Syria: After the Brutal Torture and Murder of 13-Year Old Hamza Al-Khateeb, The Revolution Will Not Be Silenced


When the revolutionary impulses sweeping the Middle East first manifested themselves in Syria in March, no one foresaw how the movement would grow — or how violently it would be suppressed, although that was always a distinct possibility, given the manner in which the Ba’athist regime has maintained power in Syria for the last 41 years — through emergency laws (in place since 1963), a ban on all protests, and the widespread use of arbitrary detention and torture.

In the last two and a half months, protests have spread throughout the country, and have met with violent resistance, although the epicentre of resistance — the southern city of Daraa — remains the focus of the government’s worst excesses, with a death toll of at least 418 people, according to Human Rights Watch, in a report discussed below.

However, the Daraa protectorate has also become far more notorious in recent days as a result of the torture and murder of Hamza al-Khateeb, a 13-year old boy who has immediately become a symbol of the necessity for the overthrow of the Assad regime for the ever-growing number of Syrians, who, it seems, will not accept anything less than regime change as a result of the relentless brutality of the state’s response to even peaceful dissent.

Hamza was arrested during a protest in Saida, 10km east of Daraa, on April 29, and when his body was finally returned to his family on May 24, “it bore the scars of brutal torture,” as Al-Jazeera explained, consisting of “[l]acerations, bruises and burns to his feet, elbows, face and knees, consistent with the use of electric shock devices and of being whipped with cable, both techniques of torture documented by Human Rights Watch as being used in Syrian prisons during the bloody three-month crackdown on protestors.”

The Al-Jazeera report continued:

Hamza’s eyes were swollen and black and there were identical bullet wounds where he had apparently been shot through both arms, the bullets tearing a hole in his sides and lodging in his belly. Hamza’s mutilated, castrated corpse was riddled with bullet holes and burn marks. On Hamza’s chest was a deep, dark burn mark. His neck was broken and his penis cut off.

These are some of the bleakest words I have ever had to present, which is quite an achievement, after five years of researching and writing about the crimes committed by the US in its “War on Terror” — as, for example, in a particularly depressing article from two years ago, When Torture Kills: Ten Murders In US Prisons In Afghanistan — but it is genuinely difficult to conceive of crimes worse than the torture and murder of children.

Al-Jazeera’s report also contained further analysis of Hamza’s story, which was just as heartbreaking:

Hamza al-Khateeb used to love it when the rains came to his small corner of southern Syria, filling up the farmers’ irrigation channels enough so that he and the other children could jump in and swim.

But the drought of the last few years had left the 13-year-old without the fun of his favourite pool.

Instead, he’d taken to raising homing pigeons, standing on the roof of his family’s simple breeze-block home, craning his neck back to see the birds circling above the wide horizon of fields, where wheat and tomatoes were grown from the tough, scrubby soils.

Though not from a wealthy family himself, Hamza was always aware of others less fortunate than himself, said a cousin who spoke to Al-Jazeera.

“He would often ask his parents for money to give to the poor. I remember once he wanted to give  someone 100 Syrian Pounds ($2), and his family said it was too much. But Hamza said, ‘I have a bed and food while that guy has nothing.’ And so he persuaded his parents to give the poor man the 100.”

In the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces, however, Hamza found no such compassion, his humanity degraded to nothing more than a lump of flesh to beat, burn, torture and defile, until the screaming stopped at last.

As the Observer reported today, Hamza al-Khateeb’s death has been the spur for “one of [the] bloodiest weekends” since the unrest began in March, with reports of “a violent crackdown on Friday despite the government’s attempt to stop news spreading by cutting off the internet in major cities.”

The Observer report added that reports emerging from Syria, where foreign journalists have been banned, suggest that at least 90 people were killed on Friday, and that “dozens more” have been killed over the weekend.

Providing further details of children’s deaths, the Observer also noted that at least four children have been killed in the last few days, even though protest organizers had specifically described Friday as “Freedom for Children Friday in memory of more than 72 children killed since the protests began.” In addition, a banner in a video showed women holding a banner stating, “We are all mothers of Hamza al-Khateeb.”

The Observer also noted that, according to estimates by human rights groups, “more than 1,200 people have died and at least 10,000 have been detained in Syria since March.”

Even so, although opponents of the Assad regime, meeting in Turkey last week, described Bashar al-Assad’s rule as “unsustainable,” and called on him to “‘resign immediately’ and to hand authority to his vice-president ‘until the election of a transitional council.'” western governments have not yet called for his resignation, and a draft UN Security Council resolution is facing opposition from China and Russia.

For anyone seeking further information about the crimes committed by the Assad regime, I’m cross-posting below a news release by Human Rights Watch announcing the publication of a new 54-page report about the brutal suppression of dissent in the southern city of Daraa, where the rebellion against the regime began on March 18, after protests in Damascus earlier that week. I covered these early manifestations of the impulse for change in Syria at the time, in my articles, Revolution in the Middle East: Brave Protestors in Syria Call for Freedom, Syria: Amazingly, The Next Crucible of Revolution in the Middle East? and Political Prisoners in Syria: An Urgent Crisis Now!, but since then the human rights situation — which was bleak from the beginning — has continued to deteriorate, and, as Human Rights Watch makes clear, the government’s response can now, in all fairness, be described as crimes against humanity.

The torture and murder of Hamza al-Khateeb, which is so horrific, deserves, to my mind, to bring about the fall of the entire vile and discredited regime that has subjected so many of its people to a life of fear for the last four decades, but as Human Rights Watch’s valuable research shows, in Daraa, in many ways the crucible for revolutionary change since protests began three months ago, and a reflector of wider repression, the government’s response has been barbaric.

Syria: Crimes Against Humanity in Daraa
Killings, Torture in a Locked-Down City Under Siege
Human Rights Watch, June 1, 2011

Systematic killings and torture by Syrian security forces in the city of Daraa since protests began there on March 18, 2011, strongly suggest that these qualify as crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 54-page report, “‘We’ve Never Seen Such Horror’: Crimes against Humanity in Daraa,” is based on more than 50 interviews with victims and witnesses to abuses. The report focuses on violations in Daraa governorate, where some of the worst violence took place after protests seeking greater freedoms began in various parts of the country. The specifics went largely unreported due to the information blockade imposed by the Syrian authorities. Victims and witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch described systematic killings, beatings, torture using electroshock devices, and detention of people seeking medical care.

“For more than two months now, Syrian security forces have been killing and torturing their own people with complete impunity,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “They need to stop — and if they don’t, it is the Security Council’s responsibility to make sure that the people responsible face justice.”

The Syrian government should take immediate steps to halt the excessive use of lethal force by security forces, Human Rights Watch said. The United Nations Security Council should impose sanctions and press Syria for accountability and, if it doesn’t respond adequately, refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The protests first broke out in Daraa in response to the detention and torture of 15 children accused of painting graffiti slogans calling for the government’s downfall. In response and since then, security forces have repeatedly and systematically opened fire on overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrators. The security forces have killed at least 418 people in the Daraa governorate alone, and more than 887 across Syria, according to local activists who have been maintaining a list of those killed. Exact numbers are impossible to verify.

Witnesses from Daraa interviewed by Human Rights Watch provided consistent accounts of security forces using lethal force against protesters and bystanders, in most cases without advance warning or any effort to disperse the protesters by nonviolent means. Members of various branches of the mukhabarat (security services) and numerous snipers positioned on rooftops deliberately targeted the protesters, and many of the victims had lethal head, neck, and chest wounds. Human Rights Watch documented a number of cases in which security forces participating in the operations against protesters in Daraa and other cities had received “shoot-to-kill” orders from their commanders.

Some of the deadliest incidents Human Rights Watch documented include:

  • An attack on al-Omari mosque, which served as a rallying point for protesters and a makeshift hospital for the wounded protesters, and attacks on ensuing protests from March 23 to 25, killing more than 30 protesters;
  • Attacks on demonstrators during two protests on April 8, resulting in at least 25 deaths;
  • Attacks during a protest and a funeral procession in the town of Izraa on April 22 and 23, resulting in at least 34 deaths;
  • Killings during the blockade of Daraa and neighboring villages beginning on April 25, and during an effort by residents of neighboring towns to break the siege on April 29, which left up to 200 dead.

Nine witnesses from the towns of Tafas, Tseel, and Sahem al-Golan described to Human Rights Watch one of these attacks which happened on April 29, when thousands or people from towns surrounding Daraa attempted to break the blockade on the city. Witnesses said that the security forces stopped the protesters who were trying to approach Daraa at a checkpoint near the Western entrance of Daraa city. One of the witnesses from the town of Tseel who participated in the protest said:

We stopped there, waiting for more people to arrive. We held olive branches, and posters saying we want to bring food and water to Daraa. We had canisters with water and food parcels with us. Eventually thousands of people gathered on the road — the crowd stretched for some six kilometers.

Then we started moving closer to the checkpoint. We shouted ‘peaceful, peaceful,’ and in response they opened fire. Security forces were everywhere, in the fields nearby, on a water tank behind the checkpoint, on the roof of a nearby factory, and in the trees, and the fire came from all sides. People started running, falling, trying to carry the wounded away. Nine people from Tseel were wounded there and one of them died.

Another witness, from Tafas, said:

There was no warning, no firing in the air. It was simply an ambush. There was gunfire from all sides, from automatic guns. Security forces were positioned in the fields along the road, and on the roofs of the buildings. They were deliberately targeting people. Most injuries were in the head and chest.

Two men from Tafas were killed there: 22-year-old Muhammad Aiman Baradan and 38-year-old Ziad Hreidin. Ziad stood next to me when a sniper bullet hit him in the head. He died on the spot. Altogether, 62 people were killed and more than a hundred wounded, I assisted with their transportation to Tafas hospital.

Syrian authorities repeatedly blamed the protesters in Daraa for initiating the violence and accused them of attacking security forces. All of the testimony collected by Human Rights Watch indicates, however, that the protests were in most cases peaceful.

Human Rights Watch documented several incidents in which, in response to the killings of protesters, Daraa residents resorted to violence, setting cars and buildings on fire, and killing members of the security forces. Human Rights Watch said that such incidents should be further investigated, but that they by no means justify the massive and systematic use of lethal force against the demonstrators.

Syrian authorities also routinely denied wounded protesters access to medical assistance by preventing ambulances from reaching the wounded, and on several occasions opening fire on medical personnel or rescuers who tried to carrying the wounded away. Security forces took control of most of the hospitals in Daraa and detained the wounded who were brought in. As a result, many wounded people avoided the hospitals and were treated in makeshift hospitals with limited facilities. In at least two cases documented by Human Rights Watch, people died because they were denied needed medical care.

Witnesses from Daraa and neighboring towns described to Human Rights Watch large-scale sweep operations by the security forces, who detained hundreds of people daily, as well as the targeted arrests of activists and their family members. The detainees, many of them children, were held in appalling conditions. All ex-detainees interviewed said that they, as well as hundreds of others they saw in detention, had been subjected to torture, including prolonged beatings with sticks, twisted wires, other devices, and electric shocks. Some were tortured on improvised metal and wooden “racks” and, in at least one case documented by Human Rights Watch, a male detainee was raped with a baton.

Two witnesses independently reported to Human Rights Watch the extrajudicial execution of detainees on May 1 at an ad hoc detention facility at a football field in Daraa. One of the detainees said the security forces had executed 26 detainees; the other described a group of “more than 20.” Human Rights Watch has not been able to further corroborate these accounts. However, the detailed information provided by two independent witnesses and the fact that other parts of their statements were fully corroborated by other witnesses supports the credibility of the allegations.

On April 25, security forces began a large-scale military operation in Daraa, imposing a blockade that lasted at least 11 days and was then extended to neighboring towns. Under the cover of heavy gunfire, security forces occupied every neighborhood in the city, ordered people to remain indoors, and opened fire on those who defied the ban. Witnesses said that Daraa residents experienced acute shortages of food, water, medicine, and other necessary supplies during the siege. The security forces shot out water tanks. Electricity and all communications were cut off. Unable to bury or properly store the growing number of dead bodies, Daraa residents stored many of them in mobile vegetable refrigerators that could run on diesel fuel.

Syrian authorities also imposed an information blockade on Daraa. They prevented any independent observers from entering the town, and shut down all means of communication. Security forces searched for and confiscated cellphones that contained footage of events in Daraa, and arrested and tortured those whom they suspected of trying to get images or other information out, including some foreign nationals. In some areas, electricity and communications remain cut off.

Human Rights Watch called on the Syrian government to halt immediately the use of excessive and lethal force by security forces against demonstrators and activists, release all arbitrarily arrested detainees, and provide human rights groups and journalists with immediate and unhindered access to Daraa. It also called on the Security Council to adopt targeted financial and travel sanctions on officials responsible for continuing human rights violations, as well as to push for and support efforts to investigate and prosecute the grave, widespread and systemic human rights violations committed in Syria.

“Syrian authorities did everything they could to conceal their bloody repression in Daraa,” Whitson said. “But horrendous crimes like these are impossible to hide, and sooner or later those responsible will have to answer for their actions.”

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

61 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Betty Makoni wrote:

    This is very tragic Andy. Is there a page opened for Syria? This is very sad.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Evan Siegel wrote:

    Is it clear that that is what happened? We are taking a very emotional opposition’s word for this atrocity story. Consider Joshua Landis on Brian Lehrer:

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Thanks Andy… Shocking about this poor boy have been reading on the case over the last week… there is a video link on Al Jazeera or was…who can take in such brutality?
    Also struggling with my friend and colleague being tortured to death last week [Syed Saleem Shahzad]…and I think his murder is going to be a catalyst regarding certain practices re war on terror in Pakistan… far from shutting him up it could well open a Pandora’s box…

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Mahvish Rukhsana wrote:

    this is so tragic

  5. Andy Worthington says...

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, my friends.
    Betty, Nick has posted a ink to a page on Syria.
    Evan, I tried to analyze this with reference to knowledgeable voices about Syria, but it’s immensely frustrating that the Assad regime has banned outside journalists — and rather confirms to me that terrible things are happening.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Caroline Wise wrote:

    I had read about this in the press and it left me unable to comment in a way nothing ever has done before. I had no words, which is selfish and ‘safe’, but there should be words to express and communicate the horror. Thank you for keeping people aware of what is going on.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Caroline. I’ve been very consumed with Guantanamo stories for the last five weeks, since the most recent WikiLeaks revelations broke, and am glad to be back on other topics. This, as you note, is almost unspeakably horrific, but as a result it needs to be discussed and absorbed so that people know the truth about the murderous regime in Syria.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Evan Siegel wrote:

    I agree with you, Andy. The regime has brought this on itself due to its opacity. But this still remains an allegation.
    I am in no way an apologist for the Asad regime, and am sure that it is guilty of atrocities on a massive scale, including torture.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Well, yes, Evan, but with all the reports that Human Rights Watch has been diligently compiling, there’s not a huge gulf between the allegations about Hamza al-Khateeb’s torture and murder, and other confirmed reports about the torture and murder of others. I think the onus is on the regime to refute this, and I don’t think their efforts have been convincing.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Ghaliyaa Haq wrote:

    Evan – I believe it is what happened. My best friend’s cousin was shot for protesting peacefully, mind you, along with more than 50 – this was only a few days ago. He just told me that the death toll is now over 150 – and there are youtubes of those who were killed in this incident -including his cousin.

    I am always complaining about how much I hate this country (US) and how ashamed I am of what we’ve done in the world in the last 10 years. But at least we can protest without getting shot – at least since Kent State, anyway. Then again – maybe things would be different if we were protesting for regime change.

    Please forgive my typos – I crushed my index finger yesterday, by accident.. with an axe. (so stupid)..

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Evan Siegel wrote:

    Oh, Ghaliyaa! Take care of your index finger!!

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    I echo that, of course, Ghaliyaa. Please do take care. We need all your fingers!
    And thank you very much for the insights into what’s happening.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Evan Siegel ‎wrote:

    “I think the onus is on the regime to refute this, and I don’t think their efforts have been convincing.” Yes.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Angel Noor ‎wrote:

    Andy Worthington..I have shared your article on these two pages
    We are all Hamza al khateeb.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Angel!

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Angel Noor wrote:

    you’re welcome sir.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Thanks Andy, I am not quite sure what sort of moral compass these defenders of the Syrian regime are operating on. This is despicable. The Syrian people can’t stop now till they put Assad on trial.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, exactly, Willy. I have a friend who was tortured by the Assad regime, which makes my revulsion at emergency laws, torture and terrorizing citizens — as well as the genocidal suppression of uprisings, as with the Kurds — even more personal with Syria than it was with Tunisia and Egypt. I very much want to see the end of states of emergency, secret police and torture prisons throughout the Middle East.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Angelina Maione wrote:

    I kippen wadering who realy dit thise terrible crime, could it be some enemy of Syria who want to ster up trouble? is poor mum may Allah give her strength.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Alexey Braguine wrote:

    Only by arresting and trying the perpetrators can the Assad regime clear itself of this ghastly crime.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Beverly Hendricks wrote:

    Andy, this is truly the saddest article I’ve read in years. What can they have hoped to achieve by it?

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Terrorizing the population into submission, I suppose, Beverly. This heartrending story is perhaps a rather extreme example, but in general disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and murder are used by dictatorships to prevent dissent. Egypt was a particularly notorious example of a torture state, and Syria both was and still is. It’s time for it to come to an end!

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Mona Kranke ‎wrote:

    Andy – The fact is that Libya and Syria were the last countries in Western Asia, which are not occupied by the U.S. military – apart from Iran. Libya is lost. Ergo is Syria the next goal for the Zionists! Do you have any direct contact with people who report from Syria, and which you know?
    I personally have contact with people, their closest relatives live in Syria. And these people do not understand what is going on there. They only know that it would be terrible if the government crashes and are terrified of it!
    That there is no chance anymore for the Palestinian cause, if Syria falls into the hands of the Zionists, is probably obvious to everyone! If the Syrian government would resign, a never ending civil war would begin, the UN will certainly send US troops there and the last anti-zionist country is nothing more than a chapter in the history books!
    There is a Syrian blog

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, but Mona, as I mentioned above, I have a friend who was tortured by the Syrian regime, who has relatives who were disappeared, tortured and killed by the regime. He and his dead relatives were not fanatics, were not “terrorists.” They were the kind of threat that dictatorships see everywhere in their own people, who, accordingly, they terrorize into submission. Regardless of the bigger political picture, I cannot support any regime that does this to its own people.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Christian Delina wrote:

    i like that. i agree with u Andy.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Adam Hendricks wrote:

    I’m confused by some of the comments here. What role does Zionism have in Assad killing his own people? Seems like he’s just another dictator trying to stay in power. I wasn’t aware that Assad was any friend of Israel. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I just don’t quite get the connection between Israel and pro-Assad atrocities against the Syrian populace.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Mona Kranke ‎wrote:

    Andy – I know, that a lot in Syria don’t go well! I don’t want to excuse any crimes of police or secret agency of any country!
    Otherwise we have to remind, that the country is threatened since at least 2 generations (of all people! Workers as well as agents and officers) and it’s existencially needed to have a counterpart to the IDF and Mossad. Such professions will always evolve tendencies to degenerate to criminals if their organisations have a prominent position in the state! You know enough examples in history and present!
    If I ask for personal known sources from Syria, I mean the current reports, which are widely taken from suspect media.
    I want to remember to 2 months ago, when all the people called for AI and UN in case of Libya – a result of the media campagne. The outcome is the next war and it will lead to the next occupied country.
    Isn’t it obvious, that Syria is the next on the list of the CIA? They have triggered the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and the civil war in Pakistan, the “rebellion” in Libya – and is Syria the next!
    The relatives of my friends are Palestinians living in Syria. As far as I know them, they are not particularly interested in political contexts, but have enough experiences and knowledge to understand what is going on around them. And they do not understand, whence comes this sudden organized resistance movement, and they do not know what their goals are – they just know that nothing good can come of it.
    In opposite to the refugees in the other countries and regions of the middle-east, they felt safe there and those, which are refugees from Palestine, found a new homeland there, not a refugee camp only, that may be bombed next night by the IDF.
    Can anybody imagine the fear of this people, if they see, what is going on? – Certainly not!
    It’s a lot of reports in the web, which shed different lights on the Syrian issues! But not by Reuters, UPI and Al Jazeera!

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Chenae Meneely wrote:

    Andy, did you see the announcment by Anonymous, and what do you think of it?:
    “It has come to our attention that the tyrant and human rights abuser [Syrian president] Bashar Assad the so called president or dictator of Syria has shut down the Internet within Syria, thus further isolating and terrorizing the freedom loving people of Syria who have already suffered so much from this evil regime,” Anonymous said in a note posted on “So today we will begin a program of removing from the Internet the Web sites of the Syrian Embassies abroad.”

    A PCWorld blog added:

    According to Renesys, Internet connections belonging to the Syrian government are still live. The Web site for the country’s Oil Ministry is online, as is Syrian Telecom’s official page, but the Ministry of Education, the Damascus city government page, and the Syrian Customs Web site are all down.

    “So long as Assad remains in power and the criminal and evil regime retains it’s ability to torture, kill, and imprison their own people; Anonymouis will continue this campaign of removing the Syrian Embassy web sites from the Internet and interfereing with the communications channels via Black Fax and E-Mail Bomb campaigns. The butchers of Syria can damn well EXPECT US!” Anonymous said in its notice.

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Rob Weaver wrote:

    That’s right, disseminate the propaganda lies to start yet another war–as the fake left gatekeeper you are.
    Mona is right, Andy is a propagandist for the war criminals!

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Mona Kranke ‎wrote:

    Rob – Andy is NOT a propagandist for any obscure or commonly known powers! He has a slightly different opinion!
    The most important point is, that everybody has to realize, what will be the outcome, if the Syrian government is overthrown now!
    The only power, that will quickly pour into the vacuum of power, is the NWO! They are well prepared and supported and ready and waiting for this step since 1967! And this power can’t be removed anymore!
    The circumstances in Egypt and Syria are very different! Egypt has much more chances due to its geographical location,economy, population, and not least its history, but still it seems there not to go well!

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Christine Mueller wrote:

    I have been saying this for a long time; Obama needs to pull out of the Middle East. This war killing everybody and everything. Enough is enough already.

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Edwards wrote:

    If it is not going well in Egypt it is because of the counter-revolutionary forces (pro-Mubarak and Israel) who are trying to obstruct the revolution which wants a democracy which benefits for the people in the place of a dictatorship which profits a wealthy minority. In this way. Syria is the same as Egypt with its minority ruling elite, an unelected lineage akin to a monarchy with a token parliaments of yes men which has led to the uprisings. If Assad really was concerned for the welfare of Palestine and his own people, he should have responded to the calls for genuine reforms towards a democracy but this would have resulted in the loss of his great wealth and it is for this reason that he sent in his troops. A rich man will fight at all costs to retain his wealth in the belief that his power will protect him. A poor man is prepared to give up his life when he has nothing left to live for but his dignity and freedom…..Assad has betrayed his people and the Palestinians by creating this opening for a CIA led war which will ultimately lead to his own undoing as with Gaddafi in Libya who also chose to hang onto his wealth and power over democracratic reforms with such terrible consequences.

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Edwards wrote:

    I too am a mother of Hamza al-Khateeb. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that a child could do to warrant such brutality. His name will be written in the great hall of martyrs alongside men who have stood for Freedom and Justice the world over. For this act alone, Assad has lost his right to rule. Hamza al-Khateeb, yes, we respond on an emotional level to your death, but much more so, we respond on a human rights level, calling for justice for your death at the hands of those who have lost every shred of their humanity. Such people must be put behind bars.

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Charlotte Dennett wrote:

    Having just returned from neighboring Lebanon, I can say that sentiments are torn on Assad’s brutal repression, depending on where one hails from. If Christian, Assad is roundly condemned; if Palestinian, you can still see Assad pix in refugee camps; if Alouite in north Lebanon, he is defended. Twill take months to sort it all out.

  36. Andy Worthington says...

    Adam Hendricks ‎wrote:

    Mona, So arab peoples have to live under tyranny because there is a probability that if the tyrants ruling them are brought down, then the New World Order is going to come in and put some zionist puppet in charge? Is that your argument? You seem to have a pretty low opinion of the vision of the people behind these uprising. They may be a lot smarter and be more aware of how to achieve their goals of a better society for themselves than you think. That’s kind of like telling someone it’s better to allow themselves to be kicked in the stomach because they might get kicked in the head instead.

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Christian, and thank you, Mary, for your comments, which I wholeheartedly agree with. Charlotte, thanks for the insights from Lebanon, which help to put the conflicting opinions in perspective, and Chenae, thank you for letting me know about Anonymous’s attempts to take down Syrian government websites, which I had missed. And Mona, I do wish I knew more about how movements have developed, but I’m pretty confident that much of it is spontaneous, fired by the example previously offered to people by the extraordinary events in Tunisia and Egypt. I also think that there has been a certain amount of coordination, from exiled nationals, through social media and the Internet, but I don’t see the giant hand of outside interference. I think more of a problem is how popular movements that mobilize from the bottom up, if you like, can become organized sufficiently to become political organizations, but that’s rather a different matter …

  38. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Thanks Andy, appalling, re-posted.

  39. Andy Worthington says...

    June Maxi Marshall wrote:

    This is disgusting and very upsetting!

  40. Andy Worthington says...

    Huma Kashif wrote:

    SO SAD.

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    Karim Samer Moukaddem wrote:

    I can’t believe the number of people who still excuse the Syrian regime as it stands up to Israel. The Syrian regime is brutal and has done nothing, absolutely nothing against Israel. The only thing they have ever achieved is to lose the Golan Heights, isolate Syria internationally, fuel the Sunni vs Shiite/Alawite sectarian divide, drain the economy etc…. all of which play into Israel’s hands. If the Syrian people had been allowed to chose they would have brought in a strong anti-Israeli government. Do you really think Israel will be happy if the Syrian government falls? They’ve had a predictable neighbour shouting anti-Israeli slogans for the last 40 years. If this government falls and the will of the Syrian people is presented that’s when Israel will start shitting it’s pants.

  42. Andy Worthington says...

    Ken Hammacott wrote:

    Just what levels can mankind sink to? This is the most heinous crime of all, to torture and murder a child.

  43. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Willy, June, Huma, Karim and Ken. Very good to hear from you all. Thanks also to everyone who has continued to share this while I’ve been asleep — 200 Facebook readers have shared it to date.
    As for the bigger picture of who may be pulling strings where, I found myself drawn to Karim’s assessment of how the West and Israel have been happy to have a tyrant in place who violently suppresses the first whiff of dissent amongst his own people, and that it is change that they fear — as it has been throughout the Middle East. A clue to the West’s fears can be found in the response to the departure of President Saleh from Yemen yesterday, in which the joy of so many Yemenis was overlooked, as “security experts” were wheeled out to warn about deadly al-Qaeda terrorists filling a power vacuum. I’ll be writing more about this later.

  44. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I am Digging and sharing this now, Andy. I didn’t dare read this last night. The same ardent torturers of rendered people. You are right: this regime deserves to fall. I’ll only add that these sadists deserve a long fall indeed. Just throw the keys away.

  45. Andy Worthington says...

    Malcolm Bush wrote:

    Yes, there is certainly a lot that could be said about Syria; but the official policy seems to be not to notice Syria, at all. All the talk and mainstream media reports are about getting rid of Muammar Gadaffi. I think Andy Worthington is bit of a lone voice on this issue. Whilst the establishment are picking out their dictators, like the blokes we see in the betting shop, Andy is out for democracy, generically.

  46. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George and Malcolm. Always good to hear from you both.

  47. Andy Worthington says...

    Saleyha Ahsan wrote:

    its disgusting-just as you say Andy.

  48. Andy Worthington says...

    Anne Marie Cherigny Aboutayab wrote:


  49. Andy Worthington says...

    Tamzin Jans wrote:

    Children are part and parcel of abuse in many countries, not just Syria and not just by a government.

  50. Andy Worthington says...

    Anne Marie Cherigny Aboutayab ‎wrote:

    0f course always the weakest ones, if its not the kids the old people. I lived in Damascus in the early eighties and I loved it the Syrians, people made me feel very welcome. I was in charge of the training in the Meridien and my husband worked in the Sheraton. The American school where our children went was like a place to gather with the parents, 40 nationalities were represented in that school. those were the good old days!

  51. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Saleyha, Anne Marie and Tamzin. Loved your reminiscence about living in Syria, Anne Marie. I do hope that the people can live free from oppression …

  52. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Shepard wrote:

    Thank you, Andy. Reposted.

  53. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Shepard wrote:

    BTW, I too lost a friend to the Assad regime. He was imprisoned in late 2005 after having been sentenced to 4 years for spreading “lies” about the Syrian government on the internet. He never came out of prison although his sentence expired, and the Syrian government says they have no information on him.

  54. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Mary. I am sorry for your loss, but grateful that you posted this, as too many people without knowledge of how the Assads have run Syria for the last 40 years fail to understand how many people disappeared into torture prisons like Far Falestin (the Palestine Branch), never to be seen again.

  55. Connie says...

    Number of children renditoned to Gitmo grow – New Report and Flight log here:

    How difficult to talk about the brutality to children by other “regimes” when our own in the west have been so complicit to the same…

    Yet we MUST talk about all such inhumanity for the World Village must protect and help to parent each and all..

  56. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Shepard wrote:

    I learned firsthand, a long time ago. My blood always boiled when people would say Bashar Assad is “better” than his father. Nothing changed when the son took over. They’re both monsters.

  57. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes indeed, Mary. Thanks again.

  58. Israel Shamir says...

    I have respect for you, Andy, because of your writing on Guantanamo, but I think this time you make a mistake. Al Jazeera is anti-Syrian and anti-Libyan, though for sure Libya and Syria are not less democratic than Qatar and Saudi Arabia. They lied so much about Libya that it is quite impossible to rely upon them on Syria. Really, this rumour-mongering will bring NATO bombs on Damascus. Cool it! It is just a horror story like Kuwait incubators and Kaddafi atrocities.

  59. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Israel,
    Well, to be honest, I hope you’re right, although I’ve heard so many horror stories over the years about the brutality of Syria’s prisons and the repression of dissent that it’s why I thought that this particularly gruesome example sounded authentic. It’s certainly not my intention to encourage NATO to rain death on the people of Damascus.

  60. chris lynch says...

    Its time for the people of the world to rise up against the so called rulers/Security police/Intelligence services/secret police/corrupt dictators/corrupt corporations/secret armies/who brutalise/torture/abuse/rape the people on this planet…..its been a long time coming.its going to be a long haul for us,but we must see that Humanity needs to survive…and We cannot survive with totalitarian governments ruling over us all,ANYMORE,TIME HAS RUN OUT. If we do not take a stand now,we are all lost.

  61. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Chris. Yes. I hope to be here for the long haul …

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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