Defected Colonel Yusuf al-Jader, better known as Abu Furat al-Jarablusi, the Commander of the Tawhid Brigade in Aleppo and then the city’s Chief of Staff, was martyred this Saturday during the battle for the Infantry School in Aleppo which had been liberated. Abu Furat was a man of the people and known for his kindness and his soft heart, may God have mercy on his soul and grant him the best in the Hereafter.
Today, it is with great sadness that we learned about the death of Yusef al-Jader, whose nom-de-guerre was Abu Furat. Liwaa al-Tawhid announced that he was martyred today after leading a successful operation to liberate the Infantry School In Aleppo. Abu Furat was from Jarablus, a city on the border with Turkey in the suburbs of Aleppo. He was a great fighter, but also a man of great principle.
Remembering Abu Furat
The NY Times reported:
There was an outpouring of grief from antigovernment activists and fighters after a commander of a rebel group, the Tawhid, or Unification, Brigade, was reported to have died in the fighting. It was an unusual moment of focus on an individual in an uprising with few widely known leaders or public faces. The commander, Yousef al-Jader, also known as Abu Furat, had earlier recorded a statement, posted online on Saturday, that resonated with many Syrians. “I feel very sad whenever I see a dead man, whether from our side or their side,” he said. Speaking about President Bashar al-Assad, who has resisted calls to step down, he asked: “Why did he have to hold on to his seat? If he had resigned, we would have the best country in the world.”
Opposition members were distraught over the death of Mr. Jader, considered a skilled and respected officer by others in the loose-knit Free Syrian Army. “A man has left our world, and men are few,” Samar Yazbek, a prizewinning novelist, wrote on Facebook, adding that Mr. Jader’s statement had made her cry. “His quavering and humanitarian voice represented, for me, the lovely and difficult future of Syria,” she wrote. “He barely lighted a star in the sky of our pain!” The commander was one of many fighters to die in the fighting at the infantry school, which is north of Aleppo, in Muslimiyah. A Syrian activist in the region, reached by phone, said rebels, who had breached the school’s compound several days ago and had been fighting for it building by building, had lost as many as 25 fighters there on Saturday. “It was a big victory for us, but very costly,” said the activist, Yasser al-Haji.
Back in August, Reuters reported the story of his defection:
Lieutenant General Abu Furat al-Garabolsi, an army tank brigade commander, faced the same dilemma as all would-be defectors when he planned his desertion. If he left without his family, he would be abandoning them to almost certain death. But if his family made unusual trips that would attract suspicion. “If they found out that an army soldier was sending his wife or children abroad, they knew it meant he was planning to defect,” the 42-year-old told Reuters in Aleppo, where he now leads a group of fighters in the Saleheddine district. “The punishment for that was going to be the execution of my family and anyone related to me.”
Two months ago, taking advantage of the school summer holidays, he sent his family away. “The day I decided to defect, I was ordered to carry out a tank operation against the [rebel] Free Syrians,” he said. “I just couldn’t do it, so I escaped.” Even though his family were safe, he still paid a price. His former driver in the military called him a few days ago to say that his home in Qardaha, where he served, had been burned to the ground as punishment for his defection. “The house is replaceable, but my heart is broken over the photographs of my girls,” he said. “Every two months I would take them to get photographed and I’d display their photos around the house. Now I will never have those memories back.”
His funeral in Jarablus:
His son, sitting next to his martyred [covered] father, speechless, crying:
The following two videos show what kind of a man he was. Translations and comments are provided by Darth Nader:
In this video, Abu Furat is speaking right after the liberation of the Infantry School. In a dialogue with the cameraman, he says the following:
Cameraman: “Tell us what you are feeling now Abu Furat.”
Abu Furat: “Honestly, I am bothered.”
Abu Furat: “I am bothered because these tanks [that we destroyed] are our tanks. The ammo is our ammo. Those fighters are our brothers. I swear to God, every time I see a person that is killed, from our side or from their side, I get sad. Because if that bastard [Bashar] had resigned, Syria would have been the best country in the world. But you clung to your throne you bastard, why? You started killing people when we were telling you we were peaceful, and you were saying it was all armed gangs. And us officers were sitting on our beds watching, when you were calling people terrorists. Honestly, we are not terrorists. You are the one who wants us to become terrorists.”
Perhaps it is for this reason that he appears ecstatic in this video:
He announces that over 70 soldiers from the Infantry School in Aleppo defected a few days before he was killed. Seeing soldiers have to be killed to defend Bashar’s throne would bother him, and defections meant many lives would be spared, which perhaps gave him some solace.
In this video from two days ago, Abu Furat sends a message to Bashar about sectarianism:
“We want to send a message to the regime, Bashar al-Assad. This man is our brother. This man is a Alawite. I lived in Lattakia for 22 years. Why did you plunge your own sect in a battle for you and try to make them hate Sunnis? Why? Don’t you think about how we are going to live together? Well, despite you, we are going to live together. I know Alawites are a generous and nice people. Many of them are poor too. And you use these people to achieve your own malicious goals. And these are the children of villages. Bread probably takes a year to finally make its way to their villages. They are poor, they don’t have food, they don’t have bread, if one of them gets sick, they will die because they can’t afford medicine.
But I want to ask from you my Alawite brothers–and you know me, I have sat among you and drank matté with you before–be careful: We are not your enemies, we are your brothers, we are participants in the nation, and we lived together. And Saleh al-Ali [anti-colonial Syrian Alawi leader during French colonialism] refused to work under the French flag, and refused to separate into a Alawi state, just like his sons and grandsons will also refuse such a thing. The plans have been exposed, and our Alawite brothers will come back to us, for we are the same.”
Knowing that extraordinary characters like Abu Furat are fighting on the frontlines and leading battles in Syria gives great hope for the future of Syria, in terms of the victory against Assad, and also in terms of the prospects for a post-Assad Syria.
Here he is discussing the battle plan for the Infantry School, where his first priority are potential defectors, to offer them safety and to prevent bloodshed, for they are their children and their brothers. He’s arranging for a phone line to be established between them and the soldiers inside.
“What Will you do when Aleppo will be freed ?” Abu Furat: “We will go to Homs to lift the siege; Homs is the capital of the Revolution and we must free it.”