Syrian military helicopters spotted Ali’s group, and one member was killed – struck in the head by rounds from the helicopter – as they ran for seven hours trying to hide. He witnessed first the tanks firing upon the houses, “then the Army troops were coming and were burning everything.”
It was this kind of anticivilian action that soldier Fidou, in his early 20s, refused to perpetrate. Of slight build and with a thin beard, Fidou wears tennis shoes dirty from a long journey.
In his pocket he carries a carefully folded document, proof that he completed his mandatory military service in 2008 in Jisr al-Shughur.
As a reservist he was called up in April – not long after the Syria’s uprising began against the dictatorial rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
Fidou reported for duty and says he was given 15 days training in riot control techniques. He was then deployed to Homs, where his unit was ordered to fire directly on civilians to put down unrest.
Fidou was sent into battle with a plastic riot shield and a truncheon.
"The first day they didn't tell us anything, just that there are gangs out there, trying to kill people," says Fidou. "When we went to the streets, we were surprised to find only people with olive branches."
Commanders "were ordering us to shoot at the people, and if we didn't shoot we would be killed," recounts Fidou. Snipers were placed to shoot at possible deserters.
In the melee, Fidou and a number of other soldiers who refused to kill ran from the scene, eventually being taken in and hidden by families who knew they would not shoot.
“They were begging us: ‘Don’t kill anybody!” he recounts.
Afterward they fearfully regrouped and returned to their barracks, while those who had actually fired upon the crowds “went back crying with regret.”
The treason of Fidou and some others went undetected.