Editor’s note: Karin Friedemann is a TMO columnist. Her opinions are her own.
Islamic State billboards are seen along a street in Raqqa, eastern Syria, which is controlled by the Islamic State, October 29, 2014. The billboard (R) reads: “We will win despite the global coalition”. REUTERS/Nour Fourat
Shocking photos have been leaked of the Syrian regime’s 215 Intelligence Branch in Damascus, where detainees are sent to die. Many are summarily executed without any formal charges or military trial.
The Violation Documentation Center in Syria has published satellite photography of the regime’s detention centers near Damascus, documenting the growth of cemeteries and “irregular digging.” The report states that “many of the locals testified about the burying operations that required bulldozers and about the arrival of big refrigerated lorries (fruits and vegetables refrigerator trucks).” This led to the VDC’s confirmation of mass graves.
According to VDC collected eyewitness statements on Assad’s detention centers, “most of the death cases happen almost exclusively in the first ten days of the detention.”
A Turkish foreign ministry spokesman denounced the Iranian regime for siding with Assad, saying, “Iran should remain silent out of shame over its support for Damascus which is the true terrorism,” according to the Anatolia News Agency.
Assad forces and Shiite militias fiercely attacked the al-Waer neighborhood in Homs, in order to control the city last week. Al-Waer neighborhood is currently a haven to more than three hundred thousand civilians. The neighborhood, which is crowded with displaced persons who fled there to escape fighting in other neighborhoods of Homs, is experiencing ongoing fierce shelling after the violent attack a week ago. Al-Waer has become a daily target for the missiles, artillery and explosive barrel bombs from Assad forces and allied sectarian militias. Within 3 days last week, more than 24 civilians were killed, most of them women and children.
The western media is focusing only on “Kobanî,” a Syrian town near the Turkish border where armed Kurds, including many women fighters, are battling against ISIS.
“US air strikes have hit ISIS targets near the town in recent days but do not appear to have stopped the militants’ advance,” reports the Independent.
The Free Syrian Army, which reportedly represents 90% of the rebels against the regime, is also present in Kobani. The FSA is at odds with ISIS as well as the Kurds, who are using this situation to split off and form an independent Kurdistan, while the FSA wants to keep Syria as one nation.
However, activists in Homs, condemning the silence of the international community, insist that “people’s lives in Al-Waer are as precious as those of Kobanî.” The residents of Al-Waer have been suffering under siege for more than a year. The activists insisted that the international community should intervene to save civilians regardless of their race or origins. TMO interviewed 22 year old Mahmoud Allouz in Homs about the situation. The young man, who identifies with the Free Syrian Army, said that “Homs is the capital of the Syrian revolution.” He explained that the first neighborhood in Homs to be destroyed in 2011 by Assad was Baba Amr. The military campaign continued for months in the southern countryside. The violent battles were “dominated by the help of the Lebanese Hezbollah after [Baba Amr] was destroyed,” stated Allouz. “They want to serve their project [of] sectarian Shiite fighting. They brutally destroy and commit crimes. There are fighters from Iran who are also taking part in the ranks of the Assad regime.”
Although anti-government rebels fought long and valiantly, as of May 2014, the city of Homs is now completely under control of the government, whose snipers continue to shoot civilians including children in a sadistic manner. For example, some video footage was recently released of a dead or dying person, who was just laying in full view on the road, but because of all the sniper shooting, no one could go collect him. Assad’s soldiers take these videos as trophies to brag about their accomplishments.
Al Waer neighborhood “gets the daily massacres,” said Allouz. However, “The countryside north of Homs is still under the control of the rebels,” he explained.
When asked about the rumored opium fields, Allouz stated that they are located mostly in the middle of Syria and are now under the control of ISIS.
“Who do you think ISIS are?” TMO inquired.
Allouz stated that they are a “takfiri criminal gang” whose murders are “working in favor of the Assad regime.” He observed that ISIS is more interested in fighting other rebels than against the regime. “More [ISIS] battles were against the FSA, trying to control the positions held by FSA and the oil fields and assaults on civilians… They are battling the Free Syrian Army, and slaughtering Syrian civilians as does the Assad regime.”
I asked him, “Do you think ISIS is a local movement or are they foreign employees?”
He answered that the gang is not being paid by any country but is “self-financing” through seizure of oil fields, theft of territory and stealing money. They are “trying to lure poor people with money to join them, placing ideas in their mind” about committing “criminality and murder.”
Al Jazeera however put ISIS into context, reporting this week that Mexican drug cartels have murdered exponentially more people than ISIS including 57 journalists and almost 300 Americans visiting Mexico. They have beheaded hundreds of people and displayed mutilated corpses in public squares and on social media in order to intimidate detractors. It is truly astonishing how Americans are more concerned about criminal gangs in Syria than violence happening next door.