I’ve written extensively on how the massacre of over 100 civilians in Houla would be used as a pretext to push for regime change in Syria, how the Assad regime was immediately blamed for the massacre even though U.S.-backed rebel forces were in control of the area where the executions took place, how the media is riddled with propaganda and exclusively cite rebel/opposition sources for the claim of regime responsibility, and how some eyewitness accounts have corroborated the Syrian government’s claim that rebel forces were responsible for the atrocity.
In another one of my previous posts, I noted a report in the Germany daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) by journalist Rainer Hermann, translated by Moon of Alabama, citing more eyewitness testimony that rebel forces were responsible. FAZ has a follow-up report which MoA has also provided a translation for. An excerpt:
The plain of Houla, which lies between the Sunni city of Homs and the mountains of the Alawites, is predominantly inhabited by Sunnis and is burdened by a long history of sectarian tensions. The massacre took place in Taldou, one of the largest sites of Houla. Of the names of civilians killed, 84 are known. These are the fathers, mothers and 49 children of the family Al Sayyid and two branches of the family Abdarrazzaq. Residents of the city state that these were Alawites and Muslims who had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. A few kilometers away from the border with Lebanon, this made them suspect of being sympathizers of Hezbollah, detested among Sunnis. Additionally killed in Taldou were relatives of the government loyal member of parliament Abdalmuti Mashlab.
The homes of the three families are located in different parts Taldous. The members of the families were targeted and killed up to one exception. No neighbor was injured. Local knowledge was a prerequisite for these well-planned “executions”. The AP news agency quoted the only survivor of the family Al Sayyid, the eleven year old Ali, as saying:. “The perpetrators were shaved bald and had long beards.” This is the look of fanatical jihadists, not of the Shabiha militia. The boy said he survived because he had pretended to be dead and smeared himself with the blood of his mother.
On April 1 the nun Agnès-Maryam, from the monastery of Jacob (“Deir Mar Yakub”) which lies south of Homs in the village of Qara, described in a long open letter the climate of violence and fear in the region. She comes to the conclusion that the Sunni insurgents operate a stepwise liquidation of all minorities. She describes the expulsion of Christians and Alawites from their homes, which are then occupied by the rebels, and the rape of young girls, who the rebels pass off as “war booty”; she was an eye witness when the rebels killed a businessman in the street of Wadi Sajjeh with a car bomb after he refused to close his shop and then said in front of a camera from Al Jazeera that the regime had committed the crime. Finally she describes how Sunni insurgents in the Khalidijah district of Homs locked Alawite and Christian hostages into a house and blew it up only to then explain that this was an atrocity of the regime.
Hermann also mentions the eyewitness accounts collected by Russian journalist Marat Musin, which I discussed previously:
The FAZ was not the first to reported on a new version of the massacre of Houla. Other reports could just not compete with the big key media. The Russian journalist Marat Musin, who works for the small news agency Anna, was in Houla on May 25 and 26, in part became an eyewitness and also published the statements of other eyewitnesses. Additionally the Dutch Arabist and freelance journalist Martin Janssen, who lives in Damascus, contacted the Jacob Monastery in Qara, which has taken in many victims of the conflict with the nuns doing devote humanitarian work, after the massacre.
Sunni rebels perpetrate “liquidation” of all minorities
The nuns told him how on that May 25th more than 700 armed rebels, coming from Rastan, overran a roadside checkpoint of the army near Taldou, how these, after the massacre, piled up the corpses of the killed soldiers and civilians in front of the mosque and how they, on next day, told their version of the alleged massacre by the Syrian army in front of the cameras of rebel-friendly channels and to the UN observers.
Christians are being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community. According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests….
Mother Agnes Miriam of the Cross, Mother Superior of the Monastery of St. James at Qara in the Diocese of Homs, was interviewed (MP3) on Irish Radio this week where she confirmed that the opposition rebels in Syria were terrorizing Syria’s Christian community.
Asked whether it was the Free Syrian Army that was telling Christians to get out, Mother Agnes Miriam answered “yes…it was commander on the ground Abdel Salam Harba who decided that there was to be no more negotiations with Christians.” She said that Christians are being targeted because they are refusing to back the rebels and instead prefer to keep out of either side of the conflict. She said that the rebels are specifically targeting government troops in Christian areas and are taking Christians as human shields.
Amnesty International, meanwhile, which has previously been gullibly taken in by rebel propaganda and helped to spread disinformation, has a new report out with eyewitness accounts of Syrian government atrocities against civilians. The report states:
Syrian government armed forces and militias are rampaging through towns and villages, systematically dragging men from their homes and summarily executing them. They are burning homes and property and sometimes the bodies of those they have killed in cold blood. They are recklessly shelling and shooting into residential areas, killing and injuring men, women and children. They are routinely torturing detainees, sometimes to death.
There is no question that the Assad regime has committed horrible atrocities against its own people. And yet there is no excuse for Amnesty propagating the claim that regime-allied forces were responsible for the Houla massacre as though this was a verified fact. The report asserts:
The patterns of abuses documented by Amnesty International in these areas are not isolated. Indeed, they have been widely reported elsewhere in the country, including in the attack by Syrian forces on Houla on 25 May 2012. According to the UN, 108 individuals, including 49 children and 34 women, were killed.
Amnesty does a lot of good work, but this report is disgraceful on several other counts, as well. It states:
In recent months, the situation appears to have evolved into an armed conflict in parts of the country. As armed confrontations between government forces and armed opposition groups have become more common, the frequency and brutality of government reprisals against towns and villages supportive of the opposition has escalated, in an apparent bid to punish the inhabitants for their known or suspected support for armed opposition groups, and to frighten them into submission.
The “situation appears to have evolved into an armed conflict” only in “recent months”? Where has Amnesty been? This has been a conflict in which the U.S. has backed the opposition in accordance with the neocon goal of regime change and fitting the description of “armed conflict” since the beginning of last year, with news reports referring to armed rebels fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army appearing as early as February 2011. A headline in The Guardian on March 1, 2011 read: “Libyan rebels drive back government troops advancing on town of Zintan”. Sounds like an “armed conflict” to me. By August 2011, reports of armed rebels under the banner of the Free Syrian Army were not unusual, and there was even some talk of “civil war”. By October, even the New York Times was reporting about how armed rebels were operating out of Turkey and launching attacks in Syria.
In November, Sibel Edmonds asserted that the U.S./NATO was actively involved in arming the rebel forces operating out of the territory of NATO ally Turkey, and The Telegraph reported how the new regime installed with U.S./NATO support in Libya was offering to arm the Syrian rebels. In December, Pepe Escobar reported that the U.S./NATO was already shipping surplus arms from the Libya campaign via Turkey to the armed rebels operating in Syria. Philip Giraldi reported on how Washington had authorized the intelligence community to step up covert action against the Syrian regime, including arms shipments to the rebels, and on how U.S. policy of regime change, including clandestinely arming the rebels via NATO and providing communications equipment and intelligence via the CIA and special ops, risked escalating the conflict into a civil war.
The Amnesty International report focuses almost entirely on regime abuses, mentioning only in one place that
abuses have also been committed by armed opposition groups, including the torture and killing of captured soldiers and shabihaas well as the kidnapping and killing of people known or suspected to support or work with the government and its forces and militias.
It criticizes Russia and China for blocking U.N. Security Council action in Syria with no whisper of context about how both countries actions in this regard have been taken with the goal in mind to prevent another U.S.-led military intervention to implement regime change under the cover of a U.N. resolution, as occurred in Libya.
Amnesty rightly calls on the international community to refer to situation to the International Criminal Court and to impose an arms embargo on the Syrian government, specifically naming Russia and China, but does not call on nations to impose the arms embargo on all parties to the conflict; in fact, it gives its blessing to the arming of rebel forces with the caveat that “any country considering supplying arms to the armed opposition should have in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure the material supplied is not used to commit human rights abuses and/or war crimes.”
While openly criticizing Russia and China, Amnesty declines to criticize the U.S. for its openly admitted policy of supporting the rebel forces, including by coordinating funding and arms shipments through its regional proxies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Thus, Amnesty International seems to have lost is objectivity and is taking up the role of acting in unison with U.S. policy to overthrow the regime and escalate the conflict rather than acting as an independent rights group seeking to mitigate the violence, such as by reporting the facts of Houla accurately, calling for an arms embargo against all parties, and criticizing the U.S. for acting to push the country into civil war.