The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Mercenaries in Libya | Turkish-backed factions exploit, abuse and humiliate Syrian fighters

With the beginning of Turkish forces’ involvement in the Libyan conflict, the Turkish intelligence recruited Syrian fighters operating under the banner of various factions of the Turkish-backed National Army, exploiting their dire living situation and turned them into mercenaries. These fighters were thrown into battles they had nothing to do with in a country that is hundreds of miles away from their homeland just for monthly salaries which later became good business for the factions’ commanders.


According to SOHR sources, militiamen of the Turkish-backed factions in Libya are being blackmailed and exploited by their commanders in full view of the Turkish officers who seem indifferent to such practices in their camps and headquarters.


In this context, the sources say that the Turkish-backed factions had promised the mercenaries, before sending them to Libya, to give them monthly salaries of 1,000 USD each. However, the factions’ commanders gave the mercenaries salaries of 100 USD plus 2,000 to 3,000 Turkish liras instead. Even these deducted salaries were delayed, which ignited a state of anger among the mercenaries who demonstrated in their camps in Libya, calling for giving them their monthly salaries. It is worth noting that militiamen of the factions of al-Majd Corps, Suleiman Shah, Sultan Murad, al-Muntaser Bellah, al-Hamzah and other factions participated in these demonstrations, after being exploited by their commanders.


Moreover, the Turkish-backed groups have reaped large profits from the canteens in their camps and headquarters in Libya, as the Syrian mercenaries in Libya are allowed to buy their needs only from these canteens at higher prices than the shops outside their camps. Meanwhile, the groups’ commanders hire close militiamen to run these canteens, so that the commanders make sure that they will get the whole profits.


However, such business led to a dispute between “Abu Amsah” the leader of Suleiman Shah Division and individuals he had hired to run the canteens he owned in the mercenaries’ camps in Libya. Abu Amsha accused these individuals of “taking the profits for their own favour and that the canteen of other factions reaped more profits”, so he decided to punish them and shot them at legs.


On the other hand, a meeting was held in the camps in Libya, attended by Turkish officers, commanders of the Turkish-backed factions and some militiamen, in order to discuss the problems that the Syrian militiamen are suffering from. During the meeting, a militiaman serving in the ranks of Abu Amsha’s division complained of the lack of food provided to them, the looting of their salaries and patronage, particularly granting of leaves. The militiaman also talked about the factions’ exploitation of the Syrian fighters through asking fighters who wanted to spend their leaves in Syria to forgo their salaries to the faction’s leader for three months. These complaints had madden Abu Amsha who accused the militiaman of lying and brandished his gun at the militiaman, before Turkish officered interfered and calmed down Abu Amsha.


However, Abu Amsha has not been held accountable for his practices and violations, including shooting other militiamen at legs, after they expressed their rejection of the cancellation of leaves and the delay of their salaries. Meanwhile, the factions’ commanders and members keep the violations of Abu Amsha secret, fearing prosecution of their families in Syria or killing them, the commanders and militiamen, when they return to Syria.


In light of the escalating violations by the factions’ commanders against the Syrian mercenaries in Libya, the Turks have undertaken the files of leaves, salaries and food provided to the mercenaries in order to evade renewed protests in their camps. Recently, the Syrian fighters are transported from Libya to Turkey, and then to Syria according to seniority.


On October 15, SOHR sources reported that amid suspending the file of mercenaries in Syrian nationals in Libya and the Turkish side continuous easing the conditions via sending batches and return others in a process of exchange. Several Syrian mercenaries stationed in Misratah and Tripoli spoked with SOHR via social media about their feelings of content and stability on the Libyan lands especially with lack of military operations.


They said, “our conditions are excellent. We play sport twice per day, and we don’t have any problems or battles, and we are good here.”


This content feeling came along with the continuous international demands of existing the foreign forces from the Libyan lands and the large media focus on the file of the Syrian mercenaries especially by the SOHR either those working under the Turkish wing or the mercenaries working under the leader of the Russian private companies.


On Oct. 9, reliable sources have told SOHR that a new batch of Syrian mercenaries, who had been sent to Libya, arrived in Syria on Friday evening, as nearly 100 fighters of the Turkish-backed factions were transported from Libya to Turkey, then to Syria.


This development coincides with back-and-forth transfer operations of mercenaries from and to Syria.


Observatory sources have also say that the factions arrested three fighters of the recently-arrived batch, claiming that the “fighters were having drugs”. However, SOHR sources have confirmed that the three fighters were arrested for participating in demonstrations in Libya, calling for their delayed salaries.


The recently-arrived batch also comprised fighters who were transported to Libya in 2019.


Accordingly, the number of Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries who returned to Syria in less than a week has risen to nearly 520.


On Thursday, SOHR sources reported that Turkish intelligence continued sending the mercenaries from Syria to Libya and deport those in Libya, whose contracts were terminated, and those who desire to return back to Syria in an operation of organized exchange.


A new batch of Syrian mercenaries went out to Turkey via Hiwar Kliks crossing in north Aleppo countryside, and they arrived in south Turkey in buses in preparations to leave to Libya.


According to SOHR resources, the new batch was composed of 200 mercenaries who were members of Turkey-backed factions, while SOHR sources stressed that a plane has left Misrata Airport to Tripoli and then to Turkey. Meanwhile, SOHR sources stressed that an airplane has left Misrata Airport in Libya to Tripoli and then to Turkey carrying on board members of the mercenaries returning to Syrian via the Turkish airports.


Number of mercenaries leaving Libya to Syria reached 420 members during the past four days. SOHR sources knew that members of mercenaries of the Syrian nationals have reached Syria on the previous day after their return back from Libya on October 5.


SOHR sources also reported that Turkey-backed factions stationed in Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield areas have sent nearly 130 mercenaries to Turkey on October 6 to transfer them to Libya. The Turkish intelligence also has asked leaders of its loyal factions to keep the members on alert to transfer new batches from Libya when asked.


On Oct. 5, Reliable SOHR sources have confirmed the return of the first batch of Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries from Libya, as an aero plane with nearly 300 Syrian fighters aboard landed in Turkish territory, then the fighters were transported later to Syria. The return of Syrian fighters from Libya to Syria comes as a part of the evacuation of foreign forces from Libya.


While this development coincides with the meeting which is expected to be held in Geneva today in order to discuss the file of mercenaries in Libya.