syrian 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.

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.

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Syria’s Bodies: The Stench Was Unfathomable

Syrian civilians were tortured to death by Assad regime in prison

By Christoph Reuter and Christoph Scheuermann
January 27, 2014

He says he was never witness to executions, nor did he see torture taking place. That wasn’t his job. His task was that of taking photos of the corpses afterwards. He would snap four or five images per body — of the face and other parts of the person — documenting the cause of death, insofar as it was possible to determine. He did so tens of thousands of times between March 2011 and August 2013 — when he finally fled Syria, taking some 55,000 photos with him on a USB stick. The images are of starved, strangled and tortured men, primarily young and mostly naked. Some have no eyes. The defector, who has been cited under the alias “Caesar,” worked for Syrian security, and says that he and his colleagues were called on up to 50 times a day to photograph corpses, each of which was given a number for documentation purposes.

Caesar provided his testimony and photographic evidence to lawyers and forensic experts at a British law firm. Together, says Sir Desmond de Silva, former chief prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, the defector’s evidence shows the “industrial scale” of the killing perpetrated by the Syrian regime. In addition, the photos provide a horrifying explanation for what might have happened to the 50,000 or more missing people in Syria — those who were abducted by the regime of the course of the past two years. They are not included in the casualty figures, which assume a total of some 130,000 killed in the civil war. But prior to last week, there had been no clear indication as to where they might be.

The British experts randomly chose 5,500 photos for analysis. More than half of them depicted emaciated corpses, many of them showing signs of torture. By extrapolation, the images that Caesar brought with him could document the murders of some 11,000 people. The three prominent attorneys involved believe both the testimony and the photographic evidence to be authentic. In a report, they said there is “clear evidence … of systematic torture and killing of detained persons.” The report notes that “such evidence could also support findings of war crimes against the current Syrian regime.”

The investigation and report undertaken by the British law firm was financed by Qatar, which likely explains the fact that it was made public concurrently with last week’s Syria conference in Geneva. Qatar backs the Syrian rebels, but the country’s stance does little to take away from the power of the images provided.


Consistent with Witness Accounts

Caesar was likely but a small cog in the bureaucratic machine of death. But his photographs could be decisive in proving potential crimes against humanity committed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They provide visual evidence to back up previous claims made by other witnesses.

The images are also consistent — down to the details — with previously unpublished witness accounts provided to SPIEGEL during the past 20 months of reporting. Those accounts indicate that the vast military hospitals in Homs and Harasta, outside Damascus, became transfer points for the victims of Syria’s military and of the various secret services and militias. The dead, the witness accounts indicate, are centrally registered, photographed and then taken to mass graves in the desert regions in the eastern part of the country, which are still controlled by the regime.

When 19-year-old soldier Ahmed J., from Aleppo, reported for duty at the Homs military hospital on March 11, 2012, he saw a hip-high pile of corpses in the inner courtyard near the mortuary. The pile, Ahmed J. said, “was dozens of meters long and two or three layers high.” Ahmed J. was responsible for packing the corpses into white plastic bags after they had been photographed. Many of them were bloated and mostly unrecognizable. “And sometimes there were just body parts. We tried to make sure that we put a head, two arms and two legs in each sack,” he said. “Others were still dressed and still had mobile phones or money with them. I didn’t think about what I was doing and hardly slept at the beginning, but later I started talking in my sleep, saying to the others: ‘Hey, give me that head there! Take this leg!’ The same things that I said during the day.”

“They had a good camera,” he said, before remembering one more detail: “The stench was unfathomable.”

Each corpse, Ahmed J. said, was photographed three or four times. “Every bullet hole was documented,” he said, adding that he was part of a team of 15 who worked in two shifts. “One fainted on the first day and was beaten. Others plundered the corpses and made jokes.” Their superior was a military doctor, Ahmed J. said. “He left every half an hour, saying he had a headache. He said he had never seen such a thing in his 30-year career.”

Every day, several deliveries arrived, “most of them from different quarters and suburbs of Homs, like Bab Sbaa or Houla,” Ahmed J. said. Twice a week, a large, refrigerated truck with no license plate picked up the white body bags. He says he doesn’t know where they were taken. “We weren’t allowed to ask questions.” Ahmed J.’s assignment ended on March 23 and he defected two months later. He now lives in Turkey.

White Body Bags

A military doctor from the city of Rastan who defected later likewise had an assignment in the Homs military hospital in mid-March, 2012. He too provided details from the corpse collection site, which he saw in the exact same hospital courtyard. “I was there only briefly, but there were hundreds. They could hardly have all died or been killed in the hospital,” he said. He wasn’t witness to a corpse removal operation, saying he only saw soldiers packing the dead in white body bags.

Why would a regime, which kills thousands of its own citizens, collects them in a discrete location and buries them in hidden mass graves, photograph and number the dead?

Caesar says that one reason is so that death certificates could be issued. But why document bullet holes and signs of strangulation given the interest in concealing the true cause of death? The second reason mentioned by Caesar seems more important. The regime wanted to make a record of which security service was responsible for what death, he said according to the report. A kind of performance report for brutality.

Until deep into 2012, the military security agency, the air force secret service, the state security apparatus and other agencies often worked at cross purposes. Some of those wanted by the authorities could escape as a result — because, for example, he was on one agency’s list but not on that of another. Given the confusion, documenting who killed whom perhaps became more important than covering up the whole operation.

Beginning in February 2012, thousands of Homs residents disappeared in the wake of the 4th Division’s attack on the rebellious quarters of the city. Whether the victims belonged to the opposition or not was irrelevant for the subsequent death sentences — the wrong address was often enough. But the men whose corpses the soldier and the military doctor later saw in the inner courtyard of the Homs military hospital did not yet show indications of systemic starvation, as is evident in many of the images provided by Caesar.

That began later. Starting in 2013, severely emaciated corpses and released prisoners began appearing. The British doctor Abbas Khan, who arrived in Syria at the end of 2012 to help treat the wounded in hospitals, was also taken into custody by the army and tortured to death in a prison belonging to the military security agency. For an entire year, his family sought his release; his mother travelled to Damascus and even managed to visit her son with the help of diplomats, lawyers and middlemen. She said later he had been tortured with burning cigarettes and electric shocks and was clearly suffering from starvation, weighing just over 30 kilograms (66 pounds). “He was like a skeleton,” she said.

The Search for Number 417

A British parliamentarian promised to travel to Syria to seek his release and the family was hopeful. But then, on Dec. 17, came official word that Abbas Khan had hanged himself in his cell. His sister Sara, noting that he had become increasingly hopeful that he would soon be released, has said she doesn’t believe the suicide story.

Corpse collection points such as that in Homs were established in Damascus as well. It was a mistake that led to a real estate agent spending five days in the heart of the apocalypse there during his search for his brother. He had been killed, apparently in error, in November 2012.

“We had connections very high up, we knew the head of the air force secret service,” the real estate agent said during a meeting last April. “So I received official assistance in the search for his body.” First, he went to secret service division 601 west of Damascus and then to the military hospital in Harasta, east of the city. “The dead were lying on top of each other in eight or nine layers. They were in the basement, in the courtyard, in the hallways, everywhere, and new ones kept coming. All services brought their corpses there.”

Military security provided 10 soldiers to help the real estate agent in his search. “For five days, they heaved corpses from one pile to the next,” in the search for his brother, number 417. “But he was already gone.”

He was told he could also look at photos of the 1,550 people from in and around Damascus that had been killed in the last two months. “But, they said apologetically, they were only the ones from their service. They didn’t have the others.” But number 417 was not among them.

Translated from the German by Charles Hawley

Article from: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/spiegel-reporting-supports-accounts-of-torture-and-execution-in-syria-a-945760.html

Its Syrian Genocide not Syrian Civil War by Assad Regime

Dear Politicians around the world, if you are not too busy, please watch this video!

Stop the bloodshed in Syria, save the rest!

LGBTI Refugees Who Are Fleeing Syria for the U.S.


welcometoamerican21
Salem, left, and Moustafa are headed to the U.S.

Written by Kevin Ozebek
Sept. 29, 2015

After Jaafar Moustafa and Hasan Salem were outed in Syria, they had to flee for their lives. Now they’re finding refuge in the U.S.

ISTANBUL: Jaafar Moustafa and Hasan Salem are counting down the days until they can board a plane in Istanbul, each with a one-way ticket to Oakland, California, and escape from the trauma and tragedy of their native Syria.

Moustafa, 26, and Salem, 30, are part of a very select group. They are among the 18,336 Syrian refugees whom the United Nations has recommended for resettlement in America since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. Compared to the more than four million people who have escaped Syria, that number seems tiny—and it is. But most of the refugees the U.S. will try to take in for resettlement have extremely dire medical needs or can never return home because they will almost certainty face political, religious or social persecution.

For Moustafa and Salem, returning to Syria would be suicide. The two friends left the port city of Latakia, Syria on May 10, 2014. It’s a date they will never forget. The city they ran from remains under the grip of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose war with an array of rebel groups has killed over 200,000 Syrians and displaced millions more. But neither Assad’s brutality nor the fear of their hometown one day falling under the control ISIS are why these men abruptly fled their home. Both Moustafa and Salem are gay, and they left Latakia because they were outed.

“We could never be out of the closet in Syria,” said Moustafa. “You can’t tell people that you’re gay and live a normal life.”

After relatives found emails between the two about a LGBTI conference in neighboring Turkey, staying in Syria was no longer possible. Moustafa was afraid his uncle would kill him, and Salem feared his own father would murder him. So the two packed what they could and flew to Istanbul together, joining the more than 1.5 million Syrians who have sought refuge in neighboring Turkey.

Moustafa and Salem were lucky—in Istanbul a UN caseworker deemed them highly vulnerable refugees. Because they are at such high risk of becoming victims of a hate crime, they fall into the category of refugees most in danger and best suited for resettlement. When refugees like Salem and Moustafa face having their fundamental human rights violated, resettlement becomes the most appropriate solution, according to UN regulations.

Salem and Moustafa’s caseworker determined that America would be the safest place for them. When they left Syria, they had no connection to California. To this day, they have no clue why the UN recommended they be resettled in the U.S. and not somewhere in Europe, though family ties and language skills are factors when finding refugees a new home. While Moustafa and Salem have no relatives in America, they both speak some English. Their basic English skills could now be why their potentially lethal “outing,” has become a blessing in disguise.

“I feel very lucky, of course,” said Salem. In California, “society will accept me.”

But while these two no longer have to live in fear of their families brutally attacking them, they are leaving the only home they’ve ever known for a new life in a foreign country.

Peter Vogelaar, head of Affiliated Services at the International Catholic Migration Committee, says refugees like Salem and Moustafa who ICMC helps resettle in America are told, “streets aren’t paved with gold. There are a lot of challenges. Making ends meet is going to be very hard to do.”

Once the UN recommends a refugee in Turkey to be resettled in the U.S., non-profits like ICMC in Istanbul are summoned to provide the asylum seeker everything from a thorough medical exam to a translator for an in-depth interview with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS agents are tasked with ensuring the refugee poses no security risk to the U.S. Salem and Moustafa also had to respond to a series of questions designed to confirm they truly would face death at the hands of their relatives if they were to return to Latakia.

When Moustafa and Salem land in California next month, U.S.-based non-profits will help them find work and classes to improve their English. Before they land jobs they’ll be eligible for U.S. federal assistance, like food stamps, but won’t be given a stipend to get started—as refugees are in Europe. The responsibility will ultimately be on them to make their resettlement successful.

Of the 18,336 refugees the UN recommends the U.S. adopt, only about 1,500 of them have already completed the lengthy resettlement process and moved to America. It’s not clear how many of them are LGBTI. “In some countries of asylum, gender identity may make refugees particularly vulnerable and in others it may not,” said Ariane Rummery, a spokeswoman with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

With White House pledging to take in at least 10,000 Syrians this upcoming fiscal year, Moustafa and Salem are part of a pioneering group of refugees. They say they are up to the challenge of adapting to a new country—a prospect that seems significantly less scary after surviving wartime Syria.

The two will arrive in their new country emotionally scarred from experiencing Syria’s civil war. Since their hometown remains under Assad’s control, Latakians were not pounded daily with barrel bombs from the Syrian Air Force. But even so, Moustafa says life in Latakia is, “still miserable.” If you dare to publicly speak out against the relentless regime, “they arrest you immediately,” he says. And the crackling of gunfire they frequently heard reminded them the front was not so far away.

“War, blood, I saw many things,” said Salem.

While Salem hopes to continue his career as a computer technician, Moustafa intends to seek a position in social work once in Oakland. He wants to be an LGBTI activist and help other gay refugees. And above all else, they want the freedom to be “out” in the open.

“It’s a liberal country and you can follow your dreams,” said Moustafa. His American Dream is to fall in love and eventually marry. It is a dream that could never turn into reality in Syria.

“I want to live a normal life. I want to feel safe. I want basic things that everybody should have.”

Article from: http://time.com/4048421/meet-the-lgbti-refugees-who-are-fleeing-syria-for-the-u-s/

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Daily Atrocities


Published on Dec 24, 2012

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Whole Family was Executed by Syria Assad Regime Shahiba

The Houla Massacre – More photos, more evidence from Syria. 3 years anniversary on May 25, 2015, the killers are still free to continue to kill…

syria houla massacre children

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syria houla executed whole family

syria houla executed whole family

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Al-Houla Massacre by Assad regime Shabiha

Syria Assad Regime Military Retaliation – Houla Massacre

According to the United Nations, 108 people were killed, including 34 women and 49 children, they were killed in the attack overnight between 25 and 26 May 2012, most knifed or shot at close range. Most of the massacre’s victims had been “summarily executed in two separate incidents and an “entire families were shot in their houses” in the village of Taldo.

Video later emerged on the Internet showing the bloodstained bodies of many children huddled on a floor in the dark, some with their skulls split open, some with their throats cut, and others knifed or shot to death.

The video also featured a man’s voice screaming, “These are all children! Watch, you dogs, you Arabs, you animals – look at these children, watch, just watch!”

UN investigators have reported that most of the dead were summarily executed, the consistent testimonies of victims and witnesses with direct knowledge of the events stated that the massacre was committed by pro-government Shabiha.

Channel 4 news reported that Houla residents stated that the Syrian military and government-hired Shabiha were the perpetrators of the massacre, as claimed by opposition groups. Townspeople described how Shabiha, who were thought to be men from Shia/Alawite villages to the south and west of Houla (Kabu and Felleh were named repeatedly) entered the town after several hours of shelling. According to one eyewitness, the killers had written Shia slogans on their foreheads (the Alawi faith is a Shia sect).

An elected president free to kill his own citizens and nobody would stop him! Innocent unarmed civilians: men, women, children and infants were brutally slashed, hacked to death with knives or shot at close range in their own home. This manifestation of the sectarian hatred fomenting within the country.

“What happened in Houla and elsewhere (in Syria) are brutal massacres which even MONSTERS would not have carried out,” Mr Assad said in the televised address.

Syria Assad carry out Al Houla Massacre on May 25, 2012

Houla Massacre: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houla_massacre

Syria crisis: Assad denies role in Houla massacre:
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-18313129

Syria President Bashar al-Assad
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bashar_al-Assad