Within the various regions of Syria people take on roles as media activists and field correspondents. Today's interviewee is 'Obeida al-Ladhqani', who works as a field correspondent in the northwest of Syria. This interview is slightly edited for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: Could you talk in condensed form about your life and work in media from the beginning of the revolution until now?
A: My media work began since October 2015, coinciding with the Russian intervention, and that is because the field situation demands transmitting the crimes of the Russian occupier that has destroyed towns, localities and houses of worship in its arrogant policies to destroy the infrastructure to displace the people and break the power of the mujahideen and re-establish the criminal tyrant regime at the expense of millions of martyrs, so it was necessary to transmit those crimes and show them to the public view. I worked for the Jisr satellite channel and for Qasiyun news agency and I worked in media offices for a number of revolutionary factions operating on the ground. Then when the manhaj [direction] of those factions changed and they sat at the table of negotiations in Geneva and Astana I was compelled to work with the factions in which I thought there was good and steadfastness on principle, so my course as a field media guy ended up with [redacted].
Q: What are your most prominent memories in media work during the revolution?
A: All who have participated in the revolution must have memories. As for from the media angle the reality of transmitting events like military or civilian ones imposes on you hundreds of memories, among them the wounding and among them the ones that give joy. We will mention two examples for both of them:
I remember an event I do not forget that happened specifically in an area called Qammat al-Tufahiya in Latakia countryside when the regime forces tried to advance towards this strategic hill that separates between Jabal al-Akrad and Jabal al-Turkoman in order to impose their control over some points on the hill. Then when the mujahideen attacked them I was accompanying them and transmitting the realities of the battle. During the assault and the raising of the cries of the takbirs and the direct confrontation with the enemy, I was observing how it was that the enemy was persisting in these points where it was difficult to advance in view of the exposed nature of the land in this place and the difficulty of reaching them. So the mujahideen decided at the time to advance in an unexpected way with heavy fire cover in order to prevent the enemy from exchanging fire and this is what happened.
The mujahideen advanced with heavy fire cover and when we reached near the point at a distance of a few metres one of the mujahideen was wounded with gunfire in his chest, such that he fell near me and was calling out: 'I have been wounded, I have been wounded'. I was made to choose between providing aid to him and abandoning continuing filming [/photography] of the battle or abandoning him and continuing. I was determined to provide aid to him and only a few steps on the road back we happened to be met by an evacuation group. So I said to them: provide him aid.So they took him and I returned to continue documenting. No sooner had I returned while I was on my way I was surprised by the number of corpses of the criminal regime militias, broken and scattered here and there. And when I arrived on the front line, one of the mujahideen was clearing out a bunker and suddenly we were surprised as a member of those militias came out raising his hands to hand himself over to the mujahideen. And the chapters of that battle concluded with the recovering of points, the killing of some of the militias, the capture of some of them, and the expulsion of the rest carrying the bodies of their slain. And the takbir was covering the area. This story I have elaborated contains within it sad scenes and scenes that bring joy and like it are many.
Q: How do you assess the current situation in the field of al-Sham today? Has the situation improved since the ceasefire? What do you think of the new agreement between Turkey and Russia?
A: The current situation in general is very good as the mujahideen in this time are in a situation of preparing and readying for the coming battle for the mujahideen never trust the statements of the Russian occupier for here is the claimed ceasefire being violated on a daily basis by the occupier's militias here and there through bombing of the civilian areas and different fronts, but this bombing comes in a focused sense with the aim of creating the greatest quantity of losses through concentrated and defined strikes. The situation of the field with regards to the mujahideen is very good in the different places, for they are working, fortifying, preparing and readying for any possible treachery by the Russian occupier.
As for the Russian-Turkish political level, the mujahideen know with certainty the filth of the conferences that are by nature conspiracies against the mujahideen and the oppressed people. And the political situation between Russia and Turkey cannot be assessed by us as being political but rather a scheme and deception for the Russians have duped the Turks regarding the Astana outcomes that required the regime to stop at the borders of Shirq al-Sikka: this agreement was ratified previously. And at the time Turkey stopped the revolutionary factions with the exception of some of them from fighting as they were drawn up lines in its view, but the mujahideen from Tahrir al-Sham, Jaysh al-Izza and some of the other groups were aware of what was being plotted and they resisted that campaign for three months. As a result of that battle around 1000 martyrs fell and even more wounded from Tahrir al-Sham. I mention the number as the Hay'a [Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham] issued a visual release in the name of al-Sikka documenting the battled and numbers of martyrs and their names. This release was issued to expose the lie of those who were accusing the Hay'a of handing over areas and in addition to the releases and the media side, we experienced the steadfastness of the mujahideen and their sacrifices as reality.
Coming back to the Turkish-Russian agreements, they are fragile and depend on deception by the Russians so the mujahideen are aware of that and invest the efforts of the Turks in any step for the interest of the liberated areas, but the mujahideen's main reliance is on God and what they have prepared from force and power, at the hands of their mujahideen sons, and this is what was meant in the words of Abu Muhammad al-Jowlani the amir of Tahrir al-Sham when he said: 'And know that one cannot rely on the Turkish observation points in confronting the enemy and do not be deceived by political promises here or media statements there for the political positions may change instantaneously and let our reliance and trust be upon of God then in what we have prepared from force and power at the hands of our sons and mujahideen by which we protect our land and defend our religion and honour.
Q: Why did the factions lose many areas during the recent campaign?
A: In truth the mujahideen did not lose any battle. For our enemies only lie in wait for us with one of two good things: victory or martyrdom. And the revolution and jihad still continue. As for from the military angle concerning the reason for the spread of the regime's control over the areas, that comes because of its summoning of dozens of Shi'a factions from Lebanon and Iraq to hurl them into their ideological war against Islam and Muslims in al-Sham, in addition to the aid of the Russian occupier for them and their following of the scorched earth policy, and burning trees, people and rocks, and the displacement of the people from their areas to break the power of the Sunnis and re-establish the criminal sectarian regime.
Q: How do you assess the situation from the realm of civilian administration, security and economy? Will the Turkish presence lead to the weakening of the Salvation Government project?
A: The current situation in terms of the administration of the areas, the Hay'a has the biggest forces in that as the Hay'a has succeeded in administering the area through a civilian government called the Salvation Government that has facilitated the affairs of the liberated areas in a way that we cannot say is excellent but rather very good in comparison with the areas under the control of Euphrates Shield in which corruption is greatly spread. As for the presence of the Turks, the Turks are an embodiment of points on the contact line with the regime and Russia and the Hay'a in its civilian side represented in the Salvation Government remains at work and I do not think that the Turks have hegemony over the liberated areas but rather the decision and administration are for the allies of blood and the owners of the land and this is what we see in reality.