Between Poverty and Death: Why Syrian Mercenaries Are Going to Azerbaijan


By Ahmad Salah

It is not a secret that hundreds of mercenaries from Syria and Libya have been recently deployed to the disputed territories of Nagorno Karabakh. Thus Turkey is attempting to assist its brother state Azerbaijan in confrontation with Armenia.

Ankara has seemingly decided not to hide its illegal actions. Many foreign leaders have already expressed concern about Turkey’s aggressive policies. On October 2, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that his country had information on the transfer of jihadists to Azerbaijan. “It is a very serious new fact, which changes the situation,” he said.

The journalists of the US news channel CNN also managed to find out details about recruiting of the so-called “Syrian National Army” fighters by Turkish Armed Forces. According to the channel, Turkey promised Syrians about 1500 dollars a month to go to Azerbaijan. Syrian sources also confirm this information.

Some of those mercenaries themselves reveal the way how Turks carried out the recruitment and dispatch of fighters to the Caucasian State. The recruits were initially brought in there to ensure the protection of gas and oil pipelines. According to one of the fighters of the Syrian group, after arriving in Azerbaijan they face the fighting as it was in Syria and Libya. “We learned that it is war, and not work for a security company,” the Syrian fighter told CNN. He added that about 1000 fighters have already been sent to Azerbaijan.

Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at the US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, wrote that the main reason why Syrian mercenaries are fighting for Turkey’s geostrategic reasons in different regions of the world is the extreme poverty and catastrophic situation of young men and their families in the countries of origin.

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— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) October 3, 2020

However, the Syrian combatants should not forget the experience of their comrades from the Sultan Murad group, who were first recruited to join the fighting on the side of the GNA in Libya and then were sent to Azerbaijan. In fact, Turkey regards them as cannon fodder, pushing them into the middle of fighting between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. Many of them did not obviously receive the promised salary at least because they died fighting for Turkey’s interests.

According to recent reports, since October 1, more than 12 fighters from the Syrian National Army have already been killed during the clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh. BBC news producer Riam Dalati claimed eight mercenaries were killed when assaulting Armenian defenses while multiple attempts to save the wounded failed as they came under the artillery and mortar fire.

The armed conflict in Nagorno Karabakh is another example of a proxy war which Ankara is tirelessly running in North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Greater Middle East. There is no doubt that in his war planes Turkish President Recep Erdogan doesn’t care about Syrian and Libyan mercenaries fighting for financial reward. Battling for Turkey’s geopolitical interests promises them only injuries and death.

Ahmad Salah

Ahmad Salah is a freelance Syrian journalist focused on the Middle East and especially the Levant.

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