British men who fought the Assad regime are now hiding from their own government

BuzzFeed reports: It was at the beginning of 2013 that Shaam decided he needed to fight in Syria. He was volunteering on the country’s border with Turkey in an aid convoy after finishing his university degree back home in the UK. The Syrian revolution had descended into civil war as a multitude of rebel groups took up arms to fight the regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad. “After seeing [the regime] dropping barrel bombs and children crying in the streets,” Shaam tells BuzzFeed News, “I had to do something.”

A few months later, he says, he travelled from the UK to the outskirts of the city of Idlib to fight with a composite of militias at the frontline of what has become one of the most brutal wars in recent history.

But while he initially travelled with the hope of “toppling Assad” and paving the way for what he hoped would be “real freedom for the Syrian people”, little more than a month later he decided to return home, disillusioned with both the prospect of fighting the regime and, in the wake of violent Islamist movements, whether “moderate” opposition forces – such as the one he joined – could really succeed.

But while Shaam believes he’s adjusted back into British society, he says he’s not been able to speak about his experiences in Syria since returning. Furthermore, he’s living in hiding, fearful that the British government could arrest him under the belief that he is a terrorist threat – despite the fact that he fought against Assad’s regime. [Continue reading…]

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