al-assad family

A Syrian witness to war – Something inside me broke

Mohammed Abdullah (Artino) joined the 2011 protests, was arrested, tortured, and later witnessed the chemical attack on Ghouta.

Assad Torture civilians protestor

Like many others, Mohammed Abdullah – Artino – lost a lot of weight after the siege took hold in Ghouta in May 2014 (Photo courtesy of Artino)

Mohammed Abdullah (Artino) spoke to Middle East Eye about his experiences since joining the Syrian protests in 2011, later becoming a war photographer who witnessed the Ghouta chemical attack.

I joined the protest movement in March 2011. It was a decision that cost me many friends and changed the course of all our lives. Those were heady, exciting days. There were so many of us. We really thought our peaceful protest could beat the system. When the older generation joined the movement we felt invincible.

I am an Alawite, like the al-Assad family and much of the military establishment. I had grown up seeing how people used and abused their influence and hated the corruption that was so rife in all parts of Syria. I wanted to live in a country where everyone could be seen as equal.

Assad prison torture peaceful protestors

Artino (left) at a protest in Zabadani (Feb 2012) (Photo courtesy of Artino)

After just a few weeks, I was filmed attending a funeral and arrested. I was taken to the notorious prison of the Mukhabarat, the Syrian secret police, where I was placed in solitary confinement, blindfolded and strapped to a chair. One guard was particularly bad. He must have been a big guy because I could feel his huge hands when he smashed me with his fists.

One day I fought back. “What have I done? Uncuff me, take off this mask! Why won’t you show me your face, are you a coward? Why can’t we talk man to man?” He went crazy, picked up the chair, and threw me against the wall.

I was also subjected to the infamous flying carpet where the prisoner is strapped down to a hinged board and the ends are brought together. The aim is to bend the spine and inflict maximum pain. The prison experience still haunts me. When I came out, I felt so unclean that I would spend hours in the shower.

Because my father was in the military, he was able to secure my release after a week, on payment of 60,000 Syrian Lira. He was an intelligence officer in the Syrian Air Force, part of the Mukhabarat no less. Both my parents were from Golan. My mother was Circassian, and a Sunni. She died while giving birth to me, her third son, so I was brought up by my maternal uncle and his wife.

I found out that the authorities were after me, so I escaped to Ghouta, a rural area to the east of the city where my adopted parents had a house. Soldiers regularly searched the area, and anyone deemed a rebel or traitor would be arrested or shot. So my mother dressed me in a khemar, traditionally worn by local women. Anyone who meets me can see I am hardly the most feminine of men, but there I stood swathed in layer upon layer of black cotton. Whenever we heard government forces were close-by, I would be told to go and sit with the women.

Barely getting out alive

As the protest movement developed into a full-scale war, I met the famous Serbian photographer, Goran Tomasevic. He took me on as his fixer, and I would organise his schedule and carry equipment.

Every day we would go up to the frontline and take pictures of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). I would wake at 4am and wait for one of the rebel soldiers to call. They would tell us where the fighting was likely to be. It was risky work and frightening seeing death and killing so close up.

Goran was crazy, he did not seem to feel fear. One January morning a sniper’s bullet missed my head by millimetres, he just turned to me and laughed: “Luckily you are so f**** short.”

Syria Assad regime kill prisoners

Another photojournalist snaps Artino lying down to take a shot (Jobar, Sept 2013) (Photo courtesy of Artino)

Another day we were waiting in an empty building when two or three grenades came whistling through the air, followed by heavy artillery barrage. The rebels fired back. Bullets were flying everywhere. For 30 minutes there was no let-up. Very slowly we inched into a cupboard in one of the back rooms. I cannot believe we got out of there alive.

Being an amateur photographer before the war, Goran became my teacher. He introduced me to Reuters so I started my career as a photojournalist. When my photos began to appear on the front pages of major international newspapers, I felt happy and proud. I am just a civilian. I am not a soldier. I am not a fighter. Neither of us expected this to be our job, but when our countries were burning we picked up a camera.

On my way to shoot a local brigade, I was hit by a shell. One moment I was walking down the street, the next I was in the air. When I came round I knew it was bad. My knee, thigh, shoulder, hand, the complete right side of my body was badly damaged. I was put in an old ambulance where all the glass had been blown out. As it careered along, I leaned out the window directing the driver away from pot-holes.

I was confined to my bed for two months. I was in pain – there were no painkillers – but also bored from being housebound. I pestered my friends to take me out. Reluctantly they would push me towards the frontline in my wheelchair so I could continue taking pictures.

Witnessing Ghouta

In August 2013, I witnessed the now infamous chemical attack in Ghouta. I was woken in the middle of the night with news of a gas attack. The next morning, despite several warnings not to go, I went to investigate myself. Nothing prepared me for what I saw: children, babies lying on the floor in their pajamas, so still and calm with no visible signs of injury. They looked like they were sleeping but all around was mayhem: everyone was screaming and crying, but the children were so still and other-worldly. I noticed their strange complexions; they had fluid coming out of their mouths and eyes. They were all dead. They say more than 400 children were killed.

I was paralysed. I could not move, let alone take a picture. As the feeling of nausea ebbed away, I found a doctor and I asked him: “How can you be sure this is chemical and not a normal death?” He himself was in shock, his colleague had died after inhaling the sarin gas. He carefully showed me the dark blue colour on their skin; the foam and vomit around their mouths were the signs of asphyxiation.

The bodies were laid out in schools and mosques, rows upon rows of them. I wandered from one building to the other taking photos. Something inside me broke: so many victims, survivors hallucinating and gasping for breath. Hell came to Eastern Gouta that day. Barack Obama said that if Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people there would be no other option but to intervene. We are still waiting.

I persuaded my parents to leave Ghouta because the whole area was besieged by government forces. The siege was getting tighter and the food we had stored would not last long. None of us choose to abandon our homes, but sometimes we just run out of options. My parents are in their fifties and living in a warzone is a huge burden.

Improve your body, improve your mind

Left alone for two months with a broken knee, I had to fend for myself as best as I could. I would crawl across the floor just to reach the bathroom. It was tough and humiliating but more than that I was fed up. I began reading avidly, finishing a novel each day and researching survival techniques on the internet. But it was not enough. I was powerless and my body was not mine anymore.

Then it hit me. I would start working out. If I could improve my body it would have a positive impact on my mental state. What 30-year-old guy does not want a six-pack? Did it matter that I was living under siege, in a country at war – no. As I posted the photos on Facebook, my friends commented wildly. They had seen too much blood and bullets, this was different, funny even, my quest for a beautiful body. Bit by bit, I started to gain strength and move again. I was proud of my developing abs. Perhaps they were not perfectly sculpted because I lacked the protein and fat necessary to build the muscle. It may seem strange that while my neighbours were scrambling to find enough food to feed their children, I worried about how I looked. This is what extreme situations do to you.

The calcium in my knee was decomposing, and the only long-term option was a knee transplant, something impossible in Ghouta. Every time I went to the field hospital to get my screws fixed, I could see my case was not a priority; people with life-threatening conditions could not get enough medicine. Hobbling around on a stick, I taught photography to children but I could not walk more than a few metres. The pain was unbearable.

Syria revolution

When he wasn’t taking photos himself Artino would teach children how to use a camera (Lebanon October 2014) (Photo courtesy of Artino)

Who can you trust?

I paid a smuggler $4,000 to provide me with a fake Syrian ID and take me to Lebanon. Before the war this journey was less than two hours, but it took us the best part of a month. I could not move fast due to the injury and there was fighting on all sides. You are moved from safe house to safe house, passed from group to group; sometimes it is the FSA and sometimes individuals who could be best described as gunrunners or bandits. It is a terrifying process, your heart is constantly in your mouth, you jump at any noise. Can you trust the smugglers or will they betray you to the government forces? We had to dodge the different armed groups, sleeping in bombed out buildings or sometimes outside.

After the bombs, the cold and hunger, I felt surrounded by luxury in Lebanon. When I asked my friend for a glass of water, I expected him to go over to the sink, but as he opened the fridge and the light flicked on, I broke down and wept. I was so overwhelmed and exhausted.

As I tried to establish my life there, I found I was forgetting small things: names and appointments. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I still had not been able to get my injuries fixed. I then learned of another option, resettlement.

‘I am just a regular metalhead’

I arrived in Europe towards the end of last year. People are astonished when I tell them I am from Syria. They have this image that we are all jihadis living in the desert with the camels. I have only seen one camel in my life. I am just a regular metalhead with a loud laugh and a few tattoos.

I learned my half-brother was killed in action earlier this year. He was a pro-government fighter, and died defending what he believed in. I have not spoken to that side of the family since the start of the uprising. My older brother is also in the army. We always had a difficult relationship, he would taunt me when I was a kid and blamed me for killing his mother. He texted me to say that I was a disgrace to my family and if he ever found me, he would kill me. He is so loyal that I feel for sure he would kill me if he could.

My real father died in 2014. While he still backed the government of Bashar al-Assad, he had accepted our differences. When he secured my release back at the start of all this, he told me that he was proud of me. “Your uncle has done a good job, he has ensured you a good education and you have inherited his good nature.” My father pleaded me to give it up, but knew I probably would not. He told me he was able to save me once, but if I got caught again there would be no more strings to be pulled.

Two weeks ago I underwent surgery, three years after my knee was first damaged by the shell. When I am physically fit I will go back home.

I miss home. Of course I miss home.

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Henrietta McMicking
Tuesday 19 April 2016 10:14 UTC

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/i-am-alawite-and-i-miss-home-918192142#sthash.EVZOLqik.dpuf

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Syria Refugees Crisis – Help is Coming

Published on Sep 10, 2015

A short film by director Mat Whitecross, in support of Save The Children’s Refugee Crisis Appeal
http://helpiscoming.org
Download the single: http://po.st/9GDAYa
Pre-order the vinyl: http://www.vfeditions.com/product/vie…

Text GIVE to 61144 to donate £5 (UK only)*
For international donations, go to http://www.helpiscoming.org

Interview footage
Director/Filmed by: Simon Rawles
Producers: Mustafa Khalili, Richard Sprenger, Angela Robson
Assistant producers: Karl Schembri

*For full terms and conditions visit the website http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/t-a…

Syrian Doctors Nurses Plead Assad Stop the Bombing

Syrian Coalition President’s, Khaled Khoja, Speech at Douma Massacre Press Conference on August 17th, 2015

Speech “Original in Arabic”

Khaled Khoja
President of the Syrian Coalition
August 17, 2015

The murderous Assad regime killed hundreds of Syrian civilians in a series of massacres in Idlib, Dara’a and Douma, near Damascus. Assad’s air force targeted a marketplace while the residents of Douma were exchanging what has remained of food supplies after two years of a suffocating siege. Yesterday’s massacres are war crimes and crimes against humanity, and are added to the ongoing genocide, siege and starvation of civilians in Rural Damascus.

At noon yesterday, Assad’s warplanes deliberately and repeatedly bombed a crowded marketplace in Douma with the intention of killing a many people as possible. After civilians gathered to rescue the injured, Assad’s aircrafts returned and bombed the area several times thereafter, targeting wounded and rescuers alike, a crime that outweighs every other crime, terrorism, primitive barbarity, and hatred of man.

The regime’s boldness and indulgence in committing massacres against civilians for over 53 consecutive months has been upheld by international silence that amounts to complicity for these massacres. Whoever supplies this murderous regime with arms and shields it against accountability at the UN Security Council is a partner in these crimes against besieged and starved civilians.

And whoever opposes the establishment of safe zones for Syrians on their territory and prevents providing them with weapons to defend themselves and their children sends a clear message to the regime that it is allowed to commit more atrocious crimes.

For over 53 months, the Assad regime has seen, in this these positions, an authorization to commit more massacres. While the Syrian people insist on the departure of the criminal Bashar al-Assad and that it is impossible for them to have a role in the present and the future of Syria, we now emphasize this position and are even more adherent to the right of the Syrian people to defend themselves. We also emphasize the legitimacy of their cause and the need to complete the liberation of all Syrian territory from the abomination of this usurper regime, the Iranian occupying militias and the murderous sectarian militias that are invading Syria.

The United Nations, and the UN Security Council and its permanent members must recognize the right of the Syrian people to live and must stop protecting the child murderer Bashar al-Assad and stop depriving the Syrians from the right to defend the lives of their children.

Any talk about political and peaceful solutions while the Assad regime continue to commit massacres with immunity will surely fail to restore stability in Syria.

We emphasize the need to protect civilians in the liberated areas and support their demand for the establishment of safe areas.

The Syrian Coalition has begun setting up a committee to document all crimes committed by the Assad regime to submit them to the International Commission of Inquiry.

We highly laud the steadfastness of our brothers in the Free Syrian Army and affirm our commitment to prosecute war criminals and bring them to justice, led by Bashar al-Assad.

We also emphasize that we continue to coordinate with rebel factions to take appropriate steps to protect civilians and deter the regime from committing more crimes.

We call upon our friendly countries to support them and to bring the perpetrators of the massacres in Ghouta, Douma, Idlib, Zabadani, Wadi Barada and all areas of Syria to the International Criminal Court.

We also call upon the international community, specifically Russia, the United States, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League to assume their responsibilities towards the Syrian people who have been slaughtered for nearly five years amid international silence that amounts to acceptance of these crimes.

Mercy to our fallen heroes.
Victory is for a revolution and glory for the defenders of freedom and the dignity of Syria.

assad bashar syria bomb douma market

assad bashar syria stop the bombing

Assad stop the war

Assad killing and bombing syrian civilians

assad bashar syria bomb douma kill children

assad bashar syria massacre douma

Syrian doctors, medics and nurse ask world communities to help

Stop Bashar al-Assad bombing Douma

Syrian doctors asking to stop Assad indiscriminate bombing

Article: http://en.etilaf.org/press/syrian-coalition-president-s-khaled-khoja-speech-at-douma-massacre-press-conference-on-august-17th-2015.html

Syrian Boy Brutally Beating by Assad Soldier – 2

Syria Assad regime torture innocent syrian civilian

Syria Assad regime torture innocent syrian children

Bashar al-Assad regime torture innocent syrian civilian children

Bashar Al-Assad government soldier torture syrian children

Syria Assad regime torture and beaten innocent syrian civilian

Assad regime forces torture innocent syrian child

Syria Assad regime soldiers torture innocent syrian boy

Syria Bashar al-Assad regime government army torture beaten syrian children

Syria president Assad regime army torture and kill syrian boy and man

Syria Assad Regime Silent War Crime: Systematic Mass Rape

Rape is use as weapon of war and as a tool of ethnic domination

Evidence is piling up that the Assad regime has used rape – of daughters in front of fathers, wives in front of husbands – as a targeted weapon to control, intimidation, and humiliation throughout the conflict.

Rape appears to be utilized during this conflict in horrifyingly soul-crushing, creative ways. Beyond simply raping detainees, Shabiha members or Syrian army soldiers have reportedly carried out the rapes of family members or other women in front of prisoners. Young boys were also assaulted while they were held in government detention.

The head of the Syrian League for Human Rights Abdel Karim Rihaoui has no doubt: “It is a political choice made to crush the people. Technique, sadism, perversity: Everything is meticulously organized.
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A young girl from Hama, currently a refugee in the United States, who was at home with her three brothers when soldiers burst in and told the three men to rape their sister. The first refused; they decapitated him. The second refused; he suffered the same fate. The third accepted; they killed him on the girl, whom they then raped.
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27-year-old mother of four, a graduate in management, was arrested at a checkpoint in the suburbs of Damascus. She spent 38 days in a detention center of the air force intelligence services, with around 100 other women.

“I’ve been through everything! I’ve been battered, flogged with steel cables, had cigarette butts in the neck, razor blades all over my body, electricity in my vagina. I’ve been raped while blindfolded every day by several men who stank of alcohol and obeyed their superior’s orders, who was always there. They shouted: “You wanted freedom? Well here it is!”
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“The girls would generally be shot when everyone had finished,” the Syrian soldier said. “They wanted it to be known in the neighborhoods that the girls had been raped, but they didn’t want the girls to survive and be able to identify them later.”
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“The security forces and the Shabiha took whole families outside after destroying their homes,” a woman named Amaltold the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat in June 2012. “They stripped my girls from their clothes, raped them then killed them with knives. They were shouting: ‘You want freedom? This is the best brand of freedom.’”
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“I saw maybe 100 women stripped naked and used as human shields, forced to walk on all sides of the army tanks during the fighting. When their tanks rolled back into the Alawite neighbourhood, the women disappeared with them.”
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A group of Syrian army soldiers had come to their house in Homs, tied up their father and brother, and raped the three women in front of them. The woman cried as she went on to describe how after raping them the soldiers opened their legs and burned their vaginas with cigarettes. They allegedly told the women during this: “You want freedom? This is your freedom.”
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They put a bag on her head and led her to the basement of a detention center, where she was thrown into a pitch black cell full of rats. She spent two days in solitary confinement, with no food or water, before joining two other women in a tiny cell where she spent six months. “We couldn’t lie down. We weren’t allowed to wash ourselves, even during our periods. We were raped every day, as they chanted: “We Alawites will destroy you.” A single sign of protest and we had electric prods in the vagina or anus. They beat me so much that they broke my leg. It turned black. My family didn’t hear about me for six months. As I can’t read or write, I signed any confession with my index finger.” When she was released, her husband had disappeared with their car.
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Syria Assad Regime use rape as a weapon of war

Confessions of an Assad ‘Shabiha’ loyalist: how I raped and killed for £300 a month
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9400570/Confessions-of-an-Assad-Shabiha-loyalist-how-I-raped-and-killed-for-300-a-month.html

Syria’s Silent War Crime: Systematic Mass Rape
http://www.iht.com/2014/03/12/syrias-silent-war-crime-systematic-rape/

Syria rape crisis
https://asadinvestigations.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/rape-crisis/

Massive War Crimes: Syrian Regime Tortured, Starved, Murdered 11,000 Prisoners

Despite the fact that the right of children of survival and protection are guaranteed according to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA), and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was signed on 20 November 1989, the Syrian children continue to suffer.

Thousands are wounded, detained, or left without a family, or medical aid and humanitarian assistance.

Average of around 4 killed under torture daily in Syria. Out of the entire amount of dead civilians killed under torture by the Assad regime, it includes women and children and elderly. 150,000 people still incarcerated in the jails of Bashar al Assad…

syrian children pay the steep price of war

Read more articles:

Syrian Defector: Assad Poised to Torture and Murder 150,000 More

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/31/syrian-defector-assad-poised-to-torture-and-murder-150-000-more.html

Massive War Crimes: Syrian Regime Tortured, Starved, Murdered 11,000 Prisoners
http://www.juancole.com/2014/01/summarily-executed-prisoners.html

Farhang Jahanpour
2014.01.21 07:12

The proxy war in Syria is descending into total barbarism and violence by both sides. Instead of playing geopolitical games over the lives of millions of people it is time for the “international community” to come together and put an end to this carnage. The West, the Saudis, the Turks and the Qataris have been backing the terrorists as a part of the plan to weaken Iran and the Hezbollah, while Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have been sending weapons, funds and fighters to fight on the side of the government. There is evidence that despite denial and apparent change of heart, Turkey is still arming the jihadists. link to al-monitor.com

Even if the Geneva Conference takes place, despite the debacle of finally inviting Iran and then de-inviting Iran the following day under US pressure, and some sort of a communiqué is cobbled together, there is no guarantee that it will have any effect on the ground. The Syrian National Coalition, which has agreed to attend the conference under the threats that all funding to it would be cut off if it didn’t, represents only a small part of the opposition, while the real fighting is being carried out by the Al-Nusra Front and ISIS, which are affiliated to the Al-Qaeda. All sides should realize that sometimes “my enemy’s enemy is also my enemy.” What is really needed is for the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia that are the main players in this deadly game to get together and force both sides to declare a ceasefire, followed by elections under international supervision. Otherwise, the carnage will continue and will spread.

Syria deaths at 191000- Its not a number- its people

The International Community failure to act had cost “hundreds and thousands of lives!
The exact figure of confirmed deaths is 191,369, 85 per cent of whom were men and 9 per cent were women. The sex in the remainder of cases were unknown.

At least 8,800 of the victims were confirmed as children, although the age of most victims is unknown.
Syrian children death toll

Read more: http://www.channel4.com/news/syria-death-toll-raises-un-victims-children