"Financial incentives were tempting in light of our dire living condition" | Exclusive interview with a National Army's "mercenary" participated in the Libyan-Libyan fight • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

“Financial incentives were tempting in light of our dire living condition” | Exclusive interview with a National Army’s “mercenary” participated in the Libyan-Libyan fight

The Turkish government has recruited thousands of young and adult Syrian men and turned them into “mercenaries” to guard Turkey’s narrow interests in Libya and fight along the “Government of National Accord” through offering financial incentives, exploiting the dire living conditions. Most of these “mercenaries” were fighters of factions operating under the banner of the “National Army”. Also, civilians have been recruited by the factions and later turned into “mercenaries”.


A 35-year-old man known by his initials as R.M. from Sahl Al-Ghab area in the western countryside of Hama, shared his experience with SOHR, after having been in Libya where he fought as a “mercenary” after he had been recruited by the “National Army” and the Turkish Intelligence. The young man said “I am married and have a family of five. Previously, I worked in a bread bakery, then I joined the National Army with a salary of 150 Turkish liras a month (20 USD). Our living condition deteriorated greatly after displacement, which forced me to accept to fight in Libya. I was recruited by an officer of the National Army who told me about the details of our task, including the salary which would be 2,000 USD. At that time, I headed to one of the National Army’s headquarters where I was registered and informed about the time of the departure to Libya. I left Syria in May 2020, as my group was transported by the Turkish Intelligence and the National Army from Afrin canton to the Turkish city of Gaziantep. The group comprised nearly 100 fighters and we were escorted by officers of the National Army. In Gaziantep, we underwent a short military training course for nearly two weeks. We later left Gaziantep city to Istanbul in a Turkish airplane, then we were transported to Misrata city in Libya also in a Turkish airplane. In Libya, there were several headquarters and military units, and we stayed in military barracks for nearly one week for unknown reasons. After that, we were sent to fight on frontlines along the Government of National Accord Forces. There were raging battles in several conflict zones in Tripoli, Misrata and other areas.”


“I participated in several battles during the four months I spent in Libya. Most of the Syrian fighters were from the factions of Al-Hamzat, Sultan Murad Division, Suleiman Shah Division and Al-Sham Corps. The Syrian fighters were thrown into violent battles on frontlines and hot conflict zones. I have witnessed the death and injury of many young men during the battles, including several friends. I have been given the full due payments (nearly 8,000 USD) after a delay for nearly a month. Also, the officer who facilitated my recruitment asked me to give him 500 USD. However, I know many young men whose payments have not been paid or a portion of which were cut off by the National Army’s factions. I have spent my money on a house I built in Deir Hassan area, so that I will not return to the dire situation in refugee camps anymore. My living condition has become better, but I still regret going to Libya and abandoning my country, as my duty is to fight on its territory, not to engage in a battle which we do not care about. The dire living condition may force people to do any thing, disregarding the negative consequences. I hope that the recruitment of the Syrian people and exploitation of their extreme poverty will be over so soon. It is common knowledge that Turkey has largely involved in such practices,” the young man added.


According to SOHR statistics, the number of recruits who arrived in Libya approximated 18,000 Syrian mercenaries, including 350 children under the age of 18, of whom 10,750 returned to Syria after completing the duration of their contracts and receiving their financial dues. While the number of jihadists who were transported from Syria to Libya reached 10,000, of whom there were 2,500 Tunisians.


It is worth noting that the number of fatalities among the Turkish-backed Syrian factions in Libya reached 496.