Inside the Assi River Basin Villages II
Photo Blog by: Haytham Al-Moussawi
The fighters of the Popular Committees in the Assi river basin are hardly the seasoned and well-trained fighters of Hezbollah, as the media portray them. Many are farmers and ordinary residents who have only recently taken up arms to protect their villages.
Hussein (borrowed name), a 22-year-old, is but one example. During the day, he works on his family’s farm tending to a modest herd of goats and sheep. After sunset, he goes home to pick up his Kalashnikov and put on a military vest.
Hussein is a typical member of the Popular Committees. He and 18-year-old Amjad (borrowed name) are tasked with nighttime guard duty, spending their evenings in a foxhole overlooking a field that separates them from the Syrian opposition fighters.
In the villages around Aqrabieh, the Popular Committees have started to merge with the newly formed National Defense Forces (NDF). The idea behind the NDF is to unite the various Popular Committees – which tend to be of one color in terms of religion or sect, depending on the village – into a single mixed formation in order to prevent sectarian divisions from becoming institutionalized in the area.
The NDF are organized along the same lines as the Syrian army, divided into groups of 30 that are then dispersed throughout the basin’s villages.