Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Free Syrian Army [FSA], has stopped relying on dissident soldiers to increase its numbers and has begun openly recruiting fighters in Syrian cities and villages under the regime’s control, Asharq Al-Awsat can reveal.
“A large number of centers were set up in Syrian cities to facilitate Syrian youths joining the FSA’s military units” Sources close to officers who have recently defected told Asharq Al-Awsat. “These centers’ main purpose is to cover the cities and villages that Al-Assad’s regime continues to control.”
Samir (an alias), an official in one of the recruitment centers in Latakia, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the center is the home of one of the revolution’s supporters and we have a network of communications and coordination with the youths living in the area, specifically those wishing to join the ranks of the armed resistance against Al-Assad’s regime. The youths are assembled and distributed in the inflamed areas as needed.”
An FSA officer also revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “this strategy was followed in the Syrian cities under the authority of Al-Assad’s regime because the youth in these areas cannot contact the rebels in the other areas due to strong security harassment.” The Syrian regime continues to control several areas of the country, most notably the governorates along the coast, Latakia, Tartus, and Banyas. Observers attribute these areas’ loyalty to the sectarian factor as large number of their population belongs to the Alawite community that supports the current regime.
The FSA officer denied that these centers were recruiting youths by force like the Al-Assad regime and said “the areas where these centers are established are under the regime’s control and therefore we cannot force anyone to join us.”
“The revolution has the support of all the people and there is a strong desire among the youths to join the FSA regiments. There is no need for us to coerce anyone.” The FSA officer added.