US hasn’t given a cent for wages: Syria rebels

US hasn’t given a cent for wages: Syria rebels

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
US hasn’t given a cent for wages: Syria rebels

Syrian rebel fighters hold up their guns as they shout slogans in Aleppo. AFP photo

The most prominent Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), said they have resumed paying regular salaries to rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime using financial aid from regional countries.

“We had to cut the payments a while ago, but now we have started to receive financial aid again, especially from Qatar, Libya and the UAE. However, we haven’t received a cent yet from the U.S. government, who had promised to help us before,” Khaled Khoja, the Turkey representative of the SNC, said in an interview Oct. 23.

Khoja said they had previously paid salaries to the members of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) but ceased due to the lack of funds from donor countries. An SNC spokesman, Fevzi Zakiroğlu, said they had received some of the funds they were promised by certain foreign countries, which enabled them to pay the FSA rebels’ salaries. “I cannot tell you all the names of the countries that we received financial aid from, however Libya and Qatar are included in these countries,” Zakiroğlu said.

Following the visit by SNC leader Abdulbaset Sieda to the Syrian city of Aleppo, a common commandership was formed by the unification of several rebel groups under the name of “revolutionary military councils” in Syria. “The salaries are paid to all rebels fighting against the regime under the umbrella of this common commandership. This is a step forward to get more organized amongst the rebels,” Khoja said, adding that mainly the rebels in Aleppo, Idlib and northern Syria are receiving the salaries.

Although the American government had promised to provide financial aid to the Syrian opposition, neither the SNC nor the rebels have received “a cent” from the U.S. government, according to Khoja. “The U.S. government said they have paid millions of dollars to the Syrian opposition, however we haven’t received one cent of this money. We wonder which part of the Syrian opposition is receiving money from the U.S. government.”

Defected Syrian military officer Col. Abdul Salam Humaidi said all fighters were paid $150 per month, but this amount may change in the future based on the rebels’ marital status and proximity to the front lines, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.

The Free Syrian Army rebels are the most prominent armed opposition force in Syria, mainly fighting in Idlib, Homs, Hama, Dara, Aleppo and Damascus. The biggest brigade of the FSA is based in Idlib with around 20,000 rebels.