geneva

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.

_____________________________________________________________

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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Shocking reality of barrel bombing in besieged city of Daraya

In late January 2013, during the Syrian Civil War, the bodies of approximately 110 men and boys, most with hands bound behind the back, mouths sealed with tape, and gunshot wounds to the head, were found on the edges of the river in a part of Aleppo controlled by opposition forces. Very few of the victims were over 30. Many victims showed signs of torture.

‘This video shows in shocking close-up detail what civilians in Daraya have had to live through’ – Magdalena Mughrabi

The shocking reality of the Syrian government’s barrel bombing of the besieged city of Daraya, near Damascus, is shown in brutal detail in a new video released by Amnesty International today amid the latest round of peace talks in Geneva.

The video, shot by civilians in Daraya between 2014 and late February this year, includes unseen footage not previously made public. It shows scenes of Syrian government forces’ barrel bombs falling and exploding inside the city, interspersed with civilians – including children and the elderly – describing the sheer terror of living under such relentless attacks in a city under siege.

In one harrowing scene, an injured young boy lies alongside the corpse of his brother who was killed in a barrel bomb attack, weeping and begging: “My brother, please don’t leave me.” In another scene, a bespectacled young girl with curly hair says when asked about the bombs: “They want to kill me”.

Daraya has endured thousands of barrel bombs on top of more than three years of crippling siege by Syrian government forces. According to data collected by the Local Council of Daraya City, around 6,800 barrel bombs have been dropped there between January 2014 until the “cessation of hostilities” agreement on 26 February 2016.

The resulting damage and destruction is evident from countless videos and other images. At least 42 civilians, including 17 children, have been killed by these imprecise explosive weapons. According to local activists, a further 1,200 civilians have been injured. Local activists believe that the death toll would almost certainly be higher except for the fact that residents have become so used to rushing to shelters whenever helicopters are spotted.

Although no barrel bombs have been dropped on Daraya since the partial “cessation of hostilities” came into effect on 26 February, there have been attacks with other weaponry and thousands of civilians who remain in the city continue to suffer from severe food and medical shortages and no electricity. Most of Daraya’s original residents fled the devastation years ago and now only between 4,000 and 8,000 remain, a fraction of its original population.

Amnesty International interim Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Magdalena Mughrabi said:

“This video shows in shocking close-up detail what civilians in Daraya have had to live through.

“It is absolutely outrageous – though not surprising – that the Syrian government has continued to bombard and starve its own civilians. And it is unacceptable that the UN and other influential international players are not doing more to address the critical situation in Daraya and other besieged locations.

“Every day that goes by without aid delivery means that the humanitarian crisis in Daraya worsens.”

Humanitarian crisis amid siege of Daraya
In addition to widespread and large-scale destruction caused by the thousands of barrel bombs dropped on Daraya, government forces have cut off the city and not allowed in any humanitarian aid at all since November 2012.

Medical workers are severely under-resourced to cope with the scale of the humanitarian crisis they face. The besieged city’s only remaining field hospital has been targeted 15 times by government forces. Daraya’s Medical Office sent Amnesty lists of more than 100 medicines, supplies and equipment it urgently needs. Among the items they lack are: antibiotics, painkillers and anaesthetics; disinfectants and other cleaning supplies; and equipment including dialysis machines, CT scanners and hospital beds and cots.

Amnesty is insisting that the Syrian government allows urgently-needed aid into Daraya, in compliance with its obligations under international humanitarian law and binding UN Security Council resolutions. The International Syria Support Group and UN agencies, especially the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, must ensure this is made to happen for Daraya and all other besieged locations.

Crude but deadly weapons
Barrel bombs are crude but deadly weapons fashioned out of oil barrels, fuel tanks or gas cylinders, which are packed with explosives, fuel and metal fragments and dropped from helicopters and planes. They are by definition imprecise and must never be used in the vicinity of civilians. Amnesty hopes the harrowing eyewitness footage from Daraya will spur the international community to re-double its demands on the Syrian government to grant immediate lifesaving humanitarian access to Daraya and all areas still under siege.

#360Syria “virtual tour” website
Last month Amnesty launched a #360Syria “virtual tour” website showing the devastation wrought by Syrian government barrel bombing of the besieged city of Aleppo. The site (www.360Syria.com) comprises specially-created 360-degree photography, narration, sound recordings, 3-D data graphics and videos gathered by Amnesty-trained Syrian media activists. The innovative site is designed to take the viewer into Aleppo’s rubble-strewn streets for an “immersive” virtual reality-like experience. Visitors can navigate around full-screen “photospheres” which capture the apocalyptic scenes and sounds after barrel bombing attacks. The images also feature the brave rescue efforts of unarmed civilian volunteers – the “White Helmets” – from the Syrian Civil Defence teams.

Entire Family Killed by Chemical Weapons Attack on Damascus


Published on Aug 24, 2013

Video Description: Video portrays an a building inspection in which a number of families are found dead 36 hours after a chemical weapons attack which took place on Damascus suburbs on the 21st of August 2013 early morning time (presumed at 2:00am). This video was taken in the Zamalka area of the Eastern Ghouta of Damascus suburbs.

Syria Assad regime chemical gas attack on his own people

chemical chlorine gas was used by Assad regime on syrian civilian

chemical attack by syrian government bashar al-assad, children and women were gassed to death

Syria bashar al-assad use chemical weapon chlorine gas to attack his own people

syria assad regime forces use chlorine, sarin chemical gas attack his own people

chemical weapons were used by assad regime to kill civilians

bashar al-assad regime use chemical weapons to attack civilians, cities and town

1925 Geneva Protocol Ban Use of Chemical Weapons

No outrage for Assad’s latest use of Chemical Weapon “Chlorine gas” attacked on Sarmin city near Idlib on March 16, 2015! World is used to Assad’s way of killing!

1925 Geneva Protocol
Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare

The 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in war. The Protocol was drawn up and signed at a conference which was held in Geneva under the auspices of the League of Nations from 4 May to 17 June 1925, and it entered into force on 8 February 1928.

syria assad gassed children chlorine

#HowManyMore #WhatDoesItTake #AssadWarCrimes #SyriaCrisis #SyriaConflict #SyrianRevolution
#Syria

Assad Barrels | Daraya – براميل الأسد | داريا

Published on Feb 2, 2014

I just finished another movie of this series, click on the link below to watch
لقد انتهيت للتو من انتاج فلم اخر من السلسلة – اضغط على الرابط للمشاهدة
Assad Barrels | Aleppo – براميل الأسد | حلب
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Uo_tc…

فلم قصير – متوفر بدقة عالية – تتوفر ترجمة للعربية للكلمات الافتتاحية يرجى الضغط على cc وتفعيلها
Short Movie – Available in Full HD
нажмите СС, чтобы увидеть русские титры

كان يا ماكان في قديم الزمان: قبل بضعة أيام
في مكان بعيد جداً جداً: سوريا
بينما كان العالم مشغولاً بمؤتمر جينيف 2، كان الأسد يرمي براميله المتفجرة على الشعب السوري
هذا ماكان يحصل في داريا بينما كان النظام يدعي انه يفاوض من أجل السلام
وقعت الأحداث التالية بين 25 و 31 كانون الثاني 2014
المكان: داريا – ريف دمشق
الرجاء الانتباه الى ان الفلم يحتوي على مشاهد قاسية

Once upon a time: A few days ago.
In a land far far away: Syria

While the world was busy with Geneva II, Assad was dropping what is known as Explosive Barrels over the Syrian people.
This is what happened in Daraya while the regime pretended to engage the peace talk
The following events occurred between January 25 and January 31, 2014
Location: Daraya, Damascus Suburbs
Viewer Discretion is Advised.

“Жила-была Сирия…”
На видео запечатлены авиаудары, нанесенные в период с 25 по 31 января 2014.
За неделю сброшено 82 авиационных снаряда.
00:52 – Удары с воздуха многочисленны, данных о количестве жертв пока не поступало, однако масштабность взрывов указывает на то, что погибших могут быть сотни.
05:40 – Люди – пострадавшие и погибшие.
Гражданские объекты бомбились с воздуха именно в дни проведения конференции “Женева-2”, куда официальная правительственная делегация прибыла “на поиски мирного решения”.
Сирия, Столичный Округ, г.Дарайа
январь 2014

#AssadBarrels #Daraya #AssadWarCrimes #داريا #Syria #سوريا #سورية

Telegraph Wrote an Article about the movie:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/world…

Notice: Age-restricted video (based on Community Guidelines).
Music: “Sarajevo” by Max Richter
Artist: Max Richter

BBC Exclusive Interview With President Bashar al-Assad

Mr Assad denied that his forces had dropped barrel bombs indiscriminately on rebel-held areas, killing thousands of civilians, and dismissed as propaganda a statement by the UN that his government often blocks access to besieged areas for relief organizations.

He says he’s a patriot, defending his country, his enemies say his desire to stay in power has caused the catastrophe that has engulfed Syria in the last four years.

The Syrian dictator is profiting from the west’s lack of strategy, while the bloodshed he unleashes leads a country to ruin.

assad syria barrel bombs kill

In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad talks about the devastating civil war, the use of barrel bombs, the battle against Islamic State and al-Qaeda and relations with the US.

Below are excerpts from the interview recorded in the Syrian capital Damascus.

Q: Mr President, you’ve lost control over large areas of Syria, the Islamic State has emerged, there are perhaps 200,000 Syrians dead, millions have lost their homes. Has Syria become a failed state?

A: No, as long as the government and the state institutions are fulfilling their duty toward the Syrian people, [we] cannot talk about failed states.

Talking about losing control is something completely different. It’s like if you have [an] invasion of terrorists coming from abroad and the government is doing its job in fighting and defending its country.

Q: Can we briefly go back to when all this started in 2011 – you’ve said that there were mistakes made in the handling of those early demonstrations. Did you make mistakes yourself?

A: No, I never said we made mistakes in handling this. I always said that “anyone could make mistakes”, but there is a difference between talking about, or asking your question about policies and about practice.

If you want to go back to policies, we took the decision to fight terrorism from the very beginning. We took the decision to make dialogue on [a] national level, and I think both policies are correct. While if you want to talk about mistakes in practice, and that some mistakes [have been] committed towards some civilian, that happened from time to time, and some people were punished for these mistakes.

Q: You’ve talked about the influence of terrorism, as you call it, from the very beginning. But I was able as a reporter to go to some of those early demonstrations inside Damascus, in areas outside as well, and people there were not saying they wanted an Islamic Caliphate – they were saying they wanted freedom, democracy – not some kind of vision that IS have now for the country. Do you think you got it wrong?

A: You in the West called it that time, and some still talk about that period as [a] peaceful demonstration period.

And I will tell you that during the first few weeks many policemen were killed. Shot dead. I don’t think they were shot dead and killed by the sound waves of the demonstrators – so it was just a fantasy to talk about this… we have to talk about facts. From the very beginning the demonstrations weren’t peaceful.

Q: What about barrel bombs, you don’t deny that your forces use them?

A: I know about the army, they use bullets, missiles, and bombs. I haven’t heard of the army using barrels, or maybe, cooking pots.

Q: Large barrels full of explosives and projectiles which are dropped from helicopters and explode with devastating effect. There’s been a lot of testimony about these things.

A: They’re called bombs. We have bombs, missiles and bullets… There is [are] no barrel bombs, we don’t have barrels.

Q: On the fight against IS and al-Qaeda, the US and others have said you cannot be a partner in that fight. Would you like to be partner, would you like to join the coalition?

A: No, definitely we cannot and we don’t have the will and we don’t want, for one simple reason: because we cannot be [in] alliance with the country who support the terrorism… because we are fighting the terrorism.

Q: You’ve been very harsh in your criticism of the Saudis. Now the Saudis say they are against IS, they are frightened because IS do not want a royal family in Saudi Arabia. So isn’t it logical that they want them out? Why would they support them?

A: First of all, the source of this Islamic State ideology, and other al-Qaeda affiliated groups are the Wahhabi that have been supported by the royal family in Saudi Arabia. So just to say that “we do” and “we don’t”, it doesn’t matter. It’s what you do – what the action that you are taking in order to prove that what you are saying is correct.

Q: Let’s talk about American attitudes. Your departure from office is still the official American policy, but there are signs that they are softening… Do you believe that you are now being seen as part of the solution?

A: First of all, we don’t breathe through the Americans, we only breathe through our citizens. That’s how we breathe, this is first. So it’s not a lifeline for us.

Q: Syria has been very isolated, you’re under sanctions here, people can’t use credit cards, you’ve been cut off from a lot of the commerce of the world. You must surely welcome a situation which might get you back into the family of nations in a way that you haven’t been since 2011?

A: We’re not against co-operation with any country, we will never be. We didn’t start this conflict with the others. They started, they supported the terrorists, they gave them the umbrella.

It’s not about isolating Syria now, it’s about an embargo on the Syrian population, on the Syrian citizens. It’s different from isolation, it’s completely different.

Q: There’s the American military in the air above Syria and the Syrian Air Force. But there haven’t been any incidents between the two, no shots seem to have been traded, no planes have been shot down. That suggests to me surely that someone is talking to someone here?

A: That’s correct, that’s correct. But again there’s no direct co-operation…

Through a third party – more than one party – Iraq and other countries. Sometimes they convey message, general message, but there’s nothing tactical.

The Guardian view on Bashar al-Assad’s BBC interview: the lies of a tyrant

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/10/guardian-view-bashar-al-assad-bbc-interview-lies-tyrant

Syria Assad Regime Genocides and Mass Atrocities


The Syrian crisis began in early 2011 when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began a brutal crackdown on growing peaceful protests throughout the country. With the use of tanks, attack helicopters, and artillery against protesters and the torture and execution of children, protests spread and opposition groups took up arms. The attacks and counter-attacks escalated into a full-fledged civil war between the Assad regime with allied militias and an array of opposition groups. In less than four years, 250,000 people have died. Entire neighborhoods are gone. Half the population has been uprooted. 3 Million refugees fled into neighbouring countries. Syria is barely recognizable!!!

On Syrian state TV in late 2011, Bashar al-Assad’s brother Maher said that when their father Hafez first took power, the Syrian population was around 5 million, and that the regime would be willing to reduce it to that again to maintain power (i.e. to kill and to expel around 18 million people).

International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is an international memorial day on 27 January commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jews. The world vowed, “Never again.” But today, genocides and mass atrocities continue in Syria, the World remain silence!

stop syrian genocide syria assad crimes

Article: Syria Backgrounder
http://endgenocide.org/conflict-areas/syria/syria-backgrounder/