Leader (internal): Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad
Leader (external): Brigadier General Mustafa al-Sheikh
(screen shot from this video here)
Creation: July 2011
Once the Syrian uprising began in the spring of 2011, it did remain peaceful.
Protesters chanted for freedom and urged unity among the people, while the Assad regime attempted to paint its opposition as violent Salafi radicals.
Demonstrations have been growing since then, and regime support has been declining as its brutality has intensified.
In June 2011, Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Harmoush announced that he and his companions were defecting from the army to “protect the unarmed protesters who demand freedom and democracy.” The opposition needed to resort to arms, he said, to defend the people against regime brutality.
The opposition took up arms, and the first organised armed groups had emerged within the opposition to the regime.
Defecting officers began releasing YouTube videos announcing their intention to protect peaceful protestors against attacks by the State.
In July 2011, Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad defected and announced with his companions the creation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
While his rhetoric was aggressive against the soldiers of the regime who continued to fight for Assad, (saying they were legitimate targets), he described the FSA’s mission as protecting the revolution and the Syrian people.
He was basically emphasising self-defense, and trying to avoid alienating potential Western supporters, for cash and weapons.
The West did not arm the FSA. Nor did the Gulf Arab states. Not until later.
The Western powers offered verbal support to the opposition, but not much more. And this inactivity led to a narrative in which the U.S. and Europe figure as passive partners in crime of the Assad regime.
FSA leaders openly requested weapons from foreign governments.
First Female Commander: