12/11/2012 Hama, #Syria Graphic: This young man who is 18 years of age was arrested by Air Force Intelligence branch. He spent 4 months in their torture prison. They deprived him of food and drink. He was beaten up, electrocuted and was tortured under water during his time in prison. Before he was arrested, he weighed 80kg.
13/08/2012 Douma, Damascus, #Syria: The Free Syrian Army arrests a man from an armed gang (with translation)
The Martyrs Brigade of Douma arrested one element of an armed gang who are robbing citizens and are supported by Assad security forces. They are committing these crimes in the name of the FSA .
In the name of God. We have arrested with the help of God, a member of a military gang in a Damascus suburb. This group is robbing and stealing in the name of the FSA:
Q: What is your name?
A: My name is Maher Ali Ghanoum
Q: What is your crime ?
A: I am a member of a group of 51. We steal and rob in the name of the FSA
Q: Who is supporting you? Who is giving you arms?
A: The security forces
A: There is a group who supplies arms to us and information ( of the people and places to steal )
By MARIA ABI-HABIB
RAMTHA, JORDAN—Sitting among family in this Jordanian town on the Syrian border, an ex-army intelligence officer recounted how he worked against rebel forces by intimidating family members to prevent military defections.
Now he’s a defector.
At the start of the Syrian revolution a year ago, the 21-year-old said he sat in his barracks with colleagues and watched TV reports of widespread protests against the government that met with increasingly brutal crackdowns. One day, he said, the TVs were removed and his commanders told him and his colleagues they were fighting against terrorists aligned with the U.S. and Israel who were plotting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
The intelligence officer said he worked tirelessly to crush the uprising in western Homs for five months, finally being granted two days of leave in July. He returned to his home in southern Deraa but it was riddled with bullets. His brother had been arrested under the charge of “protesting” and his cousin killed by bullets fired by Syrian troops while demonstrating, he and his family members said in interviews.
The officer then realized he hadn’t been fighting terrorists, but his own people, he said.
“I have innocent blood on my hands,” he said, staring at the floor as his 3-year-old sister played beside him and his father and brother smoked cigarettes.
The intelligence officer was interviewed here in Ramtha, a poor city of whitewashed apartment buildings, and home to many of the 95,000 Syrian refugees that Jordan says have left Syria since the uprising began. Other defectors remain in Syria.
Many diplomats say the prospects are bleak for the opposition to topple Mr. Assad—who activists say continues his bloody crackdown even after a cease-fire began on Thursday—until more Syrian troops switch sides.
Analysts peg the number of defections at around 10,000 military members, out of about 304,000 active-duty troops.
This month several Gulf nations pledged to fund a pool of up to $40 million to pay defectors’ salaries and encourage them to turn their guns on the regime. But refugees say the fund—which hasn’t yet begun funding defectors—will have little chance of encouraging mass defections unless the international community can help secure the families of defected soldiers, police and security forces.
There are other reasons mass defections aren’t happening as fast as the opposition had hoped. These include the loyalty Mr. Assad enjoys from fellow Alawites, a minority Muslim sect in Syria, in the top levels of the government and military. Most of the defections come from the lower ranks, who are predominantly Sunni, members of Syria’s majority population.
Also, the military is structured in a way that limits communication among different units, heightening the challenge of coordinating against Mr. Assad, said Ayham Kamel, an analyst at the Eurasia Group.
“The funds from the Gulf represent a catalyst for broader defections, but they are unlikely to produce results overnight or even in a short period of time,” Mr. Kamel said. “And the bulk of ammunition and heavy weapons are held by units most loyal to the regime.”
Still, some soldiers have remained in service as undeclared rebels within the system, diplomats and several Syrian refugees interviewed in Jordan say. At great risk, these soldiers inform the opposition of the military’s movements and wave rebels through checkpoints.
Here in Ramtha, a former lieutenant colonel recounted his swift—and short-lived—decision to desert the Syrian police and join rebel forces.
“I fought until they locked up my father, interrogated my sisters and burned down my house,” said the former officer, while sitting on floor cushions with other refugees. “Now that I’m no longer fighting and left Syria, the pressure on my family is less.”
He declined to provide contact details for his family inside Syria out of concerns for their security, and his story, like those of some other refugees, couldn’t otherwise be corroborated.
Elsewhere in Ramtha, a former soldier who escaped to Irbid, Jordan, near the Syrian border, said his brother defected from the Syrian air force in April only to be caught and arrested. When their father went to the prison to inquire about the brother, he too was locked up, the soldier said.
The rest of the family is too scared to ask after the father and son, worried they too will be jailed, the former soldier said.
“No country is providing us weapons, Saudi and Qatar say they want to, but don’t,” said the former solider, 29 years old. “If the West doesn’t help us or other Arab countries, we’ll go to Al Qaeda. We don’t want to accept them, but what can we do when our children are being killed?”
The intelligence officer said he followed his father here in December after being stationed in western Homs province.
Worried, the intelligence officer would call his family in Deraa—a southern province where antiregime protests started early last year—asking if they were keeping safe from terrorist attacks. Concerned the phones were tapped, the intelligence officer’s family would respond vaguely and hurriedly hang up. “All I could think about was that I had to leave the army,” he said. “But I had to secure my family first.”
Meanwhile, the army intelligence officer’s Deraa experience embittered him to the Assad regime, and when he returned to Homs in July, he said he became an informant, telling rebels about military operations.
In December, he told his superiors that a family member was ill, and returned to Deraa. He then fled to Ramtha after securing his family, who now lives in a cramped three-room apartment there with his sister’s husband and small child.
He said that what especially haunts him is the intelligence he provided to colleagues to arrest defectors’ female family members, a way to pressure the former soldiers to turn themselves in. He said he heard reports of rape perpetrated by his colleagues as another form of intimidation against family members, but hadn’t seen any firsthand.
“I defected because of what I saw how they killed people, like my own cousin, and destroyed their houses,” he said. “I decided I couldn’t do this.”
Write to Maria Abi-Habib at firstname.lastname@example.org
Homs, #Syria: A doctor, Mohammad Nour Awdeh was arrested by shabiha because he cared and stood by the injured civilians who were persecuted by Assad. Family and friends demand his release now.
GRAPHIC WARNING | Daraa, Bosra Ash-Sham, #Syria: This is Ghassan Muhammad Miqdad, one of the thousands tortured to death after being arrested by the regime’s forces. He was diabetic, and the marks of torture are clear on his lifeless body 5/4/2012
Mohamed, a Syrian refugee from the southern Syrian town of Daraa crossed illegally into Jordan in December 2011, after being detained by the government. His family has been trying to join him in Jordan through the legal border crossing ever since - unsuccessfully. Aid workers and refugees say the Syrian government has tightened restrictions at the border. Here, Mohamed stands a few hundred metres before the Jordanian border crossing, waiting for his family. PICTURE: Heba Aly/IRIN
A few hundred metres from the dusty, sleepy crossing that divides Jordan and Syria, Mohamed (name changed) waits on the roadside clutching a plastic bag and his blazer.
After 147 days in detention for participating in anti-government protests in his hometown of Daraa in southern Syria, he left his wife and seven children behind and crossed into Jordan illegally, through a gap in barbed wire fencing.
He had no choice, he says; those who are jailed have their names put on lists at the border barring them from leaving legally.
Syrians do not require a visa to enter Jordan, and before a popular uprising began in Syria last March, thousands of people crossed the border in both directions daily.
For a month now, Mohamed’s family has been trying to cross into Jordan legally to join him, but time after time, they have been turned back at the border.
Refugees and aid workers say the Syrian government has closed its official border crossing with Jordan to anyone with a new passport and to families, women and children. It allows only those who already have Jordanian stamps in their passports, or young men who come individually, to cross.
“The (government) doesn’t want people leaving Syria in droves and refugees bringing negative media attention,” Mohamed told the IRIN news agency.
The Syrian uprising began peacefully in March 2011 demanding democratic reforms, but the opposition has become increasingly armed in the face of a violent crackdown by the Syrian government. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says more than 7,500 people have been killed - mostly civilians in what has become a near civil-war. Up to 200,000 people are displaced within Syria, aid groups say, and tens of thousands of others have fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
Jordanian government spokesperson Rakan al-Majali told IRIN only 2,400 of the 80,000 Syrians who have crossed into Jordan in the last year have done so illegally.
But those numbers are rising because of increased border restrictions, according to the Islamic Charity Centre Society, a local group working along the border in the nearby town of Mafraq.
In the last two weeks alone, 500 families have crossed into Jordan through the barbed wire fencing, said Khaled Fayez Ghanem, co-ordinator of Syrian refugees’ relief at the centre’s Mafraq branch.
“They started refusing families to leave,” he told IRIN. “When families leave, it gives the impression of a crisis in Syria.”
Mohamed communicates with his family through a smuggled Jordanian SIM card. They are hosted in a village near the border called Naseeb - as “refugees within Syria” - to facilitate their daily travel to and from the border.
On this day, Mohamed is waiting for them once more.
“I was here yesterday. I am waiting for them again today. If they don’t come today, we’ll find a way of getting them out illegally.”
His children tried splitting up and crossing one by one, but because their passports are brand new, he said, they were turned back on the assumption that they would claim refugee status in Jordan.
“Even with a bribe, we can’t get them out.”
Ghanem says families have had to pay Syrian customs officials bribes of up to 50,000 Syrian pounds ($873) to cross the border. Others are afraid to even try.
Abu Suleiman, of the restive city of Homs’ Hay Ashira neighbourhood, said on March 3 Syrian soldiers shot at the bus he was travelling in towards Jordan, 5km from the border.
“People are afraid to go legally because of attacks on buses crossing the border,” said another refugee who identified herself as Um Fawaz, from the Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs.
Ahmed Sharaf, who owns a shop just outside the official border crossing, said traffic had been gradually decreasing. “There is a lot less movement from Syria now.”
Those who come illegally walk 1.5km to get from the Syrian border to the Jordanian border, sometimes carrying injured people. Once on Jordanian territory, the army picks them up and takes them to be registered. They require a Jordanian sponsor to sign for them, and then they are free to enter Jordan.
According to Ali Rashid Shdaifat, head of the Jordan Red Crescent branch in Mafraq, some passport offices in Syria have closed, making it more difficult for Syrians to get passports to travel.
Ahmed (name changed) decided to flee Homs after he was twice arrested, detained and, he says, tortured. He tried three times to cross the border into Jordan.
“The first time, they wouldn’t let us out. They said we would protest internationally and make Syria look bad. The last time, when we neared the border, we met people who said people who tried to leave were being targeted: women were being killed, and men electrocuted.”
He had to travel to the capital Damascus to get passports made for his wife and kids. The process took 5-6 days and cost a 25,000 pound ($436) bribe to get authorisation to travel, required for all young men in Syria. He asked them to put an old date on the permission letter so it would not be obvious that he was trying to flee recent violence.
He says he was accepted for travel only because his son was ill. He arrived in the Jordanian capital Amman on March 17; his wife was forced to travel the next day.
*Graphic Warning* | Hama, #Syria | Torture marks on the body of a man who had been arrested. Electric cables, nails & other horrific methods were used on this man.
Four more high-ranking officers have defected from the Syrian armed forces and joined the year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, two rebel groups said on Thursday.
The men fled over the past three days to a camp for Syrian army deserters in southern Turkey, according to Lieutenant Khaled al-Hamoud, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army (FSA). He told Reuters by telephone from Turkey the desertions bring to seven the number of brigadier generals who have defected.
The seven are the highest-ranking officers to abandon Mr Assad, and the rank is the fifth highest in the Syrian armed forces. Mustafa Sheikh was the first brigadier general to announce his defection.
“We have six brigadier generals who are now in Turkey and another, who has stayed to lead some battalions inside Syria,” Lt Hamoud said. “We plan to form an advisory council to absorb these and any other high-ranking defections and this group will plan operations for the FSA.”
A Paris-based spokesman for Sheikh’s Supreme Syrian Military Council, Fahad al-Masri, said the four recent defectors were still under the observation of Turkish authorities and their names could not yet be released.
The rebels are also concerned for the safety of the men’s families, who have not left Syria, the two spokesmen said. They said Syrian forces had arrested the family of Brigadier General Faez Amro, who fled to Turkey last month. There have been several reports of defecting officers’ relatives being killed.
The new defections also highlight tensions over the rebel command. Hamoud said the defecting officers would be advisers to the FSA, headed by its founder, Colonel Riad al-Asaad. But the other spokesman, Fahad al-Masri, said they would join Sheikh’s Military Council.
In-fighting could weaken the defectors, now a lightly armed force of 20,000 opposing the government’s almost 300,000 strong military equipped with tanks and heavy artillery.
The uprising in Syria, which began as peaceful protests last March, has turned increasingly bloody as army deserters and armed rebels began using weapons to resist the security forces’ crackdown. Mr Assad says foreign-backed militants are behind the violence.
The senior rebel officer remaining in Syria is Brigadier General Adnan Farzat, who announced his defection in a YouTube video on Tuesday, saying he objected to the intensified shelling in his home town.
He will operate in the battered Homs province, parts of which have been severely damaged during the Syrian forces’ crackdown on centers of rebellion against four decades of Assad family rule.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned reports on Friday that Syrian forces were detaining, torturing and executing people in the flashpoint city of Homs, one day after the Red Cross was barred access to the besieged neighbourhood of Baba Amr.
REUTERS - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had received “grisly reports” that Syrian government forces were arbitrarily executing, imprisoning and torturing people in the battle-scarred city of Homs after rebel fighters had fled.
Syria denies visa to UN humanitarian chief
Syria has denied the head of UN humanitarian operations, Valerie Amos, a visa to visit the embattled country, Amos said in a February 29 statement.
Amos had applied for a visa but received no response.
Amos said she was “deeply disappointed” that she was unable to meet with Syrian officials in the country “to discuss the humanitarian situation and the need for unhindered access to the people affected by the violence”.
“A major assault on Homs took place yesterday,” Ban told the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Friday. “Civilian losses have clearly been heavy. We continue to receive grisly reports of summary executions, arbitrary detentions and torture.”
The Syrian government said on Friday it would like to express its “sadness and sorrow” at the death of Conroy’s Sunday Times colleague, U.S. journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed in the Homs shelling.
Emirati authorities have cancelled the residencies of dozens of Syrians for taking part in a protest against their regime outside the consulate in Dubai, Syrian activists told AFP on Sunday.
Two of them have already fled the Gulf country, arriving in Cairo on Saturday, after “all efforts failed to convince Emirati authorities to retract the decision,” one of the activists said.
“My son can’t go to Syria” for fear of being arrested there, the father of one of the protesters told AFP. “They have no mercy. They didn’t even give him a warning. They just cancelled his residency right away.”
The opposition activist told AFP that the UAE “authorities went ahead with the measures to cancel residencies despite promises to retract the decision.”
Nearly 2,000 Syrians took part in a demonstration outside the Syrian consulate in Dubai on February 10.
The Emirati authorities recalled several dozen of them and asked them to sign a pledge not to take part in any future demonstrations.
But days later, they were summoned by the immigration authority, which took their passports and cancelled their visas.
Some were given a time limit of up to around 10 days to leave the country, while the authorities have confiscated the documents of others whose residencies have not yet been cancelled.
The Syrian Revolt Coordination Committee, a network of Syrian opposition youths who organise protests and activities in Egypt in support of the Syrian insurgency, said it would support all those expelled from the UAE.
“We have been informed of how the government of the country you live in has failed you and of its unfair decisions against you,” the group said in a statement from Alexandria, Egypt’s second city.
“Our leadership has decided to invite all Syrian youths living in the UAE who will be expelled to come and stay with their brothers” in Egypt.
Committee spokesman Ahmad Balouch told AFP: “We are ready to help them in any way possible.”
“If they need financial aid we can work on providing this. And if all they need is to get connected to people here, we and other groups in Alexandria as well as Cairo can keep in touch with them,” Ahmad Balouch told AFP.
The United Arab Emirates, which has strict conditions on demonstrations, is one of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states that decided to recall their envoys from Damascus and expel Syrian ambassadors from their countries in protest at Syria’s lethal crackdown on dissent.
More than 7,600 people have been killed in violence across Syria since anti-regime protests erupted nearly one year ago, human rights groups say.