Syria, jihad and the boys from Tunisia’s Ben Guerdane

The National reports: Khared Zawi is finishing his restaurant lunch and watching television, transfixed as the newsreader’s voice reports atrocious violence in Syria over amateur video of explosions and corpses.

“It’s not acceptable,” says the young Tunisian from behind his wispy beard. “No human on this planet will accept it, and no Arab.”

In crushing a nationwide uprising, Bashar Al Assad has insulted Islam by destroying mosques while followers of the Syrian president’s Alawite branch of Shia Islam have killed Sunni Muslims, Khared says. “I’m supporting the guys fighting Bashar.”

During the 16 months in which peaceful pro-democracy protests became a bloody and increasingly sectarian conflict between government forces and rebels, Syria has become a focal point of outrage across the Arab world, and a trickle of young men embracing militant Sunni Islam have gone to fight there.

As many as 12 of them may be from this dusty Tunisian border town. Their families woke up one day to find a son or brother mysteriously vanished. Some of the missing loved ones disclosed their destination with a single telephone call to say they were in Turkey and heading for Syria. In at least one case, a terse phone call from a stranger said the young man was dead.

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