Japanese man recounts time with Syrian rebel group as fighter

A Japanese man who joined a rebel group as a combatant in Syria last year said he wanted to test his limits by going into battle but “had no religious or political beliefs.”

The story told by Yoshifumi Uzawa, a self-employed resident of Tokyo who recently spoke to Kyodo News, echoes a reported remark by another 26-year-old, a Hokkaido University student who was questioned by police Monday for allegedly planning to join the Islamic State militant group.

The student told a journalist who was planning to accompany him to Syria that he “didn’t have any interest in Syria or Islam.”

Instead, the student was apparently unhappy with his life, telling a police investigator that he was having problems finding a job, according to Tokyo police. The student had no prior record of traveling overseas and obtained his passport for the first time in May, the sources said.

Uzawa, in contrast, said he decided to go to the war-torn region because he had “a pent-up feeling” that he wanted to fight.

Becoming withdrawn as a boy from his experience with bullying, Uzawa said he began to feel life was meaningless and that he “wanted to destroy everything on a battlefield.”

While at university, he started his own business selling agricultural produce. But despite the stability he had achieved in his life, the desire to participate in a conflict returned, he said.

“I did spend some time with the Self-Defense Forces,” Uzawa said. “But I went to the United States to get training in shooting.”

Syria was his destination because fierce fighting was taking place, Uzawa said, adding that, like the university student, he did not have any interest in, or a deep knowledge of, Islam.

Uzawa said he entered Syria via Turkey and got in touch with a member of a rebel organization. He was then taken to a mosque, converted to Islam and learned at an institution how to live as a Muslim, he said.

In a separate media interview, he said he “was introduced to an extremist faction that is getting along well with the Free Syrian Army,” an armed organization working to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The combat unit he was posted to had people from 20 to 30 countries, including North African and Eastern European nations, Uzawa said.

He was seriously injured during an operation to attack a prison in Aleppo to free political prisoners, he said. An artillery barrage that led to shrapnel piercing his left thigh.

“I didn’t see enemy soldiers but I was frightened when we were targeted,” he said. “I only shot twice or three times. I didn’t take part in killing.”

Recalling his experiences, he said, “I was hoping to lead a fulfilling life without fearing criticism from other people.”

Source Article from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/10/10/national/japanese-man-recounts-time-syrian-rebel-group-fighter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=japanese-man-recounts-time-syrian-rebel-group-fighter
Japanese man recounts time with Syrian rebel group as fighter
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