Baghdad- Resting in a modest home in a humble neighborhood just off Baghdad’s outskirts lives an ex-recruit who spends his days trapped in a body heavily scared after surviving a heatseeker attack in Syria.
His eyes, ears, right leg and an arm have all been a heavy price he paid for partaking in the Aleppo proxy war.
Despite the morbid outcome, H.A. feels like he’s been blessed with him being one of the only three of his platoon of 15 that survived the attack.
Recalling the 2013 recruitment campaign which hit his impoverished neighborhood, H.A. tells Asharq Al-Awsat that in a not so lucky day he picked up a flyer enlisting fighters for ‘Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba,’ an extremist militia which was founded by the ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH)’ defector Sheikh Akram Al-Kaabi .
“The way to volunteer was to either simply call the contact information found on the flyers, or to get an in on the militia through around the block members– and I chose the latter,” said A.H.
He then recites his journey accompanied by one of his friends to the militia’s Baghdad headquarters.
In a sorrowful notion, A.H. explained that as of 2014 his family continued to plunge deeper and deeper into poverty.
Moving merchandise from a nearby market place was their family’s breadwinning job, which would bring back home 20,000 Iraqi Dinars on a good day. For a family of seven, that much money wasn’t remotely sufficient.
Lured in by the handsome paycheck at the point of enrollment, amounting to $1,400, and bought out by the emotional campaign run about the glory found in defending religious Islamic and Shi’ite shrines, A.H. found himself dragged into an outrages battlefield a thousand miles away from home.
Speaking about the life-defining moment when he decided to March to Syria, A.H. said that it looked like an easy win-win situation for him given the much needed cash, the chance to fight for a cause and against shrine-desecrating terrorists, and last but not least, the fact that he had no wife and children make parting all the more challenging.
A.H. also made not of the fact that he received close-to-zero education, leaving him with the bare minimum literacy, but it was enough to read the flyers.
After arriving to the headquarters, A.H. says that they were admitted on spot, delivered their luggage and prepared papers to travel to Iran first, then be deployed to Syria battlefields.
He noted that most volunteers were young and come from underprivileged slums in Baghdad and some other provinces.
“The next day after arriving at the headquarters, movement high-ranking members were waiting for us with five transport buses, with the boarding capacity of 40 people,” he said.
“We then headed us to Basra, where Iraq shares borders with Iran.”
Most of the new recruits heading to Basra did not even need an official passport , an identification piece was more than sufficient to cross borders.
“No one stood in our way until we reached Iran.”
Recruits then boarded a plane at an Iranian airport, later finding themselves at Iranian founded training boot camps south of Damascus, said the ex- Nujaba recruit.
Eventually becoming cannon fodder, they were transported to an Aleppo stronghold for Iranian-backed militias.
“Iranian trainers put us in an intensive 15-day training course on light weapons, and then we were taken to the fighting in Tel al-Ais, in the countryside of Aleppo,” he said.
Feeling misled by the recruitment campaign, as he was promised to defend sacred shrines and land near Damascus, A.H. said that he felt short to deceived.
“I felt a bit of fear, and I felt early that we had been subjected to some sort of deception. We were supposed to defend the shrine of Sayeda Zeinab, so we are fighting hundreds of kilometers away,” he said.