Weapons used by the Free Syrian Army are seen at the Seif El Dawla neighbourhood of Syria’s south west city of Aleppo August 23, 2012. Reuters
Aleppo, Syria – In 2012, Mohammad Matoh joined the Free Syrian Army. A year later he deserted finding work at a fast-food restaurant in Aleppo.
“Five members of our family were with the FSA. Now two are in Turkey after getting injured and two are still with the FSA,” he told Al Jazeera.
Matoh, 27, recalls other friends leaving as well. One of them, he said, “was forced to leave as a result of the inadequate salary, which was at best 18,000 Syrian pounds [$95] a month”. Matoh himself claims his salary started at only 8,000 Syrian pounds ($36) a month, before rising slightly.
Ahmad Jalal, 21, a field commander in the FSA, admitted that the salaries “can be as low as $50 a month, and sometimes salaries are not paid due to [lack of] support”.
The FSA, once viewed by the international community as a viable alternative to the rule of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has seen its power wane dramatically this year amid widespread desertions.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city where many FSA soldiers are leaving the group, citing inadequate pay, family obligations and poor conditions.
In the past month, Russia’s bombing campaign against Syrian rebel groups and the FSA’s rejection of Russian invitations to participate in negotiations have further weakened it, raising questions about the group’s place in any future settlement.
On Wednesday, reports of a new Russian ‘peace plan’ were revealed. The eight-point proposal cites a constitutional reform process lasting 18 months that would be followed by presidential elections. According to the plan, ‘certain Syrian opposition groups’ should participate in the Vienna talks, expected to take place next Saturday. […]