Tam Hussein had to undergo days of travel to unknown locations before meeting Abu Firas.
Here he writes about his experience of interviewing a British fighter set to travel to Syria.
By Tam Hussein
The fragmented nature of the conflict in Syria and the security crackdown in Britain has meant that British Muslim fighters have been reluctant to talk openly about their experiences fighting President Assad’s forces.
However, on a recent trip to the Syrian/Turkish border, relying on established contacts from Syria, I was able to convince a British fighter to talk to me.
The security measures employed to secure the interview was torturous and difficult. It involved preliminary meetings and intermediaries with various members of the brigade.
Over the course of several days, I was vetted and interviewed in various locations on the Turkish/Syrian border.
There were also several interviews where I had to convince Syrian rebel officials that this interview with the British fighter was worth doing in spite of the security risks.
The Syrian rebels have accused President Assad’s government of kidnapping FSA officers in Antakya, and they were also concerned that British counter-terrorism agencies could put pressure on Abu Firas’s family.
This was why, at one point Abu Firas nearly pulled out.
Eventually, after everything was deemed secure. I was picked up and driven, told to set up a camera in a house that was a cross between a Syrian safe house and hotel.
At 2.30am, Abu Firas enters with his face covered up and I was told that I had an hour and a half to get the interview and then promptly left.
Although Abu Firas was careful to try and avoid implicating himself in terrorism related offences, the fighter clearly wanted to rectify the version of Jihad that some Jihadis affiliated to ISIS were spreading on social media, as well as trying to alleviate what he sees as misconceptions and fears of the British public about Britons fighting in Syria.