News / Middle East

    Rights Group Details Syrian Massacre

    Human Rights Watch says these Syrians were killed execution-style in the village of al-Bayda May 3, 2013. Amateur video via AP.
    Human Rights Watch says these Syrians were killed execution-style in the village of al-Bayda May 3, 2013. Amateur video via AP.
    Atrocities and massacres have been regular occurrences in Syria’s two-and-half year civil war, but Human Rights Watch provided details Friday about one of the worst massacres carried out by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
     
    The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report documents in exacting detail the summary executions of 248 people by Syrian government forces and allied irregular units in the mainly Sunni Muslim towns of al-Bayda and Baniyas on May 2 and 3 this year. The dead included women and children, some of them infants.
     
    Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
    x
    Click to enlarge
    Click to enlarge
    Shortly after the summary executions took place, the Syrian government acknowledged that its forces had been active in the towns—Sunni enclaves in a region overwhelmingly populated by pro-Assad Alawite Muslims—but insisted they had been battling “terrorists.”
     
    Syrian government officials denied that its forces had carried out a massacre of unarmed civilians, but Ali Haidar, minister of state for national reconciliation affairs, later told the Wall Street Journal that “mistakes” may have been made and that a government committee was investigating.
     
    Based on eyewitness testimony of survivors who saw or heard government and pro-government forces detain and then execute their relatives, the 68-page HRW report suggests the majority of those killed, generally by three bullets to the head, were non-combatants executed several hours after firefights between the army and rebels had ended.
     
    According to the survivors, government forces started to ransack and loot houses early in the afternoon, and then rounded up the men, separating them from the women and children. The men were either shot on the spot or moved to the main square and shot there. The bodies were later moved to a mobile phone store where they were partially burned, the HRW report said.
     
    Surviving relatives describe killings
     
    Among the dead were the four grown sons of 70-year-old Mustafa Suweid. Samira, the wife of one of the sons, said the four were forced into a next-door apartment along with a neighbor.
     
    “Suddenly we heard gunshots. I started screaming to my father-in-law,” Samira told the HRW investigators. “I ran to the window and saw around 20 soldiers leave the apartment.” 
     
    “I first saw my husband’s body by the door,” Samira continued. “The remaining three were in a room on top of each other. Each of the men had three bullets in him. Ahmad was not yet dead. But we were unable to get him to a hospital. He died two hours later. We moved the bodies into one room and covered them. The blood slowly seeped onto the carpet.”
     
    Nearby, soldiers entered the home of the Bayasi family, the HRW report said. According to three local residents, all the family members—nine men, three women, and 14 children—were executed with the exception of a three-year old girl who they said was wounded but survived. 
     
    A local resident, Majed, who was among the first to discover the corpses also shared his grisly story with HRW.

    “I was busy helping the surviving residents leave the town when the fiancé of one of the Bayasi women asked me to go with him to check on her," he said. "We saw no one in the first room. As we entered further into the house, we got to a room where we found so many corpses. Mothers and children piled on top of each other. One mother was still covering her son. I thought he may have survived, but as I turned her over, I saw that he had been also shot. My friend’s fiancé was also killed. We closed the windows of the house because we did not want any wild animals to come in.”
     
    The HRW report also detailed a separate incident in which the wife of a man called Muhammad Shaker said she found her husband with bullet wounds to his head and shoulder.
     
    “Half of his head…was all smashed up. His insides were all out,” she told HRW. “This [the injuries to his abdomen] was done with cleavers.”
     
    Cell phone video
     
    The Human Rights Watch report includes cell phone video recordings made by survivors to support much of the testimony gathered by HRW.  Some images of the dead – although only of dead men – also were shown the following days on Syrian state television. The dead men were said to be “terrorists.”
     
    HRW investigators also spoke to survivors who discovered the bodies in the cell phone store in al-Bayda.
     
    This citizen journalist image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian army soldiers standing in front of dead bodies at Bayda village.This citizen journalist image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian army soldiers standing in front of dead bodies at Bayda village.
    x
    This citizen journalist image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian army soldiers standing in front of dead bodies at Bayda village.
    This citizen journalist image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian army soldiers standing in front of dead bodies at Bayda village.
    “What we saw inside it [the store] I cannot describe,” said Mohammad, an opposition activist. “The room was four meters by four meters. There were more than 60 dead bodies there. They were all next to each other and all burnt. The smoke was still coming out of them.”
     
    According to HRW, similar summary executions took place in Baniyas, 10 kilometers from al-Bayda, where local residents named 30 men, 22 women, and 29 children who had been executed.
     
    Conventional weapons used
     
    “While the world’s attention is on ensuring that Syria’s government can no longer use chemical weapons against its population, we shouldn’t forget that Syrian government forces have used conventional means to slaughter civilians,” says Joe Stork, HRW’s acting Middle East director.
     
    Why al-Bayda and Baniyas were earmarked for such treatment isn’t clear, but some opposition activists say the executions were meant to encourage Sunni Muslims to leave the region.
     
    Both sides in Syria’s increasingly sectarian conflict, though, have committed atrocities.

    Earlier this week, the United Nations commission charged with investigating human rights violations in Syria released an updated version of its findings listing a number of violations committed by both the rebels and Assad government forces.
     
    “Government and pro-government forces have continued to conduct widespread attacks on the civilian population, committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance,” the commission said. "They have laid siege to neighborhoods and subjected them to indiscriminate shelling."
     
    But the commission also noted that Syrian rebels “have committed war crimes, including murder, execution without due process, torture, hostage taking.”
     
    The commission said the Syrian government was responsible for eight massacres since the beginning of the year, while the rebels were responsible for one.

    You May Like

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    City could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters

    Turkey Aims New Crackdown at Journalists, Academics, Airline Workers

    Ankara continues targeting people allegedly linked to exiled cleric, who it says led the failed military coup

    Pakistan Ready to Inaugurate Rebuilt Afghan Border Crossing

    Construction of Torkham Gate triggered deadly clashes between Pakistani and Afghan military forces

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora