“A toilet was in our thoughts everyday” says Sagres soldier who went AWOL to fight ISIS

It is billed as “a major interview” this week in Sábado and it centres on Mário Nunes whose story got only small corners of space in national newspapers in February when he went AWOL from his Portuguese airforce base to fight Islamic State in Syria (click here).

Now Nunes – the first Portuguese to take up arms against the radical terror group – is in full technicolour in multiple news media, a world away from the skinny youngster featured articles that claimed that the Portuguese military planned to prosecute him for desertion if and when he returned.

Today, noticiasaominuto website says a court martial “will not happen”, but Expresso is not so sure, stressing military police are still investigating.

All that is known for certain is that Mário, whose Facebook page says he lives in Sagres, has survived six months fighting for the YPG – the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party in Syrian Kurdistan – has given interviews, is somewhere in Europe and very possibly on his way home to Portugal.

The young man whose story received mixed reactions nationally is also featured in a British documentary by Channel 4 entitled “Fighting ISIS”, due to be broadcast later this month.
As for Sábado’s “major interview”, it has been repeated on various fora and appears to have been concocted from a series of questions sent to Nunes in writing.

Asked why he had decided to leave his air force post in Beja, Nunes replied that he had “always been interested in history and this was an opportunity to be part of it instead of reading it in a book”.

He also said he felt that he could play his part as the first Portuguese to be fighting in Syria.

It was a way, he hoped, of getting others involved, “fighting for the right side, and not Islamic State”.

Elsewhere, Nunes talked about the dreams on the front line of combat of simply having the luxury of a toilet.

“A toilet was in our thoughts every day”, he told his interviewers. “Having a hole in the ground, and water to wash ourselves with afterwards was very strange for us”.

As to the future, Nunes is understood to have left Syria because he ran out of money.

A source in Syria has told Expresso, “if he decides to come back to the YPG, he will be very welcome. We like him very much”.

Documentary filmmaker Mauricio Gris, one of the former soldiers behind the Channel 4 documentary featuring Nunes, posted an impressive shot of him on Twitter recently. Beside it, he commented: “Mario, the Portuguese volunteer for the #YPG entering a compound during#training. He looks a lot older than he is”.

“Fighting ISIS” is due out on September 14 at 10pm, adds Gris, while what happens next to Mário Nunes remains to be seen.

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