The Christian town of Mahrada is located in north Hama province near the frontlines of the areas controlled by the Syrian government and the areas controlled by the insurgents. One of the formations defending the town of Mahrada is the National Defence Forces (NDF). On 24 February 2019 I interviewed Simon Ibrahim al-Wakil, the head of the NDF in Mahrada.
As always, any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Simon Ibrahim al-Wakil.
Q: When was the NDF formed in Mahrada and what was the aim of the formation? And what was the origin of the NDF (e.g. were you the popular committees in the town originally)?
A: The NDF was formed in Mahrada on 15 October 2011 [sic: presumably 2012]. And all of the NDF is an embodiment of youth from Mahrada who were protecting the town in the form of popular committees after the claimed revolution arose and the revolutionaries began stealing, plundering and kidnapping the people for the sake of ransom and entry of the terrorists into the locality. And they robbed a bank in Mahrada and imposed ransom on the citizens in the absence of the law and the state.
Q: What are the responsibilities of the NDF in Mahrada currently?
A: The responsibility of the NDF now is to protect the locality militarily with the Syrian Arab Army and in terms of security with the security forces, as well as helping the people.
Q: How many martyrs has the NDF in Mahrada offered in defending the town against the terrorists?
A: May God have mercy on the martyrs. We have in Mahrada 56 military personnel martyrs and 106 civilian martyrs as a result of the barbaric bombing on the locality in addition to 9 missing.
Q: Has the NDF in Mahrada participated in any battles outside the town?
A: Of course we have had the honour of participating with the Syrian army in waging war against terrorism in Hama, Idlib, Khanaser and Aleppo.
Q: What are the other auxiliary formations that defend Mahrada and how are your relations with them?
A: There are auxiliary formations like the Syrian National Party [SSNP] and the Local Defence Forces and our relations with them are excellent.
Q: What has been the role of the friends [foreign allies] in aiding the NDF in Mahrada? And what has been the role of the Syrian Arab Army in aiding the NDF in Mahrada?
A: The Syrian Arab Army is the one who helped us from the beginning of the crisis and we are an auxiliary for the army, and it is the one who gave us arms and ammunition.
Q: Generally how would you describe the situation in Mahrada currently?
A: The situation is acceptable, though punctured by the falling of mortars launched by the terrorists against the locality. God willing, the army will soon liberate the Syrian lands that remain with the terrorists.
Q: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
A: I am Simon Ibrahim al-Wakil from Syria, the town of Mahrada. I have commanded the NDF [in Mahrada] since the beginning of the crisis in Syria after the locality began suffering from the terrorist gangs. And we have borne legitimate arms to defend our land and honour, under the banner of the Syrian law and the Syrian leadership represented in the President Dr. Bashar [al-Assad] and under the protection of the Syrian army and constitution. And we will remain steadfast with them until the cleansing of the last inch of Syria from the filth of terrorism and takfiri thought. Long live Syria, free and defiant under the leadership of the army and the leader of the army Dr. Bashar al-Assad.
Q: May I ask what you were doing before the crisis? Were you a military man in the Syrian Arab Army?
A: No I am a civilian and I worked in contracting and was a businessman, owning engineering vehicles. The terrorists at the beginning of the crisis kidnapped my son and he remained with them for 40 days and I paid a ransom to free him and after that they opened fire on my second son and some time after that they kidnapped my elder brother for 86 days and he fled from them. And during the crisis I have faced multiple assassination attempts including the placing of an explosive in my car in front of my house and they blew it up in front of my house. And they tried to sniper me with bullets that remained in my neck and another time in my chest and praise be to God I am well. Of course I have been wounded more than once during the battles.