Defector Brigadier General Ahamd Rahal is waiting for the implementation of a deportation order from Turkey while facing death threats from an opposition-affiliated armed group should he set foot in Syria.
Sultan Suleyman Shah Brigade, operating within the Syrian National Army (SNA), obtained a court order sentencing Turkish-based Brigadier General Rahal to three years in prison. The brigade publicized the verdict in a video posted by its command on its official platforms on May 21st.
The video featured a group of the brigade’s commanders and officers in a meeting room, with one of them reading a statement outlying the reasons behind the verdict. The statement said that Rahal was sentenced because he “appeared on anti-revolution TV channels, showing contempt for and slandering the [SNA] institution, particularly and persistently the Sultan Suleyman Shah Brigade.”
Brigadier General Rahal told Enab Baladi that Turkish authorities arrested him in August 2020 due to “fabricated” reports, accusing him of working for foreign intelligence services.
Rahal denied the charges filed against him, saying that the reports were filed in retaliation to a personal dispute with the commander of the Sultan Suleyman Shah Brigade, Muhammad al-Jasim, known by his nickname Abu Amsha.
According to Anadolu Agency, on May 16th, the Turkish government announced it has captured a drug shipment at the İskenderun Harbor, south of Turkey. The seized substances were headed to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
At the time, Brigadier General Rahal accused SNA-affiliated figures, including commander Abu Amsha, of smuggling these drugs to the Turkish harbor.
In response, Abu Amsha took to Twitter. He said that Rahal’s statements “exempt” the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, as well as the PKK militias from responsibility in the drug trade while blaming it on the Syrian revolution and the SNA.
Abu Amsha also said that Rahal’s statements regarding the SNA activities are “a media defamation campaign against Turkey’s support for the Syrian revolution.”
Rahal told Enab Baladi that he started receiving death threats after he criticized the practices of the SNA-affiliated armed groups in northern Syria, which resemble the work of “mafias.”
Rahal said that in mid-2020, while deployed to Libya, Abu Amsha called him and said that he had a lot of respect in store for him. The next day, all this changed into insults and threats.
The threats Rahal received increased as he continued to criticize the SNA command and policies. Menaces became daily, he even received dozens of threats on the same day.
Rahal said that he received hostile messages through WhatsApp, threatening him with death or kidnapping. Lately, senders even threatened to harm his family, his wife, and his daughter.
Rahal told Enab Baladi that while he was delivering a lecture in the Turkish capital, Ankara, he received a WhatsApp photo, of his wife and daughter, who accompanied him for the lecture. The photo was sent with a message saying that “even your family is under surveillance.”
Rahal said that Abu Amsha started filing malicious reports to the Turkish intelligence regarding his activities, seeking his deportation to the Syrian territories, presumably Abu Amsha’s area of command.
Rahal added that the reports started after he addressed a “rape crime” of a girl in the northern countryside of Aleppo. The story was covered by local and international media outlets, accusing Abu Amsha of the horrifying incident.
The Turkish intelligence arrested Rahal, who resided in Istanbul, on August 18th, and subjected him to interrogation on several charges, including appearing on anti-Turkey TV channels. However, Rahal said, the charges were not backed by evidence.
Rahal added that before his release, he had the chance to talk to one of the detectives engaged in his interrogation. The detective told him that there are no charges against him, but the SNA-affiliated military factions are considered allies of Turkey, which makes any criticism of the groups controversial. Back then, Rahal told the detective that this is a Syrian issue and that he has the right to criticize whomever he wants. He ended up spending two months in detention.
As for the deportation order, Rahal affirmed that the Turkish authorities have not provided him with neither a date to leave the Turkish territories nor a target destination.
Rahal said that he started searching for a new country to reside in after he was released from prison, failing to find any so far.
Who is Brigadier General Ahmad Rahal?
Brigadier General Ahmad Rahal is a former officer within the Syrian Navy and a lecturer at the Syrian Higher Academy of Military Sciences. He defected from the ranks of the Syrian regime army in October 2012 and was militarily active since then.
Rahal said that because defected officers were mostly marginalized and excluded from direct military action, he chose to work in the media, becoming one of the key Syrian military analysts on local and Arab television screens.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.