“I didn’t know we were going to fight” With these words Abdullah (a pseudonym at his request) opened his conversation with me on a chat app.
The chat was not straightforward, as he was sending his answers in a hurry when he was staying in a military gathering of the Azerbaijani army, so that none of the leaders there would see him and he would get a deterrent punishment from them.
This gathering is located on the border with Armenia, and strict control was imposed on the fighters residing in it, especially in light of the current war in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which was disputed between Azerbaijan and Armenia centuries ago.
During the Soviet rule, Nagorno Karabakh was inhabited by citizens of Armenian origin, as an autonomous region inside Azerbaijan, but with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the inhabitants of this region sought to unite with Armenia, which led to the outbreak of conflict in the 1990s that led This resulted in the killing of 30 thousand people, and ended with the signing of a ceasefire agreement, making the region a focal point of conflict between the two sides that renewed from time to time and left dead and wounded between the two parties, especially in 2016 when some clashes resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people.
Since last Sunday, the two countries declared martial law and general mobilization after the escalation of fighting between the two sides.
Abdullah is one of hundreds of untrained Syrian civilians, whose ages range from 17 to 30 years old, who have been dispatched since last Wednesday, with the knowledge of the Turkish army and its ally in the Syrian north, the opposition National Army, to fight alongside the Azeri forces.
The Armenian government has accused Turkey of deploying four thousand Syrian fighters in Azerbaijan, but the Azerbaijani authorities deny these allegations.
The Turkish News Agency (Anatolia) also published a report denying the news of the same matter.
While the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirms, according to its director Rami Abdul Rahman, that factions in the opposition Syrian National Army such as Sultan Murad and Suleiman Shah with Turkmen roots have sent fighters to Azerbaijan at the behest of Ankara, while other fighters from the cities of Homs and Ghouta refused to go Under the pretext that the conflict is between the Azeri Shiites and the Armenian Christians.
The road to Azerbaijan
Abdullah is like most residents of northern Syria who suffer from difficult economic and living conditions, as a local survey conducted by the “Response Coordinators” team revealed that more than 90% of people there cannot cover basic life expenses, while 81% of them receive a lower monthly salary. From $ 50, 78% don’t have the ability to buy what they need or want.
Therefore, Abdullah accepted a job in Azerbaijan for $ 2,000 a month to improve his and his family’s living conditions, but he did not know what was waiting for him there.
Abdullah explains his journey to me and says: “Last week, Saif Abu Bakr, the commander of the Hamza Division of the opposition Syrian National Army, suggested that we go to Azerbaijan to guard military points on the border for a monthly fee of up to $ 2,000. There was no war at the time, and we were transferred from Northern Syria to the village of Hor Kilis, and there we have stripped us from the opposition Syrian National Army of all our money, phones and clothes, so that our identity is not recognized.
Abdullah managed to get his phone back in order to communicate with his young family, but he does not know now if he will ever see them again.
Abdullah adds: “Then we were transferred to the airport in Antep in southern Turkey, where we took a flight of one hour and forty minutes to Istanbul airport, and then we were transferred via Azeri Airlines to Azerbaijan. Fighting up. ”
This is not the first time that Syrians have been sent to fight outside their homeland via Turkey, as a report prepared by the United Nations last May revealed that Syrians traveled from the north of the country via Turkey to western Libya to fight in the ranks of the Al-Wefaq government forces against the forces of retired General Khalifa Haftar.
When it came Sunday 27 September, Abdullah’s dreams of earning money and improving livelihoods were dashed when news of the outbreak of war between the Azeris and Armenians arrived.
He told me, “They loaded us into troop carriers, we were wearing Azeri uniform, and each of us was armed with a single weapon (Kalashnikov) … Most of the people here are poor civilians who wanted money and were not soldiers.
The car stopped and we were surprised that we were in the line of fire, we did not even know where the enemy was. When they started bombing us, the young men started crying in fear and wanted to return to their residence, then a shell fell next to us, killing four Syrians and wounding three others. “
The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, has said that Turkey is not a party to its conflict with Armenia, but rather provides it with moral support.
Abdullah adds that in the military gathering in which he resides, he saw the bodies of ten Syrians, while seventy others were injured, without access to the necessary health care.
Local sources in northern Syria told BBC Arabic that a number of families began receiving news of the death of their relatives there.
Either fight or prison
The bright future in the eyes of these Syrians, after receiving two thousand dollars a month, has turned into sudden darkness, as they now face death every moment, so they are now demanding to return to their country.
Abdullah stopped writing a little and no longer answered my questions, I thought that his matter had been revealed, but it became clear after that that the weakness of the Internet in this war zone makes communication difficult, and he adds: “After the start of the war, we tried to inform the leaders here that we want to return to Syria, but they prevented us. We were threatened with long prison terms if we did not go to fight on the fronts, we are almost exiled. “