“The men get preliminary training in their home countries, then finish their training in Syria, where they learn urban warfare”
I was already living in Damascus before the conflict began; I came here to work in construction. When the fighting reached Damascus, certain rebel groups threatened to destroy the Sayyidah Zaynab mausoleum, and I felt it was my duty to defend this holy site.Our foreign fighters come to Syria with only one goal: to protect holy sites from Sunni extremists who consider us Shiites to be renegades. There is a rotation of 1,000 fighters every month. The men get preliminary training in their home countries, then finish their training in Syria, where they learn urban warfare. Each man receives a sum of money at the beginning and again just before they return to their home countries. We’re not here to protect the Syrian regime; our operational zone is strictly limited to the Sayyidah Zaynab area.
“If Sunni extremists win in Syria, the next battle will take place in Lebanon”
At the beginning, within every family in Baflay and in southern Lebanon in general [where the population is mainly Shiite and Hezbollah is omnipresent], there were different views about the situation in Syria. Some felt it was not the Lebanese people’s duty to go fight in Syria in support of Bashar Al-Assad [editor’s note: Al-Assad is himself Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam].But people slowly began to realise that this wasn’t the fundamental question at hand. Our young people are not fighting for Assad. Their fight is deeply related to the continuation of our history, the history of Shiite Islam. We have always been obliged to fight for our beliefs and our sacred sites.The combatants are not mercenaries – they are fighting to defend their ideological and political beliefs, because if Sunni extremists win in Syria, the next battle will take place in Lebanon. Their goal is to prevent this from happening.
“The goal of Hezbollah fighters is to protect the Lebanese who live between the two countries”
The aim of Hezbollah fighters was clear from the beginning: to protect the Lebanese who live between the two countries in the border villages of Qusayr. These people are being threatened by an increasing number of Sunni extremists in the region. I’m thinking of groups such as the Al-Nusra Front, which no longer hides the fact that it is part of the terrorist group Al Qaeda. Therefore, it’s a matter of life and death for this border population.The Hezbollah fighters who participate in combat in Syria do so voluntarily. We need to be realistic: even if it wanted to, the Hezbollah party couldn’t stop them. Everyone who knows the border between our two countries knows that anyone who wants to fight in Syria can do so easily without asking for permission. The men who go are experienced fighters. When they die in battle, they are entitled to official funerals organise by Hezbollah.We mustn’t forget that there are extremists on both the Sunni and Shiite sides of this conflict. Both are pushing the region towards a religious war. Our fight is not against Sunnis, but against extremists who want to see us exterminated.