Saturday, August 11, 2012

Anger, tears, and forgiveness as Syrian rebel and his prisoner share their fears

As evidence mounts of abuse and summary execution of prisoners , The Observer witnesses an extraordinary meeting between a Sunni rebel leader and his Alawite captive in al-Bab, near Aleppo

Martin Chulov, Saturday 11 August 2012

"....The sheikh and his captive – the Sunni rebel leader and the Alawite officer – were getting deeper into conversation. Barakat agreed to let The Observer listen in and asked that his name be used.

"I didn't expect you to treat us this way," said Barakat. "You give us food three times a day, Qu'rans, and even cigarettes."

"You would not have done the same for us," Omar replied.

"That's true," said Barakat. "There was a culture there."

"It was more than a culture," Omar replied. "It had become a way of life. Cruelty and oppression were what you guys did by instinct.".....

As the battle grinds towards a conclusion in Aleppo, Syria's warring parties are increasingly being forced to confront some uncomfortable truths. Themes now being openly discussed in scenes like this, as well as in meetings between elders, and even during moments of introspection on the battlefield, include: how did the society slide this far towards the abyss, and can anything be done to rescue it now?.....

Yet both the sheikh and the Alawite lieutenant are anxious to dispel talk of longstanding enmity between their sects. The same case for cooperation is being made in political circles, although hardly with a booming voice.....

By now, Barakat's eyes were welling with tears. He stared straight ahead, doing all he could to maintain his composure. Then came the question that broke him.

"When was the last time you saw your wife?" Omar asked. Barakat managed the words "five months ago" before grief overcame him. As he sobbed into his hands, a young rebel brought him a glass of water and a napkin.

"You can go and see them," the sheikh said.

"God bless you all," Barakat said while wiping his eyes. "100 salaams (peace)."......"

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