Reporting From Homs Without Syria's Knowledge
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Welcome to the program, James.
JAMES LONGMAN: Hi, there.
BLOCK: You spoke with a number of people who have also defected from the Syrian army in Homs. What did they tell you?
LONGMAN: I met a number of defected soldiers there as well who only actually on the previous week had been shooting on protesters. And so from what I could see, the people of Homs are very committed to the revolution.
BLOCK: How do they explain why they defected if they've been shooting on protesters just the week before?
LONGMAN: So I'm not saying this is happening - you know, every single soldier who's opening fires on soldiers is doing so against his will. But it seemed to me, and it seemed to them, that a huge number of soldiers are being forced into this.
BLOCK: You mentioned the reprisals they might face. The soldiers who defect are putting not just themselves at risk but their families too.
LONGMAN: But the thing is, is that, what they also made clear was that whether or not they defect, their families are going to be targets anyway.
BLOCK: James, there was a report yesterday in The New York Times which said that Homs, where you were, is approaching civil war. The report said that the opposition now has taken up arms, and that there has been a wave of targeted assassinations and sectarian killings, the opposition now killing those people who are believed to be government informants. Did you see that or hear about that when you were there?
LONGMAN: If you call opposition groups fighting back against the military oppression a civil war, then maybe that's what's happening. But I don't know if we can call it a civil war just yet.
BLOCK: James Longman, thanks for talking with us.
LONGMAN: Thank you.
BLOCK: James Longman is a British freelance journalist. He recently managed to travel to Syria without the government's knowledge. He visited cities near the Lebanese border that have been sites of intense protest and government crackdown.
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