News

Syrian Army Defectors Tell of Atrocities

Sebastian Meyer

As defections from Syrian forces mount, hundreds of Kurdish Syrian soldiers have put down their guns and fled into Iraq. They tell of how they were forced to open fire on civilians and hide the bodies in mass graves.

In an amateur video posted online, demonstrators march through the Syrian city of Deraa, protesting against President Bashar al-Assad. It was at a similar protest last year that Hassan, a 21-year-old Syrian soldier, says he was ordered to shoot at unarmed civilians.

“They came out to demonstrate and we killed them. We were forced to kill them," he said. "After the protesters fled, we went into the shops and broke the windows and then we destroyed the water tanks. We went inside the mosques and destroyed them, too.”

And those soldiers who refused to follow orders?  Hassan says they were simply executed.

“I saw how they killed them. They shot them dead. They put them against a wall, blindfolded them and then shot them. I saw this with my own eyes,” he said.

In another refugee camp near the city of Dohuk, Abdullah, a former tank driver, tells of his role in the bombardment of Homs.

“We were in a group of tanks outside of Baba Amr and we were shelling indiscriminately," he recalled.  "We weren’t shooting at selected targets; we were shooting indiscriminately. The targets weren’t specified for us to be either civilian, opposition, or Free Syrian Army.  Nothing was specified. A lot of people were killed.”

After the bombardment, Abdullah says he witnessed the Syrian army dumping bodies into mass graves in an attempt to cover up the massacre.

“There were a lot of civilians in Baba Amr being killed," he said. "There was a massacre in an olive grove. We have a lot of olive trees there so we call the area Al-Zeytoon which means 'olive.' They buried a lot of people there to hide them.”

Although the men are physically safe now, their mental health appears affected.

“I remember these sights. Wherever I look I see them. Especially when I try to go to sleep. I remember these things," he said. "I’m tense, angry, and confused. Sometimes I can’t fall asleep for hours.”

The Syrian government tries to play down the defections.  But as the violence continues, more soldiers like Hassan and Abdullah are likely to come to Iraq.  Iraqi officials say at least 130 soldiers have fled Syria and they are preparing new camps to house 500 in all.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Echoes
March 15, 2012 10:49 AM
Having done what was necessary in Libya will those three major powers please come to the aid of those civillians dying in Syria and initiate the necessary action to stop this mayhem, which should have
been done long ago. How many more days must this situation be allowed to continue before action by USA, UK and France is taken?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs