They came in armoured vehicles and there were some tanks. They shot five bullets through the door of our house. They said they wanted Aref and Shawki, my father and my brother. They then asked about my uncle, Abu Haidar. They also knew his name.

My mum yelled at them. She asked: ‘What do you want from my husband and son?’ A bald man with a beard shot her with a machine gun from the neck down. Then they killed my sister, Rasha, with the same gun. She was five years old. Then they shot my brother Nader in the head and in the back. I saw his soul leave his body in front of me.

They shot at me, but the bullet passed me and I wasn’t hit. I was shaking so much I thought they would notice me. I put blood on my face to make them think I’m dead.

Those victims who were slaughtered are people that I knew well. These children I knew well, personally. I ate with their families. I had social ties with them. The regime cannot lie about these people, who they were and what they did to them. It was a brutal act by the regime against people who were with the revolution.
—  Senior Syrian military officer Major Jihad Raslan, who has defected from Assad’s forces after witnessing the Houla massacre. He spoke to the Guardian. The full article is here.

“Within moments of arriving, we were beckoned out by some soldiers. We thought we were under arrest. It was a confused picture. Then a firefight ensued. So, we took cover in a building, and I discovered that close to where we had taken cover, there was a blanket on the ground.

I pulled the blanket off. And it revealed a man way past fighting age, I would say at least 75, 80 years old, who had been shot in the head, gunshot wound to the head, which – I’m not a pathologist, but it looked like the reason of death for him.

I reached for a blanket, giving him whatever dignity I could in that situation, and went into the next room essentially to escape the gunfire. And there, there was the body of – another blanket was laid out on the floor. Under that, I found the body of a little girl probably 5 or 6 years old, no more than that. And she had a gunshot wound in her chest.

This is only a small part of what has happened in Houla. And these bodies will not yet have been discovered by the United Nations.”

- Alex Thomson of Independent Television News on his convoy into the southern area of Houla, Syria, where a weekend massacre killed at least 108

This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism.

Photo: Cairo, Egypt. A man paints the phrase “Tahrir Square” on pavement during a protest. Marco Longari/AFP/Getty.

“Number killed in #HoulaMassacre has now reached 88, most of them women and children. Many slaughtered with knives. Hundreds injured. #Syria”

Sorry for posting such images , but this has to go all over the world and Tumblr is my only way to do so , please stop for a moment pray for them , reblog and let the world know about this !

They did nothing wrong , the only thing they’ve been asking for is freedom, freedom is no crime !!

“You think Kony is bad because he turns kids into his army? Well, bashar killed over 50 kids in a day. #HoulaMassacre”

Jon Lee Anderson on Syria’s spiral: 

There are often points in conflicts when the clock can either be reset or run out. The warring parties can step back from the brink, and engage in dialogue to reach a peaceful settlement; or, if not, bloodshed—the combustive element in all civil wars—acquires a power that is exponential. And there was a time when, instead of using violence to quell peaceful demonstrations, Assad’s regime may have still been able to save Syria from being engulfed by civil war. That moment passed months ago.

Click-through to read the full post: http://nyr.kr/NBbHGg

Bashar al-Assad will get away with it. He got away with Deraa. He got away with Homs. And he’ll get away with Houla. So will the armed opposition to the regime, along with al-Qa’ida and any other outfits joining in Syria’s tragedy. Yes, this may be the critical moment, the “tipping point” of horror, when Baathist collapse becomes inevitable rather than probable. And dear Mr Hague may be “absolutely” appalled. The UN, too. We all are.

But the Middle East is littered with a hundred Houlas, their dead children piled among the statistics, with knives and ropes as well as guns among the murder weapons. And what if Assad’s soldiers let their Alawite militia do their dirty work? Didn’t the Algerian FLN regime use “home guard” units to murder its opponents in the 1990s? Didn’t Gaddafi have his loyalist militias last year, and Mubarak his jailbird drugged-up ex-cops, the baltagi, to bash opponents of his regime? Didn’t Israel use its Lebanese Phalangist proxies to intimidate and kill its opponents in Lebanon? Wasn’t this, too, “rule by murder”? And come to think of it, wasn’t it Bashar al-Assad’s uncle Rifaat’s Special Forces who massacred the insurgents of Hama in 1982 – speak this not too loudly, for Rifaat lives now between Paris and London – and so who thinks Bashar can’t get away with Houla? The Algerian parallel is a frightening one. The FLN’s corrupt leadership wanted a “democracy”, even held elections. But once it was clear that the Islamist opposition – the luckless Islamic Salvation Front – would win, the government declared war on the “terrorists” trying to destroy Algeria. Villages were besieged, towns were shelled – all in the name of fighting “terror” – until the opposition took to slaughtering civilians around Blida, thousands of them, babies with their throats cut, women raped. And then it turned out the Algerian army was also involved in massacres. For Houla, read Bentalha, a place we have all forgotten; as we will forget Houla.

And we Westerners, we huffed and puffed, and called upon both sides in Algeria to exercise “restraint”, but wanted stability in France’s former colony – and let’s not forget that Syria is a former French “mandate” territory – and were very worried about al-Qa’ida-style insurgents taking over Algeria and, in the end, the US supported the Algerian military just as the Russians are supporting Syria’s military today. And the FLN got away with it, after 200,000 dead – compared to the mere 10,000 killed so far in Syria’s war.

And it’s worth remembering that, faced with their 1990s insurrection, the Algerians cast around desperately for countries from which they could take advice. They chose Hafez al-Assad’s Syria and sent a military delegation to Damascus to learn how the regime destroyed Hama in 1982. Now the Americans – who six months ago were characteristically casting Bashar as a “dead man walking” – prefer a Yemen-type ending to the Syrian war, as if Yemen’s crisis wasn’t bloody enough. But replacing Assad with a thug from the same patch (the Sanaa “solution”) is not what the Syrians will settle for.

Yes, it’s a civil war. And yes, Houla may be the turning point. And yes, now the UN are witnesses. But the Baath party has roots that go deeper than blood – ask any Lebanese – and we in the West will soon forget Houla when another YouTube image of death flicks on to our screens from the Syrian countryside. Or from Yemen. Or from the next revolution.

The rest of the victims appear to have been executed, shot at close range. Among the body count were 49 children.

Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights told reporters: 

“What is very clear is this was an absolutely abominable event that took place in Houla, and at least a substantial part of it was summary executions of civilians, women and children. At this point, it looks like entire families were shot in their houses.”


UNICEF reaches some of the heaviest conflict areas in Syria

DAMASCUS/AMMAN/GENEVA, 17 May 2013 – Despite heavy fighting, UNICEF and partners have provided life-saving supplies over the last week to some of the hardest to reach areas in Syria, including Aleppo and Al Houla, as well as children and women who fled recent violence in Al Bayda and Baniyas. 

Keep reading

Syria: End impunity, hold accountable perpetrators of international crimes

I am appalled by the atrocities committed in El-Houleh. Preliminary investigations indicate that the attacks possibly directed at the civilian population have resulted in the killings of 108 people, including 49 children, and 34 women… 

“Once again, I urge the Security Council to consider referring the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court,” said UN human rights chief Navi Pillay at the Human Rights Council’s special session on the killings in El-Houleh in Syria, 1 June 2012. 

Read Pillay’s full speech: http://bit.ly/LdsIEt

According to witnesses we interviewed, most of the 108 victims of the killings in El Houleh appeared to have been summarily executed: http://bit.ly/KOto59

Read UN human rights chief Navi Pillay’s repeated calls for prosecuting the perpetrators of international crimes in Syria. Press statement on 27 May: http://bit.ly/KCymAO (English) http://bit.ly/JKMwTY (Arabic). 

The UN Committee against Torture, on June 1, urges Syria to

“ensure prompt, impartial and thorough investigations into allegations of summary execution, enforced disappearance, torture…, and arbitrary arrest and detention by state agents or non-state actors, prosecute those responsible before independent and impartial courts that meet international fair trial standards, and punish them according to the severity of their crimes. Prosecution of members of security forces involved in serious human rights violations and alleged crimes against humanity should comprise investigations up to the highest levels in the chain of command.” 

Click under “Concluding Observations”, Syria: http://bit.ly/IXmfkV

UN Committee on children’s rights appalled at deliberate targeting of children in Syria. More: http://bit.ly/KkJUeU

A UN observer in Syria speaks with children on the streets of Homs, April 21, 2012. Credit: UN photo

Information about the UN Human Rights Council’s special session on the El-Houleh killings in Syria: http://bit.ly/KihbrY

There’s a genocide happening in Syria. I will no longer stand by and stay silent, children are being massacred while the world watches. I will not give into debate about “the other side”. I stand by Justice, and I will stand by those who are oppressed. 70 children massacred, for what? Bashar al Assad and his thugs can all rot in hell, may Karma strike and hit them hard. May the spirits protect those caught in the crossfire, may the spirits protect the children. 

From Palestine to Syria, there will be freedom. 

DEVELOPING: U.N. investigators finish inquiry into Houla massacre

U.N. investigators have wrapped up their inquiry into the Houla massacre and have concluded that Syrian government forces and Shabbiha fighters were responsible for killing more than 100 civilians, half of those children. 

The report finds that crimes by Syrian government forces indicate involvement at the “highest levels of armed and security forces and the government." 

The report also found that Syrian rebel fighters have committed war crimes, including murder and torture, but those abuses "did not reach the gravity, frequency and scale” of government abuses. 

The U.N. investigators have called on U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon to send their report to the U.N. Security COuncil to take appropriate action given the gravity of the crimes by all sides.

More on this story at Reuters.com shortly.

Italian photographer, Marco Di Lauro, has exposed the BBC which illegally used one of his photographs taken in Iraq as anti-Syrian Propaganda on their website’s front page.

Di Lauro said: “Somebody is using illegaly one of my images for anti syrian propaganda on the BBC web site front page. 

Today Sunday May 27 at 0700 am London time the attached image which I took in Al Mussayyib in Iraq on March 27, 2003 (see caption below) was front page on BBC web site illustrating the massacre that happen in Houla the Syrian town and the caption and the web site was stating that the images was showing the bodies of all the people that have been killed in the massacre and that the image was received by the BBC by an unknown activist. Somebody is using my images as a propaganda against the Syrian government to prove the massacre.”

Al Musayyib, Iraq - May 27, 2003 

An Iraqi child jumps over a line of hundreds of bodies, in a school where they have been transported from a mass grave, to be identified. They were discovered in the desert in the outskirts of Al Musayyib, 40 km south of Baghdad. It has been estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 Iraqis had been reported missing in the region south of Baghdad. People have been searching for days for identity cards or other clues among the skeletons to try to find the remains of brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters and even children who disappeared when Saddam’s government crushed a Shi'ite uprising following the 1991 Gulf War. 

Marco Di Lauro Photographer Reportage by Getty Images

حفلة إرغام

١- “ساراوند سيستم”

جعلتُ أنظر إلى المشهد من الشرفة. كانت مقدمة السيارة قد تهشّمت بالكامل، وسيارات الإسعاف والشرطة تملأ المكان. تجمّع خلقٌ كثيرون. بعضهم كان يساعد واكتفى آخرون بالتفرج. لكنَّ شيئاً بان غريباً في كل ذلك. لم أستطع تحديده في البداية، ثم ما لبثَتْ الملاحظة أن صعقَتني. كانت الموسيقى تصدح بصوت عالٍ من السيارة المهشّمة. جُرِح من جُرِح ومات من مات فيها، وعاش الراديو صامداً. هذا “ساراوند سيستم” لا يموت، فكّرت وحضن كفّاي كوب القهوة الساخن أكثر.


“وضعْتُ دماً
على وجهي
أني متّ”.

٢- أغمضَتْ عينيَّ

كان عمري أشهراً، ومرّ والداي بسيارتهما بالحاجز الإسرائيلي على طريق صوفر. أوقفهما أحد الجنود الإسرائيليين. لا أذكر بالطبع ما الذي حدث، لكني أحفظ من قصة أمي التي تكررها على مسمعي دائماً أن الجندي دار حول السيارة، وعلى الأرجح طلب الأوراق أو “تـَنَمْرد” قليلاً، ثمّ وقف عند النافذة المفتوحة قرب أمي وأنا في حضنها، ونظر إليّ. ما أعرفه هو ما أخبرتني به أمي. قالت إنها غطّت لي عينيّ حتى لا أراه، لكني لم أعرف - ولم تقل لي - إن كان الجنديّ لاحظ، وفهم حركتها.


“كنت أرتجف
وخطر لي
أنهم سيلاحظون”.

٣- عام السباغيتي

هاروكي موراكامي كتب قصة قصيرة عن عام كئيب. سأرويها مجدداً باختصار. وضع راوي القصة في غرفته وحيداً. صلته الأساسية بالخارج تلفون ثابت. يأكل كل يوم السباغيتي. خزائن المطبخ ملأى بعلبها. يصحو متأخراً، ولمّا يحن موعد الغداء، يفتح علبة ويسقط محتواها في ماء ساخن، فتتمدد المادة الصّلبة وتلتوي حتى تصبح جاهزة، ثم يضيف إليها الصلصة المعلّبة، ثمّ…
مهلاً. الحكاية ليست هنا.
الرجل معزول، ويبقى هكذا حتى الجزء الأخير، عندما تبدأ القصّة فعليّاً برنين الهاتف الثابت. يتذكر الراوي تلك اللحظة - بعد أشهر - وجود الهاتف، فهو كان قد قطع علاقاته تدريجياً بالآخرين. يرفع السمّاعة بعد تردد، ويجد على الطرف الآخر حبيبة صديقه، تسأله عنه.
“أين هو؟”. يجيبها: “لا أعرف”. "لقد انفصلنا"، تقول. "أها"، يقول راوينا. "أنت مشغول؟"، تسأل الفتاة. "أها. أصنع السباغيتي”. “مشغول بالسباغيتي؟”، تضيف مستغربة. "أها. نعم”. “هل من الممكن أن نتحدث؟"، تُصرّ. "لا، أنا مشغول”. "مشغول بالسباغيتي؟”. “نعم. أحتاج أن أركز”. “حسناً"، تقول الفتاة بعد فترة صمت. "حسناً"، يعقّب هُوَ. "اتصل بي لو قام بالاتصال بك”، تطلب منه. "حسناً"، يقول راوينا.
يقفل الراوي السماعة ويواصل طبخ السباغيتي. يفكر قليلاً في الاتصال الذي خرق إيقاع حياته لكنه لا يلبث أن يواصل أيامه برتابة: يفتح العُلَب نفسها، ويحضِّر الصحن نفسه. ثمّ في مشهد أخير من القصة، يرينا هاروكي حقلاً إيطالياً شاسعاً مملوءاً بسنابل القمح الصفراء التي تموّجها الريح، قبل أن يسأل منهياً بما معناه: "هل تستطيعون أن تتصوّروا كم كان سيُذهل الإيطاليون لو عرفوا أن ما كانوا يصدّرونه ذاك العام كانت الوحدة خالِصةً؟”.


“سرقوا ثلاثة تلفزيونات
ثمّ استعدّوا

٤- حفلة إرغام

يتعلق الأمر بالعنف، أو بقدرتنا – نحن البعيدين عن الأحداث - على “تحمّله”. لا أقصد لا الدم ولا الجسد. تخطينا ذلك منذ زمن، وبات عرض جثثنا ودمنا على الشاشات وفي صحفنا “عادياً”. الأمر غير ذلك. الأمر يتعلق أكثر بهذا التحوّل المفاجئ العنيف في إيقاع حيواتنا. الأعنف من التحول نفسه هو فقداننا للسيطرة. لمّا تختلط عندنا الأخلاق، بالمشاركة، برد الفعل، بالدفاع، بالصّمت. نُرمى في النار من دون أن نختار، ولا نلبث أن نتململ بعد فترة، ونسأل في لحظة شكّ: ما الذي نضيفه هنا؟
نحن في حفلة إرغام، نُرغَم فيها على الإحساس بما لا نود أن نشعره، في الوقت الذي لا ننتقيه. وهو - على صعوبة التحديد - إرغام قد لا يأتي من داخلنا. إنه شيء نعتقد - على الأقل، نعتقد - ينتهكنا من الخارج. وبرغم أننا نؤثّر فيه قليلاً أو حتى لا نؤثِّر فيه، إلا أنه يأبى إلا أن يؤثر فينا. الأمر أشبه بأن يطيح حدث غير متوقّع عادات ظهيْرات العُطَل الأسبوعية، ويمسح كل التفاصيل التي ترفدنا بنوع من الأمان. الاستقرار ليس أن لا يحدث شيء. الاستقرار هو أن نرتاح للإيقاع، حتى ونحن نغامر.
.. وهنا يأتي دور من خُلِقوا فقط لتعنيف إيقاع حيواتنا. فيرموننا في المعركة الوسخة، ويقتلون من نعرفهم ومن لا نعرفهم، ويرفعون من الكلفة، موصلينا إلى تلك الحالة التي يُمسي فيها عناق عادي كفيل بأن يجعلنا ننهار ونجهش بالبكاء، من دون أن نقدر على تحديد السبب.


“لِمَ تسألوني
من هم؟
أنا أعرف
من هم.
كلنا نعرف
من هم”.

الجمَل العاجلة المقطّعة في نهاية المقاطع هي مقتطفات من شهادة لصبي في الحادية عشرة نجا من مجزرة الحولة، وأدلى بها لصحيفة “الغارديان"، مع إعادة صياغة محدودة.


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