[Marxism] The worst atrocity of the Syrian war?
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,
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
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
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
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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