Testimonies from Syria - the research you're funding

“Little Juma’a, eight years old, was shot in throat and in the palms of both hands; he was holding his hands up when he was shot.”

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Juma'a Yousef al-‘Issa, his brother, Ibrahim, and their cousins Noureddine and 'Izzeddeen ‘Ali, were grazing sheep on the fields near their village of al-Bashiriya on 8 April, when soldiers approached. The soldiers told the told the four children to kneel on the ground, and shot them dead on the spot. We know this from the testimonies of other children who were grazing sheep nearby – they managed to hide from the soldiers in time, and ran back to the village to tell the family.

That same morning, a farmer, Sa’id Ibrahim Fara’a, was walking along the road when an army convoy passed:

“A pick-up truck with a machine gun mounted at the back came by near Sa’id as he was walking on the road and shot him in the head from close by and continued on its way. The left side of his head was literally blown off. There was no reason for killing him, he was just walking on the road.”

Help us to continue documenting atrocities in Syria

For over a year, the world has watched while Syrians face increasingly brutal attacks from government forces and opposition groups alike. There have been surges in media coverage in the headlines here of shaky, bloody footage from inside Syria: the decimation of Homs in February, the mass graves and mourning parents in Houla this month. But the footage is often unverified, the messages coming out of the country mixed.

Amnesty, like other international human rights organisations, has repeatedly sought permission from the Syrian government to enter the country and investigate the claims. Time and time again, we have been refused that permission. But the increasing gravity of the situation in Syria led us to take the decision to carry out research in the country for ourselves, undercover. And your funds helped to make that happen.

Support our vital research in Syria

The stories of Juma’a and Sai’id’ are among hundreds of testimonies detailing extrajudicial and indiscriminate killings of civilians by Syrian security forces, collected by our researcher, Donatella Rovera, during March and April of this year. Each witness recount is heart-breaking. But the stories must be told.

Safwan, a former police officer, was reclusive. His relatives found him:

“He had been shot in the head and was still holding his blanket over his head as if he had been afraid when he was shot dead.”

Yousef and Bilal were construction workers. They had taken part in some peaceful demonstrations. Soldiers shot them in the head outside their home and left the bodies burning:

“We filled buckets of water and I ran out barefoot and my daughter who had run out ahead of me screamed ‘my brothers are burning’. Yousef and Bilal were burning on the ground with several motorbikes piled over them.”

One woman witnessed her three sons being dragged from their home on 23 March. The soldiers killed and burned them.

“They killed my sons, the dearest things I had, and then they desecrated their bodies by setting them on fire. How can a mother endure such pain?"

The relentless brutality is overwhelming. Every testimony is drenched in fear.

“I would rather die than go back to prison.”

“I did not tell him I had been tortured because I was afraid I would be tortured again.”

But we must keep recording. Many of the monstrous acts we have documented can be classified as war crimes, and crimes against humanity. When the hell is over, this evidence will be crucial in bringing the perpetrators before the International Criminal Court, if, as it should, it gets to that stage. But in the meantime, we keep recording.

Your donations early this year helped to fund this research. Please, if you are able, help us to keep collecting evidence: we cannot turn away from Syria now.

Donate now to support future evidence-gathering

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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11 comments

It is important to note that these killings while seemingly random actually do serve a purpose . . .for the Syrian 'rebels' that is. Incidents such as the mass killing of children would not benefit the government in the slightest and only serve to sway public opinion towards yet another ill advised war in the middle-east. This manipulation of the opinion of US and British citizens would only benefit the 'Syrian rebels agenda. So, realistically we must question why these killings are taking place and who is committing them because of course ANYONE can dress in a uniform . . .doesn't make them legitimate part of a security force. If the US can use Libya as a base to arm these 'rebels' it sure could provide them with 'uniforms' too. So. . .why the sudden unrest in Syria, why so soon after Libya. . .and Iraq. . .and Afghanistan?? well if you check out the page 'Syria conflict the truth' on facebook there are many links to articles in the Guardian and Wikipedia etc outlining the fact that these wars in the Middle east are linked and are being instigated for a purpose by the US. The US are not interested in humanitarian crisis - they are best buddies with Saudi-Arabia for goodness sake who have one of the worst human rights records in the middle-east!! After the illegal war in Iraq we need to tread VERY carefully and not have a knee-jerk reaction to these atrocities 'apparently' carried out by Syrian security forces. Among the links on the page include an interview with a Channel 4 journalist whom the 'Syrian rebels' tried to get killed by the Syrian army in order to increase British support for attacking Syria!' Also included is a link showing how the BBC posted pictures of an apparent massacre in Syria . . .turned out it was a photo from Iraq in 2003!!

thefew 6 years ago

Dear Mr/Miss thefew,

I fail to see how ANY of what you have said will help.

For me it’s is important to note to not really take someone’s word for it when they purport to speak the truth on something as serious as this whilst not having the courage to use their real name as a login.

“sudden unrest in Syria” ??

I think a good history book is needed here – FaceBook pages are not the best for solid research.

“The US are not interested in humanitarian crisis”

Perhaps – but I am. So, when we stop the wholesale slaughter we can have the luxury for theories. In the meantime I don’t see how anything you have said is relevant to that goal.

“tread VERY carefully and not have a knee-jerk reaction to these atrocities”

I’m very sorry – but when I see murdered children I’m afraid I react, I act. I’d suggest we all do the same. React and act. Force our leaders to confront the ugly side of inaction, global indifference and a rampant arms trade. The indulgence of conspiracy is a boarder line insult to our fellow human beings suffering this conflict.

“So, realistically we must question why these killings are taking place..”

Sure we do. Get back to me when you feel like being realistic.

With the greatest of respect,

Eoin

eoingarland 6 years ago

Indeed

To "TheFew" I would just say that abuses by the Syrian authorities are hardly a new phenomena and Amnesty has a long history researching and campaigning against violations by the State, long before the uprising last year. It is clear that for a long time, the authorities have been failing in their own responsibility to protect Syrian civilians.

Even if one were to take the Syrian governments line as 100% accurate it is odd they still fail to co-operate fully with the UN observer mission who could verify government accounts.

They continue to fail in providing full co-operation and unimpeded access to the independent international Commission of Inquiry to investigate ALL alleged crimes under international law and violations and abuses of international human rights law.

They have not Invited the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, as well as other relevant UN Special Procedure mandate holders so they can carry out independent investigations into ALL alleged crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations and abuses.

It would seem if they wanted to show the world that their narrative was correct they would agree to these obvious recommendations.

They are not unaware of these requests to investigate but they refuse entry - I could say "what have they got to hide?" but we know they answer.

Kristyan BenedictStaff 6 years ago

Are you, Mr The Few, one of these people who think the US organised the Arab Spring? Have you been watching just a little too much Russia Today? The US were caught offguard by the Arab Spring, happening as it did without their permission via the internet. That's why they're going after Julian Assange so hard. The power of the internet scares Obama & Hilary shitless...

timfromchester 6 years ago

Dear Mr/Miss thefew
Well it is certainly a relief to find someone out there who is aware of what is really happening in Syria - not easy given the barrage of propaganda in our media.
I have no doubt that the Houla massacre was orchestrated in order to cause a worldwide outcry leading to military intervention and it appears to have had the intended result.
A similar strategy worked well in Libya and led to many well-meaning people calling for military intervention there. Of course, we now know that we were duped and the country has degenerated into chaos and continuing bloodshed like Iraq.
We can't afford to make the same mistake yet again.
I think Amnesty bears some responsibility for this and I wonder how they will respond to the hundreds of thousands of deaths that will certainly occur if this does become a war zone: they should have researchers astute enough to understand, like you, the bigger geo-strategic picture.
Obviously, Russian arms manufacturers should not be supplying the Assad regime but NATO, through Saudi and Qatar, are now funding and arming the "rebels" i.e. the thousands of Al-Qaeda terrorists and mercenaries have been sent into the country by US/NATO. At the same time, Turkey is allowing/encouraging arms shipments through their southern border and there are purportedly 12,000 mercenaries waiting across the border with Jordan, also armed and funded by the West.
I think Amnesty's Syria campaign is completely misguided and instead they should be emailing the Russian Foreign minister to commend him for not bowing to pressure and ask him to continue to veto any proposal for military intervention. It is only Russia that is preventing what would be an absolute disaster for the Syrian population.

cbeech 5 years ago

Why are you only calling for a weapons embargo on one side?

"In the absence of such an embargo, all governments must immediately halt transfers to the Syrian government of all weapons, munitions, military, security, and policing equipment, training and personnel. Any country considering supplying arms to the armed opposition should have in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure the material supplied is not used to commit human rights abuses and/or war crimes."

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago

Kristyan,

My first human rights campaign was in Franco's Spain. I simply can't understand why the Amnesty reports and positions are so brazenly one sided. Has Amnesty encountered a single soldier loyal to the regime who has survived capture by the armed opposition? The insurgents routinely torture and murder loyalist soldiers, there is no evidence to the contrary is there? President Assad can't possibly be expected to control a military confronted every day by atrocities recorded on video and put on the internet and inflicted on captured POWs, and their families. The insurgents are murdering teachers, oil workers, other state employees, killing Christians to drive communities out of Sunni towns and villages. The insurgents are killing lots of people. One other point, the defecting soldiers, the murdered piles of bodies, they were really POWs executed and used as video props by the insurgents, they were not actually shot by loyalist colleagues as the FSA claimed, isn't that the case?

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago

Hi Gregory - I'll refer you to my response to your questions on another Syria post here https://www2.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/campaigns/arming-armed-opposition-syria-realities-risks

Kristyan BenedictStaff 5 years ago

What thefew, cbeech and gregory conveniently forget is that Bashar al-Assad comes from a family of psychopaths - or was his father's massacre in Homs 1982 of 10,000 people just another piece of US propaganda? I understand the urge to see everything in geo-politics as US foreign-policy dirty tricks, especially after 9/11 (which WAS an inside job) and the disgraceful Iraq war, but you must remember that sometimes things do happen in the world that have not been instigated by the US. You really shouldn't flatter them!
I'd like to know, though, where thefew, cbeech and Gregory get their information from and is it any more credible than our media? cbeech: Saudi Arabia and Qatar are perfectly capable of supplying the rebels with arms by themselves. Why claim NATO is orchestrating it? To claim Al-Qaida are operating in Syrian is utter bollocks and the "1200 mercenaries waiting across the border" sounds impressive, but where did you get this gem from? You've swallowed The Assad/Putin ******* whole. The only "armed terrorists" in Syria are Assad's own Shabiha thugs, who have an uncanny knack of entering areas that have just been shelled, unscathed, and then freely proceed to butcher the non-Alawite/non-Assad-supporting population (see Houla, etc.)
Gregory: To suggest that Assad can't possibly be expected to control his military is utterly laughable. As he has said himself if you can't do that you don't deserve to be in charge of a country. Or was he tacitly suggesting he's unfit for purpose and someone should take him out?! Where is your proof that the insurgents are killing all these various people? Shooting defecting soldiers and then claiming they're terrorists is another Assad oldie and is no more believeable now than it was a year ago.
In short, don't watch Russia Today for the news, watch it for the Keiser Report instead! It is only to be expected that one thug head-of-state (Putin) will support another (Assad) and supply him with weapons till the cows come home. Preserving these arms sales is the reason, together with preserving their foothold port in the Med of Tartus, that Russia is in this up to its neck.

timfromchester 5 years ago

Kristyan

Amnesty could talk to the churches without visiting Syria. Why didn't your organization do that?

The videos of young girls being hung in derelict buildings, that is the work of the Free Syrian Army. The regime is not doing that kind of thing. The UN panel has taken evidence from FSA members in relation to the same activity.

As it is, the armed opposition have saturated the internet with degenerate videos of atrocities, the torture and murder of Alawi and Christian soldiers. That 'PR' campaign invites reprisal.

I can also assure you, the dead soldiers being lauded in Armenia, are of the home team fighting for President Assad. They are also having a discourse in Armenia to rescue the Syrian diaspora.

The Armenians ubiquitously take a dim view of the Turks and they are only in Syria because Turkey annihilated the Armenians of Anatolia, and Cilicia.

The Armenians, the Christians, the Alawi, are fighting for the regime, they have no other choice, the Amnesty narrative of the opposition being a broad church is a complete fiction.

'Another FSA soldier told the CoI that Alawite soldiers are normally killed immediately upon capture, while soldiers from other sects are offered the chance to join the FSA, and if they refuse to join, they are released to their relatives.'

So, one of your researchers was in Syria? Did it not cross her mind to find out about a year's worth of POWs the rebels had taken?

Amnesty didn't interview a single Alawi or Christian in Syria. And, as far as human rights reports go, because of that, it is surely one for the record books.


Gregory

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago

Tim

Thanks for the reply. My first human rights campaign was in Franco's Spain. I have decades of experience.

I am afraid the rebels are murdering large numbers of captives routinely and the bodies frequently used in PR videos as regime killings. The FSA are on a free ride from the western media.


If the rebels were in the Geneva convention business, somebody over the last year would have found a single Alawi or Christian soldier loyal to the regime who had survived capture.

When the FSA secure real estate, even on a temporary basis they always eliminate their suspected enemies.

Best

Gregory

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago