06/30/12 #Syria Assad’s army burning the fields outside Salamiyeh via @abuhatem
- guardian.co.uk, Friday 4 May 2012 11.27 BST
Syrian forces are executing scores of suspected opposition sympathisers in the northern city of Idlib, often burning their bodies in piles or torching them in their homes then sending family members to find them, witnesses say.
Idlib residents who spoke to an Amnesty International official last month painted a dire portrait of a city at the mercy of regime troops and irregular loyalists who routinely sweep homes seeking dissenters to kill.
The Amnesty report, prepared by senior crisis adviser Donatella Rovera, gathered harrowing testimonies of victims and their families, caught up in a purge of Idlib and surrounding villages that has steadily intensified over the past six months.
The report says hundreds of homes in some villages have been burned down and their populations terrorised by forces who kill with impunity.
After troops routed Homs in early March, Idlib became a focal point of the violence ravaging Syria, with regime forces hunting down defectors who had fled their posts in the city and rallied in the hinterland. Residents say loyalist incursions became more intensive around this time, the report confirms.
A woman whose house was set alight on 11 March was allegedly told that it was pointless reporting the incident unless she blamed terrorists.
“The neighbours saw it was military security members who attacked my house,” she told Amnesty. “It was the middle of the day and there were tanks and soldiers and security force members everywhere in the area – how on Earth could this have been the doing of armed groups? So I did not lodge a complaint.”
In the village of Taftanaz, two 80-year-old men were reportedly killed in their homes, which were then burned around them.
“I had been staying with relatives across the street and my husband was at home,” the wife of one of the men told Amnesty. “When I went back home I found it burned down but did not find my husband. I went out and asked the soldiers outside where they had taken him. I thought they had arrested him. A soldier replied: ‘Go back in and look for him’. I went back and found his remains in a pile of ash.”
In the Sarmin area near Idlib a mother claimed that her three sons had been taken from their home early on 23 March and killed. “[The military] did not let me follow them outside; every time I tried to go out they pushed me back,” the mother said. “When I was able to go outside, after a couple of hours, I found my boys burning in the street. They had been piled on top of each other and had motorbikes piled on top of them and set on fire.”
The testimonies add to the weight of evidence that has emerged from Syria over the past 14 months of an uprising that has repeatedly been opposed with brutal means.
In Idlib, as in Homs, what was once a popular, unarmed uprising has given way to a two-way fight that regularly pitches the regime military against guerilla forces made up of the rebel Free Syria Army and residents who have taken up arms.
Foreign fighters are trickling into battle zones from countries such as Libya, Iraq and neighbouring Lebanon as the violence takes on the feel of a full-blown civil war with regional implications.
A ceasefire brokered in early April by the United Nations special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, was supposed to pull both sides back from the brink of further chaos. However, only a small number of the 300 peacekeepers that Syria agreed to receive have so far made it to the country.
Annan is likely to give the United Nations a bleak assessment of the mission’s success as soon as this weekend.
EXTREMELY GRAPHIC | Homs, #Syria: Khalidiyeh bodies lie in the streets after they were killed and burned 18/4/2012
A building on fire caused by Assad’s indiscriminate shelling in Khalidiyeh, Homs #Syria @UN 16/4/2012
*EXTREMELY GRAPHIC!* @KofiAnnan #Syria - Leaked video of Assad forces burning an activist alive in Baba Amr, Homs. NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED!
Syrians had been humiliated, abused and mass murdered by the Assads for 42 years, but this proved a galvanising moment. They came out onto streets made ugly by this family mafia belonging to a sectarian hardcore of a tiny minority, armed with nothing but their dignity and natural desire for justice. They defied Russian-made bullets that Assad rained down on them; Iranian missiles; Hizballah snipers; as well as his own ruthlessly sectarian killing-machine, which murdered them in cold blood by the hundreds, then the thousands, then the tens of thousands. Their fields were burnt; their patient farm animals shot; their houses looted and shelled; their mosque minarets and church spires desecrated and destroyed. All basic services were cut off — water, electricity, gas — in outrageous communal punishment. Syrians found themselves besieged and starved in towns across their generous beautiful country. One image that is seared into my mind forever is this: two young men who sought to smuggle in a little baby formula and three tins of sardines to hungry Dar’aa, were shot in the head by Assad Shabbiha, who then photographed themselves on stolen iPhones, laughing and pointing at the blown-out brains splashed across their boots.
The psychopathic eye-doctor imposed by force on the Syrian people by the Stalinist junta of his father 12 years earlier, thought nothing of gouging out the eyes of protestors. National hospitals became torture centres, where doctors of his ilk drilled holes into people’s flesh and chained them to beds so that security thugs could interrogate them with pokers and pliers. Girls as young as 9 were brought to prisons to be gang-raped, so as to better persuade their tied-up brothers or fathers – by the hundreds of thousands – not to rebel. Assadist torturers had nurses on standby to remove internal organs for sale on the black market. This was the nature of the beast — a corrupt Assad police state, that had bled our country dry for 42 years, and conspired to make a dynamic, capable people impoverished, even as its own members became obscenely rich, with their fortunes sent abroad. Our own United Kingdom is peaceful home to Assad’s war criminal uncle Rifa’at — mastermind of the infamous Hama genocide of 1982, that wiped out 20,000 Syrians in a month, and disappeared 17,000 others.
For the better part of a year, we were told, and glibly, by Western democracies that Assad was a reformer — perhaps because he wore suits and ties, and did not look scarily Arab like Saddam or Qadhafi. Turkey talked a lot but quickly caved in to his terrorist blackmail — though it did take in floods of refugees, who ended up in snow-covered tents across the border, traumatised and destitute. Russia intensified arms sales to Assad. China stood by him. Israel preferred him in power, while Arab states did nothing meaningful to prise him out of it. And so we became the loneliest people on earth.
Though it is easy to be bitter at having been so utterly abandoned to Assad’s slaughter by the international community, we the Syrian people have far better things to do than to hark on such a grave moral and political failure of will. We have a horrifying police state to dismantle — alone. Millions around the world tune in on a daily basis to the Assad snuff movie of castrated children, disfigured women, destroyed neighbourhoods, and mass graves. Our eleven thousand dead, sixty thousand disappeared, two hundred thousand arrested, and many more made refugees both internally and externally, add up to one thing, and one thing alone:
Syria will be free. Syria will be free. Syria will be free!
Rana Kabbani was born in Damascus in 1958 to a political family of democrats on her mother’s side, and artists and poets on her father’s side. She was educated at Jesus College, Cambridge. She is a writer and broadcaster, and a regular contributor to The Guardian and the BBC.
Foreign Secretary William Hague: “Last week marked the first anniversary of the uprisings in Syria. I’m grateful to Syrian writer Rana Kabbani who has written a harrowing account of her perspective on events in Syria. I don’t agree with everything that she says: for example the UK is at the forefront of diplomatic efforts to stop the bloodshed in Syria and to hold this criminal regime to account for its actions. But it is important people hear the voice and opinions of Syrian people, and I would welcome your views on what she has to say.”
Homs, #Syria: (ENGLISH SUBTITLES) Man survives Al-Adawiya Massacre and tells how soldiers beat, shot, and burned people. Please share!