remove them.

Khilafah.com: After 18 months, the ummah appears to have held the regime to a stalemate. Can you give us an insight into how the people on the ground have been able to achieve?

Ibtihal Bsis: In all this devastation and destruction, Alhamdulillah, there is hope. This reminds me of the hadith of Mohammed صلى الله عليه وسلم in which he صلى الله عليه وسلم notes that there is always khair “good” in the situation of a Muslim. The fear that dominated the ummah has finally been broken. Many in Syria will tell you that life was worse before the revolution because “we were like the walking dead”. This revolution did not come out of nowhere. People were fed up of the poverty they were subjected to by Bashar and his Alawi loyalists who enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle while the masses could not even afford bread- sunhana Allah.

The corruption was incredible. People would spend their entire lives saving to buy a home, only to have demolished in minutes because they refused to pay the government a bribe, and the cost of that was the original price of the house. Essentially you would be made to pay double the price of your home. I met a sister who had her home demolished twice and now it lies in rubble. Bashar and his men behave like the mafia who seek protection money. They intimidate, imprison and kill those that dare to question them. Their so called “intelligence” would fill the streets of Syria and people would literally be picked up should they simply complain about one system or another that was linked to the government. Many would disappear without a trace. His lack of accountability and insidious arrogance led people to the streets.

The ummah of Syria have had to pay a heavy price indeed, but they are prepared to sacrifice all that they have in order to live in honour. Their help and concern for one another reminded me of the muhajaroon and the ansar and the love they had for one another. People in the liberated areas would open their doors to families who have fled from the cities. I know of people who have stored water for months and whilst all their neighbours have had their water cut off, they would use their generator to pump water for all of their neighbours subhana Allah. We met people who had nothing, but would give away what they had to people they deemed to be worse off. Their unity, their concern for one another, their generosity when they have nothing to give and their dignity was truly inspiring. Despite their circumstances I felt truly sad when the day came for me to leave Syria. Their love of Islam and their unshakeable trust in Allah سبحانه وتعالى left me with a yearning to be amongst them as they remind you of the companions and jannah – subhana Allah.

Specifically by riding themselves of the fear for the regime The Ummah in Syria has been at war for over a year now, with experience and aid from defecting Syrian troops, their fighting acumen has improved. The sharp increase in the number of destroyed Syrian army tanks and armoured fighting vehicles attests to the capability of the Ummah.

This is why the Syrian military has avoided costly armoured attacks on opposition held areas where armour is more vulnerable. As of now, the regime is solely relying on air-power and shelling from afar using tanks, artillery and attack helicopter support.

Khilafah.com: There has been much talk about the call for Islam from the opposition, is there a call for Islam? What was your experience?

Ibtihal Bsis: The ummah in Syria have been let down by every single so called ruler and power in the world. Be it the Arab League who sent six observers with notebooks and pens, or the United Nations “peace keeping plan” led by the now resigned “Kofi Annan” who did worse, after watching people bury their dead and becoming familiar with the rituals of jannazah, they left, only to give a clear license to Bashar to continue killing his people. Unfortunately through their harsh reality, people have become aware that Bashar is backed heavily by the West who control the Arab league and the United Nations.

In all of this questions have arisen as to what people ought to be calling for, and over the months the call for Islam started to gain ground, and why wouldn’t it? I am always amazed when people are surprised by this. The ummah comes from Bilad al sham, their history, civilisation, which lasted for over a thousand years, is consumed by Islam. Why would they opt for the very system that backs Bashar and has sold him arms in the past?

Hizb ut tahrir is now on the ground. The detail of what the Khilafah can give to the region of Bilad al sham is being spread. With justice, an elected ruler, an affluent population and Allah’s systems in place the ummah of Syria is chanting for the return of the Khilafah. The rayah flags are visible, Quranic ayahs are on the walls of every liberated town and the courage of the revolutionaries emanates from the Lord of the World. They live and die for Him. Why would they do that and then call for a failed man made system that has miserably failed its own people.

The US has stated on record that it has to be careful who it exactly backs from the opposition as it would not want weapons to fall into the hands of the radicals, this would indicate the call for Islam exists and is recognized by the US.

Khilafah.com: What can you tell us about the Free Syrian Army (FSA)? What are their capabilities?

Ibtihal Bsis: The FSA indigenous who possess light weaponry. We were stopped at many checkpoints in the dead of night by young men who were protecting the towns and the people in them from the violence of Assad and his men. These men, though obviously scarcely equipped, hold the ultimate weapon: that of courage. Despite their weaponry and lack of experience, (many of them are students turned soldiers), the regime’s army cannot fight them on the ground. Many of them will tell you that they did not pray before the revolution, but now they lead the prayers. These checkpoints were once under the control of Assad, who instigated tanks and heavy artillery in order to ward off any attack by the FSA. Against all the odds, these checkpoints were liberated and Assad’s men were driven away Alhamdulillah.

They are willing to literally die for this call and all of them go with the clarity of that reality. I heard many of them refer to themselves as shaheed “al hai”- the shaheed who is currently alive.

Khilafah.com: There is much talk about US backing Al Assad still, did you see any evidence of this and how do the people view the role of the US?

Ibtihal Bsis: Alhamdulillah the ummah in Syria is all too aware that America has an interest in ensuring Assad remains in power. I met ordinary women from the villages who were able to articulate the political aspirations of America in Bilad al Sham very eloquently – many made reference to the protection of the Golan Heights. Israel is of great importance to America and until they (USA) cannot find a replacement for al-Assad, they will continue to give him the license to kill his people by sending would be peace keepers. To date the ummah has rejected every single proposition that America has made, either directly or indirectly.

Khilafah.com: There is a lot of media speculation regarding a civil war between the Alawites and Sunni’s, is this really the case and what are relations like between the Alawites-Sunni’s currently.

Ibtihal Bsis: Actually there has been much talk of many of the Alawi tribes turning against Bashar as they begin to see him lose control of the country. I would not describe the war on the ground as a “Civil War”. That would intimate that it is a war between peoples. This is an uprising of the Muslims of Syria against their ruler. This tyrant has his loyalists and army, but the ordinary Alawites generally tend to try to keep their head down and not get caught up in the cross fire.

Khilafah.com: There has been some reports that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are helping arm the opposition, is this true? What were your observations on the ground?

Ibtihal Bsis: That is exactly what it is – mere talk. There are no such weapons. The people actually hold such rulers to account for their inaction – seeing it as yet another order from the West not to interfere while they buy time to get someone other than Assad to fill his shoes.

Observing the nature of the attacks the opposition have conducted it can be seen that they have been using AK-47s and RPG-7s. Some weapons have definitely come their way with the defections and a few heavy weapons captured from the Syrian government. AK-47s and RPG-7s can be brought relatively easily in the region. The apparent support a number of countries constantly say they are providing hasn’t led to any change in tactics or an increase in capability. If they were providing weapons we would have seen an increase in the ummah’s capabilities.