News / Middle East

    Syrian Demonstrators Galvanized by 13-Year-Old's Death

    Syrian families and their children carry pictures of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib and candles during a protest in front of the United Nations building in Beirut, Lebanon, June 1, 2011
    Syrian families and their children carry pictures of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib and candles during a protest in front of the United Nations building in Beirut, Lebanon, June 1, 2011

    Multimedia

    As demonstrations erupted Friday across Syria, child deaths are being marked after the United Nations agency UNICEF said at least 30 children have been shot dead in anti-government protests since they first started. A rallying point is Hamza al-Khatib, a 13-year-old boy who was killed in April, and who the opposition says was tortured.

    The country’s opposition movement marked Friday as “Children’s Friday” - a tribute to the dozens of young people who have died since demonstrations began in March.

    The focus, said Neil Sammonds of the human rights group Amnesty International, is one death, that of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib, who died under mysterious circumstances.

    “So he is one of 30 or more children who have died in the protests so far, all of them believed to have been shot by the security forces," said Sammonds. "But in his case, most tragically and horrifically, he appears to have been tortured to death."

    Hamza al-Khatib disappeared during an April protest, where the government says he was shot and killed. The opposition says marks on his body, however, which was returned to his family in May, show the boy was tortured.

    Unverified videos that appear to show his body have been posted on the website YouTube and the images have stoked fury in Syria.

    Speaking Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also voiced her regret.

    “The tragedy of the young boy, Hamza Ali al-Khatib, symbolizes for many people around the world the total collapse of any effort by the Assad government to work with their own people,” said the secretary of state.

    The government denies that Khatib was tortured and says it will investigate his death.

    Nonetheless, Sammonds said his image could become a rallying point for Syria’s opposition.

    “If we compare that with Tunisia, people have talked a lot about the case of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor of vegetables," said Sammonds. "After he set himself alight, the Tunisian protests went almost like wild fire, very quickly through the country, including to the capital, Tunis, in just a matter of weeks. That hasn’t happened yet, but perhaps through this very sad case of Hamza, we may see a move towards some kind of tipping point for change in Syria.”

    The government of al-Assad made concessions this week, freeing hundreds of prisoners in an amnesty, and setting up a committee for national dialogue.

    But the country’s exiled opposition, meeting this week in Turkey, said Assad should step down immediately. They vowed Thursday to work to bring down his government.

    Their effort may be boosted by the symbolic power of Khatib’s death, but it’s not likely to be enough to bring down the government, said David Hartwell, at the IHS Jane’s analysis group in London.

    "If Khatib’s death was going to spark off a national uprising, if you like, it probably would have done so by now," said Hartwell. "I think what remains the key is the sentiment on the street in Damascus particularly, and the ability of the regime to keep the sources of protest and the sources of discontent separate from each other. If it can do that it should be able to crack down fairly successfully."

    With more deaths reported Friday in Syria, it’s yet unclear how severe that crackdown will be.

    Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    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.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora