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Assad’s Troops Are Raping Children to Silence Dissenters

By Khaled Rawas On 11/12/15 at 5:17 PM

Children, who live in the rebel-held neighborhood of Jobar in Damascus, Syria, are pictured July 18. The Assad regime utilizes the incredibly harmful effects of rape on the victim and her society to suppress any form of dissent, the author writes. Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site.

“I will not forgive him, nor will I let God’s mercy descend onto him,” uttered a woman activist working to support rape victims at a secret humanitarian organization in Damascus.

The activist leveled this charge not against the regime and its Shabiha militias—which use this most cruel weapon of war systematically to intimidate, suppress and humiliate Assad’s many opponents—but in reference to the father of a twelve year-old girl who was brutally gang raped by pro-Assad factions in her own home in front of her family.

Rape is a brutal and despicable weapon in any context, capable of tearing individuals, families and whole communities asunder. In Syria, rape not only brutalizes the victims and strips them of their humanity in their own eyes but also in the eyes of their families and society.

The Assad regime utilizes its incredibly harmful effects on the victim and her society to suppress any form of dissent. Clearly, a 12-year-old girl was no threat to the regime, but raping her in front of her family was a means to repress the opposition and callously silence those who long for freedom.

“When I heard about this incident from members of the community, I managed to track down the phone number of this young girl’s father, who had come to represent a crime against humanity itself,” says the female activist. The activist learned that the girl was in the third month of her pregnancy, but in keeping with Muslim tradition, the girl’s father refused to allow her to abort the child.

When the activist attempted to speak with the father about the incident, he angrily declined to discuss the matter and quickly hung up the phone. After the young girl gave birth to the child, the activist received additional reports that she and her baby were physically assaulted by her father for bringing dishonor upon the family. Again the activist attempted to make contact with the father, but he rebuffed her.

In the end, the young girl took her newborn child and fled from her home, prompting the activist’s earlier comment of the father who mercilessly forbade his daughter from aborting the child of a Shabiha -rape, but then displayed no mercy toward the child of that rape. Already stripped her of her humanity, her family’s shame and humiliation stripped her of it a second time.

Regrettably, the girl’s story is hardly unique. Thousands women and girls have been victims of the regime’s institutionalized campaign of sexual and gender-based violence. The roots of this epidemic do not stem from the 2011 revolution, but rather extend from Syria’s legal and religious tradition set long before the revolution.

Syria’s constitution—still in force today—contains several laws pertaining to “honor crimes” and sexual assault, including the crimes of rape, seduction, licentious behavior and violations of women’s private chambers (pursuant to Section 7, chapter 1, clauses 498-507).

Article 192 of the penal code considers the perpetrator of an honor crime under the influence of passion caused by the victim’s lack of scrupulousness. Additionally, the penal code allows judges to exercise great discretion when determining how to convict and sentence perpetrators of honor crimes, calling for all factors that may mitigate the penalty to be considered when applicable.

The Syrian constitution also derives certain components of its legal code from particular interpretations Islamic law (sharia). The regime codified the narrow-minded religious precepts regarding rape and honor crimes to extend its authority into people’s personal lives. In the process it empowered a certain brand of religious men: those willing to align themselves with the government to gain influence.

Any criticism of these precepts became a challenge to the political system, silencing moderate voices of Islamic jurisprudence, which take as their basis natural law and a respect for human nature. Religious discourse and Friday sermons were further used to guide the public toward the regime’s perspective and away from any critical thought.

A woman who was a former regime prisoner said, “During my detention, I saw many female detainees whose families refused to recognize them on the assumption they had been raped, even if that wasn’t true. For example, the regime forced one activist [detainee] to conduct an interview on national television and claim that twenty-one Free Syrian Army fighters gang raped her to spread its false version of who revolutionaries are by playing on the religious and social tension of regime supporters.

“This was not the only injustice that she faced. After being transferred to the Adra civilian prison, her father visited her and disowned her, ordering her never to return to her community. Even if she was ever released from prison, she could never go back home.”

The regime’s detention of the activist was not enough; by forcing her to lie, she was crushed between the brutality of the regime and the shame of her family.

Syrian society has failed to deal with mass rape and other sensitive gender issues in a fair and just manner—incidents that only increase in frequency. For example, one common solution is for a man to volunteer to marry the victim, as though it were an act of mercy; often the man is much older than the victim and possibly already married.

As though society has not done enough damage at this point, some of these men publicly declare that the marriage is intended to protect the victim. Those who engage in this practice act as though they are committing a holy act, without pausing to consider the emotional, mental and psychological damage done to the wellbeing of the victim.

As a Syrian, I hope that the revolution will not only fight the Assad regime, but also the damaging traditions and mores that oppress our society. The fight for freedom calls for us to think and act logically, not to listen to overzealous religious leaders and a brutal regime.

Syria’s honor does not depend on the female hymen, but in eradicating the ruthless Assad regime and its cruel system of gender-based oppression. This is the revolution that we need.

Khaled Rawas is a mechanical engineer, civil society activist and member of Damascus’s Revolution Leadership Council.

Article from: http://www.newsweek.com/assads-troops-are-raping-children-silence-dissenters-393202

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The Boy who started the Syrian War

We tell the story of Mouawiya Syasneh, the boy whose anti-Assad graffiti lit the spark that engulfed Syria.

10 Feb 2017 12:29 GMTWar & Conflict, Syria’s Civil War

Mouawiya Syasneh was just 14 when he sprayed anti-government slogans on his school wall in Deraa, Syria. It was February 2011, and he could never have imagined that such a minor act would spark a full-blown civil war.

More than half a million people have been killed in Syria since the start of the war. Mouawiya’s home city has been ravaged by street fighting, shelling and barrel bombing. The war has left scars that may never heal.

Now a young man, fighting on the frontline for the Free Syrian Army, Mouawiya admits that had he known what the consequences of his actions would be, he would never have taunted the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

His life has been transformed by that adolescent prank. He has lost friends and relatives, including his father. And Syria has been changed for ever.

The Boy who started the Syrian Civil War offers a glimpse into life in Deraa since the start of the conflict.

We meet Syrians trying to lead normal lives amid the chaos as well as those who have taken up arms against Assad’s forces.

FILMMAKER’S VIEW

by Emmy Award-winning producer, Jamie Doran

I was in Moscow recently, chatting to people you might have thought would have known better. Educated folk, among them an experienced journalist. I had asked them a simple question: how did the Syrian war begin?

They uniformly launched into the answer that has been peddled so often in recent times, that it has now become fact in certain circles: “It was the terrorists who started it all.”

The fact that ISIL in its current form didn’t even exist in Syria at the time, or that al-Nusra wouldn’t arrive until many months afterwards, appear to have been conveniently forgotten – not just in Moscow but in most media coverage around the world.

The surprise, even shock on their faces when I pulled out my laptop and showed them the trailer for our latest film for Al Jazeera, The Boy Who Started the Syrian War, was a wonder to behold. They simply had no idea.

They claimed they hadn’t been aware of how, for decades, dissenters towards government authority had faced the daily dread of a visit from the secret police, of torture, disappearance and extrajudicial execution.

They had apparently never heard about how fathers were frightened to allow their daughters to be alone on the streets for fear of abduction, rape and murder at the hands of the Shabiha, Assad-family militias that operated with virtual impunity.

And they were totally unaware that it was a mischievous prank by adolescent schoolchildren that lit the fuse that set a country ablaze.

Early in 2016, I was sitting in Books@Cafe, a hangout for liberally minded Jordanians on Al-Khattab Street, Amman, with cameraman and filmmaker Abo Bakr Al Haj Ali. He was busily puffing away on his narghile (hookah), as we discussed how Deraa, the city which had given birth to the revolution, had been virtually ignored by the media in recent years.

One of the reasons it had been overlooked was that the Jordanians wouldn’t let any Western journalists cross from their side. Almost the only other option was an official tour of government-controlled areas via Damascus that didn’t appeal to me at all, even if they had let me in, which was rather unlikely.

I’d spent the previous week sitting on the border, just an hour’s drive from Deraa, having established an agreement with the Jordanian military which would have made me the first Westerner allowed to cross over in three years.

READ MORE: Syria’s Civil War Explained

There I was, in the border compound about to leave Jordanian soil, when a call came to the post. Moments later, I was very politely placed in a saloon car … and driven back to Amman. I later found out that the representative of the British intelligence agency, MI6, in Amman had advised the Jordanian government that it would be a bad idea to let me cross … even though I was travelling on an Irish passport!

So, back at Books@Cafe, Bakr and I sat chatting about how we could make a film about Deraa without my physical presence. It’s his home town. His territory.

“So, who do you know, who was there at the very beginning?” I asked.

“I know the commander, Marouf Abood, who set up the very first people’s militia, after government troops attacked his village,” he responded.

“Interesting. And who else?”

He went on to reel off half a dozen names; commander this, commander that.

“Come on, Bakr. You must know someone else, someone different. Someone fresh,” I said.

Continuing to drag deeply on the narghile, deep in thought, he told me that there was no one else that was really very interesting.

And then he added: “Well, I suppose there’s the boy who scrawled the anti-Assad graffiti on his school wall that started the war.”

It was one of those moments where you could have knocked my 90 kilos over with a feather.

The boy who started the Syrian war! Think about it. It wasn’t ISIL, nor al-Nusra, nor any other terrorist group. It was an act of defiance, a moment of youthful rebelliousness, if you like, that led to an uprising which has seen more than half a million people killed and a country torn to shreds.

It wasn’t, of course, the fault of this 14-year-old boy and his three friends who joined him in this moment of adolescent disobedience – a prank which would have enormous consequences beyond their understanding. But when they were arrested by the police and tortured in a most horrendous way, a line was crossed from which there would be no turning back.

When their parents and families arrived at the police station to plead for their freedom, they were told: “Forget these children. Go home to your wives and make some more. If you can’t manage, send us your wives and we’ll do it for you.”

Anger rose. The fuse had been lit and, when police started randomly killing marchers in the demonstrations that followed, armed resistance became an inevitability.

READ MORE: The Syrian conflict does not end here

For me personally, this film has taken on an importance beyond many that I have made in the past. To be able to remind (and, in some cases, inform) a massive global audience of the true origins of the Syrian civil war, is an enormous privilege for a filmmaker.

For those directly involved in those origins, however, our film has provided an opportunity for reflection. So many have suffered greatly and sacrificed so much for a revolution which, by any calculation, is and will remain incomplete, no matter what the outcome of negotiations.

Mouawiya Syasneh, The boy who started the Syrian War, is now a young man who, like so many other young men in Deraa, carries a Kalashnikov rather than a satchel these days. As viewers will discover, his own family has paid a dreadful price for the events that followed his actions back in February 2011.

His own reflections are now a matter of record for the first time.

Article from: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2017/02/boy-started-syrian-war-170208093451538.html

Video from Al Jazeera English:

Published on Feb 10, 2017

SPECIAL SERIESSYRIA’S CIVIL WAR
The Boy Who Started the Syrian War
We tell the story of Mouawiya Syasneh, the boy whose anti-Assad graffiti lit the spark that engulfed Syria.
09 Feb 2017 10:22 GMT Syria’s Civil War, War & Conflict

Mouawiya Syasneh was just 14 when he sprayed anti-government slogans on his school wall in Deraa, Syria. It was February 2011, and he could never have imagined that such a minor act would spark a full-blown civil war.

More than half a million people have been killed in Syria since the start of the war. Mouawiya’s home city has been ravaged by street fighting, shelling and barrel bombing. The war has left scars that may never heal.

Now a young man, fighting on the frontline for the Free Syrian Army, Mouawiya admits that had he known what the consequences of his actions would be, he would never have taunted the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

His life has been transformed by that adolescent prank. He has lost friends and relatives, including his father. And Syria has been changed forever.

The Boy Who Started the Syrian Civil War offers a glimpse into life in Deraa since the start of the conflict.

We meet Syrians trying to lead normal lives amid the chaos as well as those who have taken up arms against Assad’s forces.

– Subscribe to our channel: http://aje.io/AJSubscribe
– Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJEnglish
– Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera
– Check our website: http://www.aljazeera.com/

 

Where is the Outcry for the brutality of Myanmar Govt to the Rohingya?

Devastating cruelty against Rohingya children, women and men detailed in UN human rights report
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care. Brick kilns operated by Rohingya IDP's. Workers are IDP's. Adults are paid 2,000 kyat per day for about 10m hours of work. Children are paid 1,000 kyat per day. Children in photos are from age 6 to 8 and the oldest is 14. Thek Kay Pyin, 7, an IDP. His father is So Zokorice (small man in white tank top). He was falsely accused of murder and spent 1and 1/2 years in Sittwe Jail, beaten continuously for 8 months before being released without charges against him. Funeral of Ziada Begum, 30, who died of stomach diseasee. Left behind 5 children with no husband. Sham Shi Dar Begum, 18. TB and AIDS. Father died from AIDS. MOther Noor Johan, 50. Has seven daughters, all living in two small rooms in camp. Photograph by James Nachtwey.

Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO’s such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care.

 

 

 

 

 

GENEVA (3 February 2017) – Mass gang-rape, killings – including of babies and young children, brutal beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces in a sealed-off area north of Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State have been detailed in a new UN report issued Friday based on interviews with victims across the border in Bangladesh.

Of the 204 people individually interviewed by a team of UN human rights investigators, the vast majority reported witnessing killings, and almost half reported having a family member who was killed as well as family members who were missing. Of the 101 women interviewed, more than half reported having suffered rape or other forms of sexual violence.

Especially revolting were the accounts of children – including an eight-month old, a five-year-old and a six-year-old – who were slaughtered with knives. One mother recounted how her five-year-old daughter was trying to protect her from rape when a man “took out a long knife and killed her by slitting her throat.” In another case, an eight-month-old baby was reportedly killed while his mother was gang-raped by five security officers.

“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable – what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk. And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her – what kind of ‘clearance operation’ is this? What national security goals could possibly be served by this?” High Commissioner Zeid said, noting the report suggests the recent level of violence to be unprecedented.

“I call on the international community, with all its strength, to join me in urging the leadership in Myanmar to bring such military operations to an end. The gravity and scale of these allegations begs the robust reaction of the international community.”

After the repeated failure of the Government of Myanmar to grant the UN Human Rights Office unfettered access to the worst-affected areas of northern Rakhine State, High Commissioner Zeid deployed a team of human rights officers to the Bangladeshi border with Myanmar, where an estimated 66,000 Rohingya have fled since 9 October 2016.

All the individuals interviewed by the team had fled Myanmar after the 9 October attacks against three border guard posts, which had prompted intense military operations and a lockdown in north Maungdaw. The military indicated that it was conducting “area clearance operations” in the region.

The report cites consistent testimony indicating that hundreds of Rohingya houses, schools, markets, shops, madrasas and mosques were burned by the army, police and sometimes civilian mobs. Witnesses also described the destruction of food and food sources, including paddy fields, and the confiscation of livestock.

“Numerous testimonies collected from people from different village tracts…confirmed that the army deliberately set fire to houses with families inside, and in other cases pushed Rohingyas into already burning houses,” the report states. “Testimonies were collected of several cases where the army or Rakhine villagers locked an entire family, including elderly and disabled people, inside a house and set it on fire, killing them all.”

Several people were killed in indiscriminate and random shooting, many while fleeing for safety. Those who suffered serious physical injuries had almost no access to emergency medical care, and many of the people interviewed remained visibly traumatized by the human rights violations they survived or witnessed. People who did not know the fate of loved ones who had been rounded up by the army or separated while fleeing were particularly distressed.

Many witnesses and victims also described being taunted while they were being beaten, raped or rounded up, such as being told “you are Bangladeshis and you should go back” or “What can your Allah do for you? See what we can do?” The violence since 9 October follows a long-standing pattern of violations and abuses; systematic and systemic discrimination; and policies of exclusion and marginalization against the Rohingya that have been in place for decades in northern Rakhine State, the report notes.*

Reports suggest that operations by security forces in the area have continued into January 2017, although their intensity and frequency may have reduced.

“The killing of people as they prayed, fished to feed their families or slept in their homes, the brutal beating of children as young as two and an elderly woman aged 80 – the perpetrators of these violations, and those who ordered them, must be held accountable,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “The Government of Myanmar must immediately halt these grave human rights violations against its own people, instead of continuing to deny they have occurred, and accepts the responsibility to ensure that victims have access to justice, reparations and safety.”

The report concludes that the widespread violations against the Rohingya population indicate the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.

ENDS

* To read the full report, please visit: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/MM/FlashReport3Feb2017.pdf

* See also the June 2016 report by the UN Human Rights Office on the situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session32/Pages/ListReports.aspx  . The report was mandated by the UN Human Rights Council.

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Liz Throssell  ( +41 22 917 9466/ ethrossell@ohchr.org)

– See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21142&LangID=E#sthash.a62fhzcg.dpuf

ISIS Now Has Sex Slave Rape Guidelines

Published on Dec 29, 2015

Just when you thought ISIS couldn’t get any worse, they have now put out guidelines for how to rape your sex slaves. Probably not the best PR move… Cenk Uygur, host of the The Young Turks, breaks it down. Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

“Islamic State theologians have issued an extremely detailed ruling on when “owners” of women enslaved by the extremist group can have sex with them, in an apparent bid to curb what they called violations in the treatment of captured females.

The ruling or fatwa has the force of law and appears to go beyond the Islamic State’s previous known utterances on slavery, a leading Islamic State scholar said. It sheds new light on how the group is trying to reinterpret centuries-old teachings to justify the rape of women in the swaths of Syria and Iraq it controls.”*

Read more here: http://www.reuters.com/article/usa-islamic-state-sexslaves-idUSKBN0UC0DZ20151229

Angelina Jolie- Everyone must help Syrian refugees

UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt with Foreign Secretary William Hague at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Angelina Jolie Pitt, one of the world’s best actresses and a humanitarian, is using her celebrity status for a good cause, and that is to urge everyone to help Syrian refugees. She is using her place, as a special envoy, at the United Nations’ refugee agency to influence people to help the displaced war victims.

In her heartfelt and emotional op-Ed in The Times UK written with Arminka Helic, a former refugee and now a member of the House of Lords, she pleaded to help families that are fleeing the war first, over economic migrants.

“At no time in recent history has there been a greater need for leadership to deal with the consequences and causes of the global refugee crisis,” the actress wrote in the piece last Monday.

Jolie Pitt has spent some time with a Syrian refugee family earlier this year during a humanitarian trip. She said that the war in Syria has made a lot of people suffer. “Syrians are fleeing barrel bombs, chemical weapons, rape and massacres. Their country has become a killing field,” the award-winning actress said.

The actress has worked with the UNHCR since early 2000s, and urged political leaders to take responsibility, even if it’s not part of their nation’s geography. Jolie Pitt said that it doesn’t matter what culture, ethnicity, or religion a person believes in, but what is important is humanity’s core values and rights.

The 40-year-old actress added that the “out of sight, out of mind” attitude is just unacceptable now, especially with what is happening in Syria. She asked other countries in the world, not just those in Europe, to take part in finally resolving the Syrian crisis. Jolie Pitt also encourages people not to stigmatize the refugees, especially those countries who have taken migrants in.

Finally, the actress also suggested that the United Nations Security Council should go and visit the region and come up with a long-term resolution to these conflicts.

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Article from: http://www.christianpost.com/news/angelina-jolie-everyone-must-help-syrian-refugees-144933/

Syrian Boy Brutally Beating by Assad Soldier – 1


Published on June 22, 2015

First UN report on children in Syria’s civil war paints picture of ‘unspeakable’ horrors

4 February 2014 – Syrian children have been subjected to “unspeakable” suffering in the nearly three years of civil war, with the Government and allied militia responsible for countless killings, maiming and torture, and the opposition for recruiting youngsters for combat and using terror tactics in civilian areas, according to the first United Nations report on the issue.

“Violations must come to an end now,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in the report, which was released yesterday to the Security Council. “I therefore urge all parties to the conflict to take, without delay, all measures to protect and uphold the rights of all children in Syria.”

The report, covering the period from 1 March 2011 to 15 November 2013, lists a raft of horrors that Syria’s children have suffered since the opposition first sought to oust President Bashar al-Assad, ranging from direct commission of abuse, including sexual violence, to more general violation of their rights from school closures and denial of access to humanitarian aid.

“The present report highlights that use of weaponry and military tactics that are disproportionate and indiscriminate by Government forces and associated militias has resulted in countless killings and the maiming of children, and has obstructed children’s access to education and health services,” Mr. Ban writes.

Government forces have also been responsible for the arrest, arbitrary detention, ill treatment and torture of children. Armed opposition groups have been responsible for the recruitment and use of children both in combat and support roles, as well as for conducting military operations, including using terror tactics, in civilian-populated areas, leading to civilian casualties, including children.”

The report spotlights the disappearance of many children, notes that all parties to the conflict have seriously hampered the delivery of humanitarian assistance in areas most affected by the fighting, and warns that children have experienced a high level of distress as a result of witnessing the killing and injuring of members of their families and peers, or of being separated from their family and/or displaced.

Detailing the detention of children as young as 11 years old for alleged association with armed groups by Government forces in large-scale arrest campaigns, the reports says they were ill-treated and tortured to extract confessions or humiliate them or pressure a relative to surrender or confess.

“Ill treatment and acts tantamount to torture reportedly included beatings with metal cables, whips and wooden and metal batons; electric shock, including to the genitals; the ripping out of fingernails and toenails; sexual violence, including rape or threats of rape; mock executions; cigarette burns; sleep deprivation; solitary confinement; and exposure to the torture of relatives,” the report says.

“Reports indicate that children were also suspended from walls or ceilings by their wrists or other limbs, were forced to put their head, neck and legs through a tire while being beaten, and were tied to a board and beaten.

The report cites a 16-year-old boy as saying he witnessed his 14-year-old male friend being sexually assaulted and then killed, and notes other allegations that boys and in a few instances girls were raped. The 16-year-old said children and adults were beaten with metal bars, their fingernails pulled out, their fingers cut. “Or they were beaten with a hammer in the back, sometimes until death,” he added.

Allegations of sexual violence by opposition groups were also received, but the UN was unable to further investigate them due to lack of access, the report says.

It adds that opposition forces recruited and used both in support roles and for combat, while Government forces used children as human shields. It notes that during the first two years of the conflict, most killings and maiming of children were attributed to Government forces, but mainly due to increased access to heavy weapons and the use of terror tactics opposition groups increasingly engaged in such acts in 2013.

“Armed opposition groups also engaged in the summary execution of children,” it says, reporting that lack of access, including for security reasons, prevented the UN from systematic documentation.

Schools and hospitals have been disproportionally targeted by all parties, with indications that Government forces were the main perpetrators of attacks against hospitals and other health-care infrastructure, mainly opposition-run makeshift health facilities and of threats and attacks against medical personnel, according to the report.

“Injured opposition fighters and civilians, including children, admitted to Government hospitals in perceived pro-opposition areas in Aleppo, Dar’a, Homs and Idlib governorates were reportedly exposed to arrest, detention, ill treatment and acts tantamount to torture by civilian doctors, and/or elements of Government forces,” it says.

The UN also received reports on instances where opposition groups denied medical treatment to injured pro-Government fighters, or misused ambulances, including to cross Government checkpoints.

In his list of recommendations, Mr. Ban calls on all sides to stop all grave violations against children cited in the report, end all indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilian areas, including terror tactics, airstrikes, chemical weapons and heavy artillery, allow unimpeded humanitarian access, and immediately release abducted women and children.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47077#.VbjwM_kYHb4

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SENATOR JOHN McCAIN ON MASS ATROCITIES IN SYRIA

SENATOR JOHN McCAIN ON MASS ATROCITIES IN SYRIA
Feb 12, 2014


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Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today delivered the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding mass atrocities perpetrated by the Assad regime against the people of Syria:

“Mr. President, I rise today to appeal to the conscience of my colleagues and my fellow citizens about the mass atrocities that the Assad regime is perpetrating in Syria. When the images and horrors of this conflict occasionally show up on our television screens, the impulse of many Americans is to change the channel. But we must not look away. We must not avert our eyes from the suffering of the Syrian people, for if we do, we ignore, we sacrifice that which is most precious in ourselves – our ability to empathize with the suffering of others, to share it, to acknowledge through our own sense of revulsion that what is happening in Syria today is a stain on our the collective conscience of moral peoples everywhere.

“I appeal to my colleagues today not to look away from the images I will show you. And I want to warn all who are watching: These are graphic and disturbing pictures. But they are the real face of war and human suffering in Syria today – a war that our nation has the power to help end, but which we are failing to do.

“These images are drawn from a cache of more than 55,000 photographs that were taken between March 2011 and August 2013 by a Syrian military policeman, whose job it was to document the horrors that the Assad regime committed against political prisoners in its jails. This individual eventually defected to the opposition along with his photographs, which were meticulously reviewed and verified by three renowned international war crimes prosecutors and a team of independent forensic experts. They compiled their findings in a report late last month that provides direct evidence that the Assad regime was responsible for the systematic abuse, torture, starvation, and killing of approximately 11,000 detainees in what amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity. These are just a few of those pictures, and far from the most disturbing.

“I urge every member of Congress and the American public to read the full report, which can be found on the websites of CNN and The Guardian. Although only a handful of these gruesome images have been released publicly, the authors have provided their own startling commentary on what they reveal:

“David Crane, the first chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the man responsible for indicting former Liberian President Charles Taylor for crimes against humanity, stated that many of the photographs show groupings of bodies in ways that, quote, ‘looked like a slaughterhouse.’ Crane characterized the Syrian government as a ‘callous, industrial machine grinding its citizens’ that is guilty of ‘industrial-age mass killing.’

“Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice, lead prosecutor in the case against former Yugoslav President Milosevic at the Hague, reported that the systematic way the bodies were catalogued, and the effort given to obscure the true causes of death leads one to ‘reasonably infer that this is a pattern of behavior’ for Assad’s forces.

“But perhaps most chilling of all, Sir Desmond de Silva, who also served as a chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, stated that the emaciated bodies revealed in these pictures are ‘reminiscent of the pictures of those who were found still alive in the Nazi death camps after World War II.’

“Yesterday, in a hearing of the Committee on Armed Services, I asked the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, whether these photographs, which clearly depict ghastly crimes against humanity, are authentic. Director Clapper said he has, quote, ‘no reason to doubt’ their authenticity. The United Nations is now doing its own assessment of these images, and all of us should fully support that. It is important to have the broadest possible validation of these images, and I am confident the U.N. team will validate them. After all, does anyone seriously believe the Assad regime does not have the means, motive, and opportunity to murder 11,000 people in its prisons?

“Indeed, this kind of inhuman cruelty is a pattern of behavior with the Syrian government. According to a detailed U.N. report issued at the end of January, Assad’s forces have systematically, as part of their doctrine, used children as human shields and threatened to kill the children of opposition members if they did not surrender. The U.N. also detailed the arrest, detention, torture, and sexual abuse of thousands of children by government forces. I will spare you the remaining details, as they are unspeakable, but again I urge you to read the entire report which can be found on the United Nations’ website.

“I also recommend that my colleagues read of the war crimes that Human Rights Watch has been documenting. They have reported, for example, on how Syrian authorities have deliberately used explosives and bulldozers to demolish thousands of residential buildings, and in some cases entire neighborhoods, for no military reason whatsoever, just as a form of collective punishment of Syrian civilians.

“Human Rights Watch researchers have also documented the toll of the Syrian government’s airstrike campaign against Aleppo and Damascus, and in particular, the regime’s use over the past few months of what has become known as ‘barrel bombs.’ For my colleagues who are not aware of them, barrel bombs are oil drums or other large containers packed with explosives, fuel, shrapnel, glass, and all manner of crude lethal material. Their sole purpose is to maim, kill, and terrorize as many people as possible when they are indiscriminately dropped from Syrian government aircraft on schools, and bakeries, and mosques, and other civilian areas. In one stark video of a barrel bomb’s aftermath, a man stands in front of a child’s body and cries out, ‘Oh God, we’ve had enough. Please help us.’

“These are just some of the many reasons why our Director of National Intelligence referred to the Syria crisis yesterday as ‘an apocalyptic disaster.’ And with more than 130,000 people dead, after more than one-third of the Syrian population has been driven from their homes, no truer words were ever spoken. But this ‘apocalyptic disaster’ in Syria is no longer just a humanitarian tragedy for one country; it is a regional conflict and an emerging national security threat to us.

“The regime’s war crimes are being aided and abetted by thousands of Hezbollah fighters and Iranian agents on the ground, as well as Russian weaponry that continues to flow into the Assad government, even as Russia works with us to remove the Assad regime’s chemical weapons – a truly Orwellian situation.

“The conflict in Syria is devastating its neighbors. Lebanon is suffering from increased bombings and cross-border attacks by both the Syrian government and opposition fighters in response to Hezbollah’s role in the fighting. Unofficial estimates suggest that half of Lebanon’s population will soon be Syrian refugees. Similar estimates suggest that Syrian refugees now represent 15 percent of the population in Jordan, which is straining to manage the social instability this entails. Turkey has been destabilized. And perhaps most worrisome of all, the conflict in Syria is largely to blame for the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has grown into the larger and more lethal Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which now possesses a safe haven that spans large portions of both countries. Nowhere is this more threatening, or more heartbreaking, than in Fallujah – the Iraqi city where hundreds of U.S. troops were killed and wounded fighting to rid of terrorists and extremists, but where the black flags of Al-Qaeda now hang above the city.

“The sanctuary that Al-Qaeda now enjoys thanks to the crisis in Syria increasingly poses a direct threat to U.S. national security, and that of our closest allies and partners. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Mr. Jeh Johnson, has said, quote: ‘Syria is now a matter of homeland security.’ The Director of National Intelligence has referred to the Al-Qaeda sanctuary in Syria and Iraq as ‘a new FATA’ – the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan where Al-Qaeda planned the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“Indeed, Director Clapper has warned that Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in Syria now aspire to attack the homeland. If the September 11 attacks should have taught us anything, it is that global terrorists who occupy ungoverned spaces and seek to plot and plan attacks against us can pose a direct threat to our national security. That was Afghanistan on September 10, 2001. And that is what top officials in this administration are now warning us that Syria is becoming today.

“The conflict in Syria is a threat to our national interests, but it is more than that. It is, and should be, an affront to our conscience. Images like these should not just be a source of heartbreak and sympathy. They should be a call to action.

“It was not too long ago, just a few months after the revolution in Syria began, that President Obama issued his Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities. In it he stated: ‘Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.’ He went on to say: ‘Our security is affected when masses of civilians are slaughtered, refugees flow across borders, and murderers wreak havoc on regional stability and livelihoods.’

“Last year, speaking at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the President said, ‘Too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale. And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.’

“And just last September, in his address to the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama said this, and I would like to quote him at length: ‘[T]he principle of sovereignty,’ he said, ‘is at the center of our international order. But sovereignty cannot be a shield for tyrants to commit wanton murder, or an excuse for the international community to turn a blind eye. While we need to be modest in our belief that we can remedy every evil, while we need to be mindful that the world is full of unintended consequences, should we really accept the notion that the world is powerless in the face of a Rwanda, or Srebrenica? If that’s the world that people want to live in, they should say so, and reckon with the cold logic of mass graves.’

“That was our President, and I agree with every word of what he said. But how are we to reconcile these stirring words with the reality of these images from Syria? How are we to explain how the leader of the free world, who says that it is a moral obligation of the United States to do what we can to prevent the worst atrocities in our world, is not doing more to stop the atrocities that are occurring every single day in Syria?

“Where is that President Obama today? Where is the President Obama who has spoken so movingly of the moral responsibilities that great power confers? Where is President Obama who has said he refuses to accept that brutal tyrants can slaughter their people with impunity while the most powerful nation in the history of the world looks on and stands by? Where is the recognition that ‘the cold logic of mass graves’ is right there – right there in front of us, in Syria today?

“And yet our government is doing what we have sadly done too often in the past. We are averting our eyes. We try to comfort our guilty consciences by telling ourselves that we are not doing nothing, but it is a claim made in bad faith, for everyone concedes that nothing we are doing is equal to the horrors we face. We are telling ourselves that we are too tired or weary to get more involved – that Syria is not our problem, and that helping to resolve it is not our responsibility.

“We are telling ourselves that we have no good options, as if there are ever good options when it comes to foreign policy in the real world. We are telling ourselves that we might have been able to do something at one point, but that it is too late now – as if such words from the leaders of the world’s only global power will be any comfort to the Syrian mother who will lose her child tomorrow. We are telling ourselves what Neville Chamberlain once told himself about a different problem from hell in an earlier time – that it is ‘a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.’ Where is our outrage? Where is our shame?

“It is true that our options to help end the conflict in Syria were never good, and they certainly are worse and fewer now. But no one should believe that we are without options, even now. And no one should believe that doing something meaningful to help in Syria requires us to rerun the war in Iraq. That is an excuse for inaction. This is not a question of options or capabilities. It is a question of will.

“These images of the human disaster in Syria haunt me. And they should haunt all of my colleagues and all Americans. But what haunts me even more than the horror unfolding before our eyes in Syria is the thought that we will continue to do nothing meaningful about it, and how that deadens our national conscience, and how it calls into question the moral sources of our great power and the foundations our global leadership – and how, many years from now, an American president will stand before the world and the people of Syria, as previous presidents have done after previous inaction in the face of mass atrocities in faraway lands, and that president will say what all of us know to be true right now: that we could have done more to stop the suffering of others, we could have used the power we possess, limited though it may be, we could have exercised the options at our disposal, imperfect though they may be, and we could have done something, and it is to our everlasting embarrassment that we did not. And that future president will apologize for our current failure.

“Shame on us if we let history repeat itself that way.”