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A butcher, a barber and a policeman: meet Syria's rebels

Butchers, barbers and students are now getting used to guns, tanks and warfare.
Aug 27th 2012, 2:00 PM 5,465 20

ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTER and photographer Muhammed Muheisen travelled to the Syrian rebel headquarters in Marea yesterday as fighters returned from Aleppo, where they had been engaged in fierce clashes with government forces.

Delving into their past lives, Muheisen found a mixed group of men – former butchers, barbers and construction workers, as well as as ex-policemen and members of Bashar Assad’s army.

“We kept saying peaceful, peaceful. But they came at us with guns and shells and airplanes, so we finally said: “This peaceful isn’t working,” 22-year-old Mohammed Sami told the photo-journalist about the start of the now-violent conflict.

Before the Arab Spring erupted in 2011, Sami was working with a friend in his own barber business. He described the shop as having two chairs, big mirrors, electric clippers and a television. When the uprising began, he hung a revolutionary flag on the wall but the place was set on fire when soldiers subsequently raided the village.

It wasn’t long until he joined the opposition. “They torched my shop because I put up a flag. After the revolution, I’ll put up whatever I want. There will be flags all over the place.”

Still a minor, Bader Farouh told Muheisen that he has already been arrested and beaten twice in the past year. He claimed that police detained him in Aleppo for three days during which time he was folded into the hold of a car tyre and lashed with sticks. They only let him go after he signed a declaration pledging to stop protesting.

However, they caught him at a demonstration a week later and the alleged torture got worse. He said they hung him naked on a wall for more beatings. When he was eventually freed 12 days later, his father took him to the head of a local rebel brigade and told them to “take him and treat him like one of your sons”.

Almed al-Saleh always wanted to go to university but, because of money worries, he took a job with the police force instead. When the protests against the regime started, he was working at an isolated border crossing with Turkey where he earned about $270 a month.

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The 22-year-old explained that he always supported the revolution “in his heart” but kept quiet at first. “I volunteered to serve my country, not to serve Bashar or anyone else.” Last month he ran away, borrowed $1,000 from a friend and bought a Kalashnikov rifle.

-With words and photos from Associated Press’s Muhammed Muheisen

Earlier: Minister visits refugee camp in Jordan as Syrian rebels ‘shoot down’ helicopter in Damascus>

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