Some muhajireen who have come to Syria take on roles as media activists and correspondents. One of these muhajireen is Abdussamed Dagül, a German muhajir of Turkish origin who serves as a war correspondent. On 22 July 2019 I interviewed Abdussamed about his experiences and his assessments of the current situation.
Q: So when did you come to al-Sham and for what reasons did you come?
A: I came in May 2014 to help the Syrian people to be their voice with my media skills as I studied media in Germany alhamdulillah.
Q: Yes. So we can say you came to do jihad through media work?
A: Yes exactly my weapon is the camera.
Q: Which battles have you covered? And do you have any particularly vivid memories?
A: Many battles since 5 years, but the known battles are the siege battle of Aleppo, the battle of the railway in Hama and before against ISIS in Hama, Rahjan, Atshan areas. And the recent battle of Hama. What do you mean by a vivid memory explain it to me please? I think the most vivid and crazy memory was when I covered the battle of Aleppo and we went in during the first breaking of the siege thinking to stay two days to do reports from inside and we ended up being besieged for nearly 5 months.
Q: Yes exactly something you remember really well and in detail.
A: Dead bodies of small babies are the most vivid memories which don't leave you alone.
Q: So you were inside east Aleppo city during the last months of 2016?
A: Yes the last siege I was inside. I was working for OGN back then. We were inside with Bilal Abdulkareem. I remember I went in wearing a T-shirt later summer and came out with 2 jackets and a mask mid-winter. Rough days, alhamdullilah.
Q: Was there starvation inside the east city? Were you wounded in any airstrikes?
A: Yes to some extent. As in not starvation but you were just eating enough to not starve I guess. No alhamdullilah I was never injured except in bike and car accidents. Some days we ate only dates and some days some funny leaves with nasty tinned sardines.
Q: And right now you are an independent 'ilami?
A: Yes I am independent doing my own thing.
Q: You nonetheless need authorization from the Salvation Government to work?
A: The government knows us very well and they trust us. They see us as a part of them, so we don't need special authorization like western journalists who come from outside and go back.
Q: Currently what fighting fronts have you been covering?
A: Kafr Naboudah, Huwayz, Jibbayn, Tal Milh. The recent ones you mean right? Hammamiyat, Qassabiyat, Tal Uthman, Sakhr. I covered nearly all of the clashes over the past two months in northern and western Hama countrysides. I guess these are all the recent ones.
Q: How would you say the fighting is going at the moment? Are the mujahideen losing many fighters? Is the fighting difficult?
A: If you compare to the death toll of the regime and its allies, no the mujahideen are losing way less fighters than the regime does. Yes, the recent battles are the hardest I have ever covered. The on-point bombardment by the Russians is crazy but even so the mujahideen are continuing to fight and are not planning a peace deal or retreating.
Q: Is it fair to say that Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and Turkestan Islamic Party are doing most of the fighting?
A: No it is not. Turkestan Islamic Party is more in Sahl al-Ghab areas. In the recent fighting the most fighting groups are Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and Jaysh al-Izza as in fighting on the ground. And NFL are very active with heavy weaponry as in anti-tank missiles. Turkestan Islamic Party is doing the fighting in the Jabal Akrad areas as in Kibbayna.
Q: Yes so the manpower is mainly supplied by Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and Jaysh al-Izza while the NFL provide the heavy weaponry support?
A: Yes exactly.
Q: Is Turkey playing any direct role in supporting the efforts to push back the regime and Russians? Or the monitoring points just sit there?
A: The monitoring points are just pointless and have no benefit for anyone. But Turkey is playing a big role with weapons and ammunition they had supplied to NFL in the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations.
Q: Are factions from Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch playing an important role? Are they embedded in NFL?
A: From my information there is only one group that came from that area to Hama to fight which is the group of Abu Khawla I think they are called Usud Sharqiya I am not sure of the group's name.
Q: And what about Wa Harridh al-Mu'mineen operations room? Are they an important force or it is just their media are very loud?
A: They play a very big role in behind the enemy lines' operations. These types of attacks are the most horrifying kind to the enemy.
Q: Yes, but they are mainly in Latakia right?
A: Yes, Akrad and Turkman mountain areas.
Q: Where do you see the jihad going in the long run? How do you see the situation in general right now?
A: To victory if Allah wills. The situation is good. The mujahideen understood finally that they ave to concentrate on the military work and let the civilians do the administration work and the government stuff. So since they understood this the connection between the mujahideen have the civilians has become very good. As you see in the recent battles the mujahideen received big support from the civilians in the freed areas. And the government concentrates on giving the basic services to the civilians which they need to live and survive. So it is going good. Slowly but surely alhamdulillah.
Q: One question brothers often ask is why the factions don't unite under one formal organization. Do you see such unification as a necessary condition for victory? And why have such unification efforts failed in your view?
A: It is necessary for the ultimate victory. It is difficult as the politics and ideologies of the factions are different.
Q: In your view for example would it be better if all factions united under Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham?
A: Difficult question. I think the most reasonable thing would be that all groups unite under the government and form an army of free Syria if you can call it that.
Q: I see. But this government should be ruled by the Shari'a of Allah? Some supporters of the uprising complain for example and say the ideal of an Islamic government hurts the cause.
A: They said this many time. It is ruling by the law of Allah. Someone should tell them then that they would be better off in the regime-held areas if they don't want the Islamic government. The decision is in the hands of the population right? Most of the Syrian population wants an Islamic government. The small amount who think that it would hurt the cause either has to live with it or leave the area I guess. Leave to Euphrates Shield areas maybe.
Q: But some of the supporters of the cause on the other end complain that the Salvation Government is not implementing Shari'a. What do you say in response to that?
A: I can only say what I witness. I witnessed that they rule with Shari'a as they can. Mistakes are not easy to overcome. But people who spread evil will always exist.
Q: Would you say that on the whole, the best model for the jihad in al-Sham to follow is that of the Taliban? Just keep up the jihad and eventually you will see results?
A: Yes definitely. Because the way how it goes is similar. The mujahideen control areas and bring people to the positions to rule a government making life easy for the civilians in the area. This is the same way how Taliban became successful after long years of guerrilla warfare.
Alhamdullilah- praise be to God
Shari'a- Islamic law
NFL- National Front for Liberation, a coalition of factions operating with Turkish support under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.
'ilami- media guy