KUALA LUMPUR: “SEE that white wall? Don’t go past 500m from that point… unless you want instant martyrdom.
“Those are pistachio trees, over there are olives and behind that incline is another one of (Syrian President Bashar) Assad’s army bases.”
Mohammad Fadhlan Shahidi, 21, the latest recruit among a group of Malaysian militants in Syria battling Assad’s regime, tries to absorb as much knowledge as he can from his senior, Ahmad Salman Abdul Rahim, who is taking him on a short tour of their base.
Salman is also believed to be the group’s media coordinator.
Fadhlan smiles as he scans the vast dry land that surrounds him. He does not flinch at the thought of his life possibly ending on the stretch of dusty road where their enemies could lie watching.
Kedah-born Fadhlan had just found his way to Kafr Zayta, Hamah, Syria, where more than a dozen of Malaysian militants are engaged in heavy battles daily.
Among his new brothers, he is now known as Abu Muhajir.
Salman, who took Fadhlan under his wing, had recorded and posted on Facebook a brief orientation session, where he asked Fadhlan questions that those back home planning to join them would want to know.
The session was held with several more senior members of the group, including their leader of sorts, Mohd Lotfi Ariffin.
Sharing his story on the journey he made from Baling, Fadhlan said he had been intrigued by Lotfi’s postings on Facebook as well as the calls that he made for able-bodied Muslim men in Malaysia to join them in Syria.
He then sent Lotfi a private message over Facebook to ask what he had to do to be one of them.
In the Facebook video, Fadhlan, who was seated next to Lotfi and Salman, said he was told (by Lotfi) to get RM6,000 ready.
He soon packed his bags, said his goodbyes and began his journey, which first took him to Istanbul, Turkey.
“I have been following his (Lotfi’s) postings … his influence is great.
“No I don’t think I am ever going back (to Malaysia).
“Jihad has always been what I wanted to do and this is what I will do,” Fadhlan said when Salman asked him on camera what motivated him to join them in Syria.
Another senior shortly afterwards draped him with what he said was only deserving for mujahideens in their group. Like his seniors, Fadhlan sees Syria as where he will die in battle as a martyr.
That was in mid-May.
Now a senior himself, Fadhlan has since garnered a growing number of followers back home, just like most of his comrades, who are active social media users.
Collectively, the number of their followers are massive and the message that they drive home has been effective. Many of their supporters have shown interest in joining their cause.
Fadhlan, a bachelor, told his followers that if they decided to join him in Syria, they could send him a private message and that there was no better way to die than in battle there.
He and most of the Malaysians there are said to be based in Kafr Zita, a town in northern Syria.
“Everyone wants to go to heaven, but when your family member wants to go for jihad, you are reluctant to let them go. Do you seek permission before praying and fasting? How can you hope to enter heaven if you are not willing to die? God willing, if you die a martyr, you will be able to pass on the benefits of your martyrdom to 73 others. Who wants this? Allow your family member to come for jihad here,” he said.
Fadhlan tells those curious to know more about their cause that he and other Malaysians are fighting the Assad regime alongside the Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union.
Meanwhile, Lotfi said he was proud that many youngsters back home had realised their “priorities”.
“If your intentions are sincere, you will reach here. Here is one example (in reference to Fadhlan), there is no going back (to Malaysia).
“We deal with a lot of Arabs here. You need patience,” Lotfi then joked.