[Marxism] The worst atrocity of the Syrian war?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed May 15 07:46:16 MDT 2013

A Youtube video has gone viral. You can find 754,000 references to it on 
Google and it is displayed prominently on MRZine (where else?) It shows 
a commander of the Farouq Brigades cutting out the heart of a dead 
Syrian soldier and taking a bite out of it. While such depravity is not 
to be condoned, how does it compare to these reports in today's NY Times 
that mentions this incident but has much more to say about the real 

The recent executions, reconstructed by speaking with residents and 
human rights monitors, unfolded over three days in two Sunni enclaves in 
the largely Alawite and Christian province, first in the village of 
Bayda and then in the Ras al-Nabeh district of the nearby city of Baniyas.

Government troops and supporting militias went house to house, killing 
entire families and smashing men’s heads with concrete blocks.

Antigovernment activists provided lists of 322 victims they said had 
been identified. Videos showed at least a dozen dead children. Hundreds 
more people are reported missing.

“How can we reach a point of national forgiveness?” said Ahmad Abu 
al-Khair, a well-known blogger from Bayda. He said that the attacks had 
begun there, and that 800 of about 6,000 residents were missing.

Multiple video images that residents said they had recorded in Bayda and 
Ras al-Nabeh — of small children lying where they died, some embracing 
one another or their parents — were so searing that even some government 
supporters rejected Syrian television’s official version of events, that 
the army had “crushed a number of terrorists.”

One prominent pro-government writer, Bassam al-Qadi, took the unusual, 
risky step of publicly blaming loyalist gunmen for the killings and 
accusing the government of “turning a blind eye to criminals and 
murderers in the name of ‘defending the homeland.’ “

Images of the killings in and around Baniyas have transfixed Syrians. In 
one video that residents say shows victims in Ras al-Nabeh, the bodies 
of at least seven children and several adults lie tangled and bloody on 
a rain-soaked street. A baby girl, naked from the waist down, stares 
skyward, tiny hands balled into fists. Her round face is unblemished, 
but her belly is darkened and her legs and feet are charred into black 

Opposition leaders called the Baniyas killings sectarian “cleansing” 
aimed at pushing Sunnis out of territory that may form part of an 
Alawite rump state if Syria ultimately fractures. Mr. Houry said the 
killings inevitably raised such fears, though there was no evidence of 
such a broad policy. Tens of thousands of displaced Sunnis are staying 
in the province, largely safe.

Not all reactions followed sectarian lines. Survivors said Christian 
neighbors had helped survivors escape, and on Tuesday, Alawite and 
Christian residents of the province said they were starting an aid 
campaign for victims to “defy the sectarian wind.”

Mr. Qadi, the pro-government writer, labeled the killers “criminals who 
do not represent the Alawites” and called on the government to 
immediately “acknowledge what happened” and arrest “those hyenas.”

He added: “This has happened in a lot of places. Baniyas is only the 
most recent one.”

When the uprising began in March 2011 as a peaceful movement, Sunnis in 
Bayda raised banners denouncing Sunni extremists, seeking to reassure 
Alawites that they opposed Mr. Assad, not his sect, said Mr. Abu 
al-Khair, the blogger.

In May 2011, security forces stormed the village, killing demonstrators, 
including women.

After that, Bayda remained largely quiet. Most activists and would-be 
fighters left. But residents said they often helped defecting soldiers 
escape, a pattern they believe set off the violence.

Activists said that on May 2, around 4 a.m., security forces came to 
detain defectors, and were ambushed in a fight that killed several 
government fighters — the first known armed clash in Baniyas. The 
government called in reinforcements and, by 7 a.m., began shelling the 

A pro-government television channel showed a reporter on a hill above 
Bayda. Smoke rose from green slopes and houses below, where, the 
reporter said, “terrorists” were hiding. A group of men the reporter 
described as government fighters walked unhurriedly through a square.

“God willing, Bayda will be finished today,” a uniformed man said on camera.

What happened next was described in Skype interviews with four survivors 
who for their safety gave only nicknames, an activist in Baniyas, and 
Mr. Abu al-Khair, who said he had spoken from Damascus with more than 30 

Men in partial or full military dress went door to door, separating men 
— and boys 10 and older — from women and younger children.

Residents said some gunmen were from the National Defense Forces, the 
new framework for pro-government militias, mainly Alawites in the 
Baniyas area. They bludgeoned and shot men, shot or stabbed families to 
death and burned houses and bodies.

The activist in Baniyas, Abu Obada, said security forces had told people 
to gather in the square, and some Bayda villagers, fearing a massacre, 
attacked them with weapons abandoned by defectors. Other residents 
disputed that or were unsure because they had been hiding.

A cousin of Mr. Abu al-Khair’s, who gave her name as Warda al-Hurra, or 
the Free Rose, said her female relatives had described being herded to a 
bedroom with children, and heard male relatives crying out in pain 
nearby. At one point, her cousin Ahmed, 10, and brother Othman, 16, were 
brought in, injured and “limp as a towel,” she said.

Her aunt begged a guard to let them stay, but he said, “They’ll kill me 
if I make one single mistake.”

Soon another gunman shouted at him and took the boys away. They are 
still missing.

The gunmen brought more women, until there were 100 in the room. He 
ordered the guard to kill them. The guard said: “Don’t be rash! Take a 

The man relented. The women heard gunmen celebrating in the square; 
later they were released. When they ventured out, there were “bodies on 
every corner,” Ms. Hurra said.

Another resident, Abu Abdullah, said he had fled his house and returned 
after dark to find stabbed, charred bodies of women and children dumped 
in the square, and 30 of his relatives dead.

Omar, of nearby Ras al-Nabeh, the man who had dragged dozens of bodies 
from the streets, said he had helped Bayda residents pick up bodies, 
placing 46 in two houses and the rest in a mosque, then had run away, 
fearing the return of the killers. He said he had recognized some 
bodies, including the village sheik, Omar al-Bayassi, whom some 
considered pro-government.

One video said to be from Bayda showed eight dead children on a bed. Two 
toddlers cuddled face to face; a baby rested on a dead woman’s shoulder.

On May 4, shelling and gunfire began to hit Ras al-Nabeh. Abu Yehya, a 
resident, hid in his house with his wife and two children, who stayed 
quiet: “Their instincts took over.” Two days later, he said, he emerged 
to find his neighbors, a family of 13, shot dead against a wall.

On May 6, security forces allowed in Red Crescent workers. Bodies were 
tossed and bulldozed into trucks and dumped in a mass grave, Mr. Abu 
al-Khair said.

Residents posted smiling pictures of children they said had been killed: 
Moaz al-Biassi, 1 year old, and his sister Afnan, 3. Three sisters, 
Halima, Sara, and Aisha. Curly-haired Noor, and Fatima, too little to 
have much hair but already sporting earrings.

Mr. Obada said residents on Tuesday were indignant when a government 
delegation offered compensation for damaged houses, saying, “What do you 
get if you rebuild the house and the whole family is dead?”

Displaced Sunnis who had sheltered there are fleeing, and some say 
Alawites are no longer welcome.

“It’s now impossible for them to stay in Syria,” Omar said.

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