Four Syrian mercenaries sent to Nagorno-Karabakh spoke to the UK’s state outlet – BBC.
They were, as fact, there, regardless of any denials by Azerbaijan and Turkey.
As it was obviously for a while, the offensive on Nagorno-Karabakh against Armenia was preplanned, a while before it began on September 27th, 2020.
As early as August there were rumors circulating “rebel-held” parts of Syria that there was well-paid work to be done abroad.
“I had a friend who told me that there is a very good job you can do, just to be at military checkpoints in Azerbaijan,” one man told BBC Journalist Ed Butler.
“They told us our mission would be to serve as sentries on the border – as peacekeepers. They were offering $2,000 a month! It felt like a fortune for us,” said another, who is referred to as Qutaiba.
Both applied for the job through Turkish-backed militant groups that make up the Syrian National Army, a force opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. They are opposed mostly because they are largely comprised of terrorists, and because many of them are on Turkey’s payroll.
It’s estimated that somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 men signed up and travelled to Azerbaijan, via Turkey, on Turkish military transport aircraft.
And they were surprised that they weren’t sent there to be extras in a period drama such as the “Magnificent Century”, but rather to fight in a war and likely get killed or gravely injured.
“I didn’t expect to survive,” Qutaiba says. “It seemed like a 1% chance. Death was all around us.”
The Syrian fighters were deployed on the southern flank of the Azerbaijani offensive on Nagorno-Karabakh.
The militants have fake names, for their identities to be protected.
“My first battle began the day after I arrived,” said Ismael.
“I and about 30 guys were sent to the front line. We walked for about 50m when suddenly a rocket landed near us. I threw myself to the ground. The shelling lasted for 30 minutes non-stop. Those minutes felt like years. It was then I regretted coming to Azerbaijan.”
“We didn’t know what to do, how to react,” said Samir, who added that he and many of the other recruits had virtually no military experience or training.
“I saw men dying, and others who just went crazily running. They didn’t have any sense of where they were going, because they were basically civilians.”
Unsurprisingly, all of the men say they were given little protective equipment or medical support.
“The hardest moment was when one of my mates was hit,” said Ismael, who was himself later hospitalised with shrapnel wounds. “He was 20m away from me when the shell landed. I saw him fall. He was calling to me, screaming. But his spot was exposed to the Armenian machine guns. I couldn’t help him. In the end, he just died there.”
Another Syrian says he was paralysed by fear when the shelling started.
“I remember I just sat on the ground and cried and my injured friends started to cry as well,” he says. “One guy got shrapnel in his head. He died right there… Every day I see this. When it comes to me, I sit and cry, even now. I don’t know how I survived this war.”
Regardless of that, any presence of Syrians there is denied by both Azerbaijan and Turkey.
“We don’t use mercenaries,” the Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev said back in October.
“This is our official statement and since the outbreak not a single country presented evidence of that. And moreover we don’t need that. We have an army of more than 100,000 fighters and what we are doing now on the ground demonstrates that our army is capable of liberating its lands itself.”
Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at the Centre for Global Policy, in Washington DC, who has spoken to dozens of Syrians who took part in the conflict, agrees that they were “used as cannon fodder”.
“They’re cheap. They can be rushed to the front line with very little preparation, as was the case in Azerbaijan – essentially people to whom you can strap a Kalashnikov and tell, ‘Go capture that hill, go capture that forest,'” she said.
And, she points out, they are desperately poor, “so they are willing to go and risk their lives”.
It is no surprise at all, since, of course individuals with little to no military experience, or at least combat experience as part of a structured formation such an actual army or at least a PMC would be used as “cannon fodder”.
In addition, it appeared that Pakistan also had a hand in Azerbaijan’s victory.
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