Syrian rebels hope for swap deal: Detained Iranian for Assad-held female activists

Published February 3rd, 2015 - 01:13 GMT
Syrian opposition groups have accused the Syrian government of detaining tens of thousands of political activists since the beginning of Syria's then-peaceful revolution in 2011. (AFP/File)
Syrian opposition groups have accused the Syrian government of detaining tens of thousands of political activists since the beginning of Syria's then-peaceful revolution in 2011. (AFP/File)

A Syrian rebel group said on Monday they were seeking to swap an Iranian taken captive in the southwestern province of Deraa last month for women held in Syrian government jails.

Iran, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has sent mainly military experts to help him in his almost four-year-long battle with rebels.

Last month, several insurgent groups including the Sham Unified Front launched a major offensive in the province of Deraa in which they seized several military posts, including a strategic army base in the Sheikh Maskeen area.

The group's leader Abu Ahmed said his rebels captured the Iranian as he was fighting alongside the Syrian army in the province, and killed nine other soldiers as they took over a power station near Sheikh Maskeen.

"We questioned him through a translator, he came to Syria last year, he is a 30-year-old and he comes from (the Iranian) city of Qom," Abu Ahmed, who was not using his real name, told Reuters.

"We are questioning him on how Iranians operate in Syria. Our priority right now is a swap (of him) for our prisoners. We have so many women in government prisons and we want to swap him for (some of) them."

Reuters could not independently verify the account.

The opposition has consistently demanded the release of thousands of women they say have been jailed for involvement in anti-government activism since March 2011, when the war began as peaceful street protests.

The Sham Unified Front is part of the Southern Front alliance of rebel groups operating near the border with Jordan where they have managed to seize positions from the Syrian army and hold them.

Two years ago, Syrian insurgents freed 48 Iranians they held in exchange for more than 2,000 civilian prisoners held by the Syrian government.

Opposition groups accuse the government of detaining tens of thousands of prisoners in its attempt to crush the anti-Assad revolt in which radical Islamist rebels have increasingly predominated on the ground, seizing much of the north and east of Syria.

Iranians killed in Syria's war have included several retired generals from the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards. A general in the Revolutionary Guards was killed by an Israeli airstrike in southern Syria last month, along with six operatives of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, an ally of both Syria and Iran.

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Mohammed Ali Jafari, while addressing a ceremony in Tehran last Friday, mentioned discussions he had with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, saying that “despite the number of youth who are permitted to join the fighting (outside Iran), no one else should leave the country” for resistance abroad.


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