“They sent us directly to the front lines. The situation is terrible. Terrible. There is fighting every day. We are charged with storming. There is no rest. There are many men missing and we can’t get to them,” explained Abdel Basit, a Syrian mercenary speaking from Azerbaijan (for their safety, I have altered the names of all living Syrians in this report). What made this former Syrian rebel, displaced from his home in Rastan, in rural Homs, decide to sign up to fight in a foreign country? His father, who is still in Rastan, had to take out a large loan because of a family emergency, but “his salary is not enough [to pay it off]. I was forced to go. Against my will,” he said, repeating the phrase with exasperation in his voice.
Abdel Basit is one of hundreds of Syrian fighters who, since the beginning of September, have been dispatched by Turkey to wage war against Armenia in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. In this competition for regional dominance, Syria’s broken and broke men have become the cannon fodder. Four of Abdel Basit’s friends from Rastan were killed in the span of two days, shortly after disembarking in Azerbaijan. Two more were killed a week later.
*image for demonstration purposes