FLASHBACK: SYRIA | Amnesty International Silence about Killings by Militia Samir’s Uncle (Audio)

FLASHBACK: SYRIA | Amnesty International Silence about Killings by Militia Samir’s Uncle (Audio)

Above image: Pro-Assad rally, Damascus, Syria, October12, 2011

April 2011

Socrates and Syria


Below is a summary of an interview with Samir, a young Syrian Australian who has visited Syria twice since the beginning of the crisis there. His last visit was in October 2011.

Samir tells the story of the killing of his uncle, a young unmarried farmer, and his two friends in April 2011.  They were shot by a ‘terrorist group’ on their way from their hometown to Damascus, where they were going to take their produce to a market.

It is assumed that the three men were targeted because their number plate indicated they were from Tartous, a small city on the Mediterannean, which has a large support base for the president.

Their deaths were reported on Al-Jazeera, and it was claimed they were killed by soldiers.

Samir’s uncle wasn’t killed on the spot but the two other men were. Apparently, Samir’s uncle was taken to a make-shift hospital by the ‘terrorist group’.  The police or army were able to get information about where he had been taken and went to the area.

There was a shoot-out, but according to Al-Jazeera the army went into the area and shot at peaceful demonstrators.

Investigations showed that Samir’s uncle (“the blond guy”) was killed in the make-shift hospital at the order of the local ‘emir’, the religious leader of the ‘emirate’ that had been set-up in the area.  As well as bullet holes in his body, his uncle had an axe mark around his neck, which was believed to have been the cause of his death.

It was alleged the armed men were Salafis or from the Muslim Brotherhood, but Samir doesn’t see them as Muslims; he views them as ‘criminals’.

Samir also tells the story of his best friend who was killed about six months after the beginning of the troubles in Syria.  He was an army engineer and  someone Samir had a lot of phone contact with.

His friend told him that in the early stages of the crisis due to ‘mistakes being made’, the president ordered police not to carry guns.  This led to the deaths of a lot of police; nevertheless, this rule applied for about 3 months.

Samir’s friend and his colleague were killed while driving home after fixing an army car. They had not been involved in any fighting or conflict.

Samir says it doesn’t make sense to claim the army killed these people.

He believes there have been peaceful protests, but the outside media ignores the evidence of the killings by armed men, claiming that the army has killed everyone.

Samir says while everything is getting worse, he hopes everyone understands Syria is for all.  

Syrians have to live together, Christians, Muslims of different sects, even the Jewish people in Syria. Syria is for all; not just for strict Muslims who want to take the country backwards. Syria is not only for those people.  We are all Syrians. There are people from many different backgrounds. To be Syrian means to live with people from different religious backgrounds. We have to live together and accept the other.

Prices are going up, and people are taking advantage of the crisis to exploit the situation (carpet-baggers?). People are scared to travel because of the killings, which means they are not able to earn a living.

When we accept the other, we understand the problems, we understand what Europe, America, and Gulf countries are trying to do in Syria. It’s no good. We are all brothers in Syria, and ..what they are trying to do is create a religious war. We never thought ‘what is your religion’.  At university in Syria, I never asked someone about their religion. It was not like Lebanon.

But now many people are getting killed because they are with the government or because they are a different religion.  It is complicated and disgusting to talk like this.  If we want this problem to end, we have to accept the other.  We have to love each other.

In regard to reform, there are going to be council elections, and then parliamentary elections in February. Now there are some political parties.  After they have had elections, they will change the constitution and the changes will be voted on.  We heard that there will be a 4, 5 or 7 year term for the president, similar to other countries. And the president can only be voted in for one term. But the current president will probably be voted in at the next election because most people love him and think the government is trying to do the right thing.  

But the problem which is stopping the reform is the on-going fighting.

The democracy in Syria is different from what America has.

There has been pressure on the country for 40 years, from Europe, America, Israel.

I think they want to change the map of the Middle East.  They want it to be a religious country.  This will make it easier for Israel to be a ‘Jewish country’ because there will not be a model, democratic secular country in the region.

I feel sorry for the people who are dying because of some sheik who says that they have to fight and to kill any people who are working in parties along with the government. Most of the people who have guns in the street want to take the country back 1,000 years.  They don’t want a modern, secular country.

In regard to women, the people fighting the government support the policies of Saudi Arabia on women.  But in Syria, women have the same position as men.

I wish for peace for everyone. It is very hard for someone who has not been to Syria to understand what is happening there.

I’ve been in Syria twice since the troubles.I know how the problems started.

I was against the problems in the society, the corruption, but I realize that people who are fighting don’t want freedom and democracy.  They want the freedom to kill. That is not democracy.

I support the government and the president because I know that it means supporting my family and freedom. The freedom and democracy Syria can have with peace will be great.  I support the army because they are the people protecting us, living in the streets, risking their lives.

We have to respect the government and the president, who is an honest guy. He has changed the government. Bad things have happened because of all the pressures on us. More than a million refugees from Iraq went to Syria and many Lebanese went to Syria during the war there.

Despite all that pressure, he moved the country forward, so it is a modern country. We were doing well.

Samir was encouraged to take the story of his uncle to Amnesty International.  He did so in December 2011.  The Amnesty officials at the Melbourne office and the Sydney case worker were both very welcoming. But until now Amnesty’s London office has chosen not to report the killings.  Why? Some possible answers:
  • Franklin Lamb, “Amnesty International’s Flawed Libyan and Syrian ‘Hospitals Investigation”, Opinion Maker, Oct 2011

Ref:   Please see comments on Amnesty Australia page.   Besides Samir, other members of Australians for Syria have met Amnesty Australia officers in Melbourne and Amnesty Australia has sent a report to the Amnesty London office of the killings of several innocent people including three children, but the London office has yet to publish and condemn any of the atrocities of the militia against individuals, nor has Amnesty condemned the fatwas of extremist clerics or the call of Shiek Qaradawi on Al-Jazeera to his followers to destroy the ‘heretical’ Syrian government even if it means 1/3 of the population are killed.

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