Warning

Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Syria's al-Bayda-Baniyas Massacres and "Targeting Specific Communities"

Re-published here May 5, 2015

I've written several things about this now about the May 2-3, 2013 Al-Bayda and Baniyas Massacres in Syria, starting with the pages and talk pages at A Closer Look on Syria for Al-Bayda Massacre and Baniyas Massacre. The most comprehensive and devastating summarization of this was sparked by an annoyingly dishonest Channel 4-Human Rights Watch mockumentary, a detailed refutation which I got published at Global Research as Answering Britain's Channel 4's Whitewash of Another Syrian Rebel Massacre (and note it was even chosen to re-publish later, and featured elsewhere like Hands Off Syria.) This set of detailed articles are cited in that, in their original place at the CIWCL site which became un-workable. So, a bit late to mark two years since this hideous event, I'm re-publishing them here.

We can add this crime spree to the list of well-established rebel atrocities like the Houla Massacre, Daraya massacre, the August 2014 Latakia Massacres, many or all of the notorious Homs Massacres of 2011-present, the massacres of Aqrab, Sadad, Ma'an 2012, Ma'an 2014, etc...
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"Targeting Specific Communities" in Syria, Case Study: The Baniyas Massacres

By Adam Larson
June 17, 2013
last edits August 11, 2013
"Specific Communities" as a Diagnostic of Guilt

The Syrian government's early June victory against rebel forces in the crucial border town of al-Qusair is a turning point in favor of eventual government victory nationwide. Perhaps for that reason, it has been loudly condemned; even before the campaign really started, the U.S. Condemned the dropping of leaflets instructing civilians how to evacuate safely, and U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner Navanethem "Navi" Pillay was predicting, on May 10, there would be massacres of civilians there. In the end, none were credibly reported, but Pillay's office said she was worried about military build-up around the city, and "feared further atrocities if the area was overrun." From what she heard, "local people clearly fear a possible repeat of last weeks killings of civilians." [1]

That referred to the Baniyas area massacres for which the Syrian government and allied militias were blamed. These were in the town of al-Bayda on May 2, and the Ras al-Nabi' district of Baniyas on May 3 (and perhaps in other towns and into the following days, depending; the record is a little confused). [2] Baniyas and its surrounding countryside is Sunni-majority, but lies within the Alawite-dominated Tartous province on Syria's Mediterranean coast. There were reasonable claims of 150 or more dead between them, and less credible claims of perhaps over 2,000 total, following attacks by the Syrian army and/or Alawite "Shabiha" militias. There was video-verified horrific violence against whole families - children and women with sliced throats and hacked-open faces, for example.

The fact of there being at least two big massacres reported over two days caused fear of #3 and beyond, and thus mass flight of thousands, as reported. There was stern world condemnation of what some termed a policy of genocide, and plenty of experts proved willing to explain Assad's sectarian strategy in this Alawite heartland. Navi Pillay for one was "appalled at the apparent killing of women, children and men in the village of Bayda, and possibly elsewhere in the Banias area," and felt that the killings "should spur the international community to act" to stop the fighting and hold criminals to account. [1]

That action, implicitly, should be directed against the Syrian government, which Pillay considered the guilty party. Aside from obviously partial opposition demands to do so, there was one bit of evidence which she cited for that decision: the attacks "seemed to indicate a campaign targeting specific communities perceived to be supportive of the opposition." [1] It's not certain what information she's drawing on here, but a helpful Los Angeles Times report citing her statement explained what she presumably meant:

"Although the coastal region is largely Alawite, the minority sect of Assad, the districts targeted are made up mostly of Sunni Muslims, who make up a majority of the Syrian population and have led the uprising against the Assad government." [3]

That is, her argument seems just his crude: "Specific communities" = the nation's majority. Essentially, the government's forces were attacking Sunnis in general, who are perceived (and correctly, she might suggest) as opposing them. But if that were true, of course, the war would have been over long ago; Sunnis make up as much as 75% of Syria's 22 million people. It's closer to the truth to say only a small portion of them, augmented by very many Sunni foreigners, make up the force the rest of Syria is up against.

Moving from the general to the specific, indeed we see the complication of one type of region in another sort of province. And some will be dazzled enough by that dynamic to succumb to sloppy thinking like Commissioner Pillay seems to be indulging in. However,t it wasn't entire cities at large that were targeted, but specific people and locales within them. And at the more telling level of homes, it wouldn't be the first time if the details in Tartous pointed to the targeting of specific communities that support the government and/or don't toe the rebels' narrow religious line.
The Houla Massacre Precedent

The infamous "Houla massacre" of May 25, 2012 is often given as the best example of the Sunni-terrorizing massacre Pillay speaks of, and the parallels between this and al-Bayda/Baniyas are strong, as we shall see. However few people realize it, that's a chilling observation. A recent report assembled by this author showed how the best evidence and clearest thinking over the last year actually supports the "government version" of events, the one swiftly bypassed in favor of the "rebel" version blaming the government. [4]

By mid-2012, armed rebels ran the general Houla area except Taldou (the southern town of the Houla region). They controlled Taldou too, as of May 26. In between, security posts were overrun, vacated, and torched. And around 100 local men, women, and children were shot and hacked to death in their homes, presumably by killers from whichever side had the upper hand that afternoon.

In that sidelined "government" version, the dead - aside from a few rebel fighters and something like 30 soldiers and police - were comprised of Shi'ite converts (the Abdulrazaq families, former Sunnis, with over 60 killed, including at least 38 children) and government supporting Sunnis (the al-Sayed families). The latter included retired officer Oqba al-Sayed, retired police officer/colonel Muawiya al-Sayed, and his son Ahmed - a soldier on leave with a broken leg. At least some Sayeds, reportedly, were relatives of the new Peoples' Assembly (parliament) secretary, chosen in an election the rebels had firmly rejected.

By various sources on both sides, and available visuals, the victims had heads smashed, throats cut, eyes gouged out, etc. The government took note of the Taldou terrorists' "Algerian killing style," as seen from their peers in the 1990s, with the intent to mutilate bodies to use them to project terror. [5]

Such specifics aside, this rebel attack version of events is jointly supported by many of the witnesses, much video evidence, and considerable logic. It does run counter to what rebels and other alleged witnesses and survivors reported, but of course it would. If it's true, we can deduce that the anti-government crowd - the hundreds who hit Taldou, at least - were not keen on reforms, democracy, compromise, sectarian accord, or Human Rights. Nor would they be much worried about honesty with outside powers, whose military support they seek, as the supposed champions of values they clearly possess little of.

The Al-Bayda Incident: Background

Now we turn to the May 2 of this year and the first and best-illustrated of the two reported Tartous massacre, in the hilltop town of Al-Bayda, a few kilometers south of the coastal city Baniyas. The reported death tolls there range from 50+ to over 100, as well as crazy numbers like 800. The most reliable estimates - with names - seems to be something around 70. [6] Whether killed soldiers/Shabiha or rebel fighters are included in any of the varying tallies is unclear, but opposition reports make it sound like all victims were civilian. A few fighting age men were seen executed in the main square, with others killed in batches of 5-12 around town, some with heads brutally smashed-in. At least two other heart-wrenching scenes showed numbers of women and children gathered into single rooms and cut down, largely in the neck. [7]

As in many other such cases, the massacre in Al-Bayda came about the same time (either before or after) a battle between rebel and government forces. Several sources say it was a late April attack on a checkpoint that spurred loyalist fighters - alternately given as soldiers or Popular Committee/National Defense Forces fighters, aka "Shabiha" - to try an early morning raid on al-Bayda on May 2. Opposition activists said the rebels had few to no fighters there, but the roughly 40 attackers seem to have been ambushed by some reasonably effective team. A generally-agreed seven of them were killed in fighting, and the rest - around 30 - were taken prisoner by the rebels. [8] These had apparently come in a few white vans, one later seen burning in the city square, and a Hyundai Porter pick-up, frequently used for Syrian security forces, also abandoned in the square. [9]

It was this early clash, most agree, that brought the larger army presence of later in the day. Those beefed-up authorities either cleansed al-Bayda of the militants, seizing the considerable weapons cache shown on TV, or alternately, planted the weapons and rampaged around killing scores of innocents just for having the right religion. "Genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" have been used to describe the campaign around Baniyas. An Alawi militia commander overseeing the al-Bayda operation announced on May 2 his hopes to "cleanse" all Baniyas of "traitors." "Traitors" was generally read by the opposition as all Sunni people, and so "cleanse" became evidence for genocidal intent, just as they reported the follow-up massacre in Baniyas itself. However, it's more likely that he meant only to ruthlessly scrub out the armed terrorists, who are usually, and with some evidence, accused of committing massacres like the one that just happened. [10]


Al-Bayda's Leading Sunni Family 36 Victims

Usually with these surprise massacres in un-cleansed areas, certain families are singled out, like the Abdulrazaqs and al-Sayeds in Houla. In al-Bayda as well this was the case; here the family Biassi (various spellings) was the main focus of cruelty. The opposition Syrian Center for Documentation of Violations (SCDV) lists 70 massacre victims total, all given as civilians; at least 24 of them seeming to be members of this extended family (see below). [11] Rebel historian and alleged survivor "Ahmad" spoke to Reuters, for a late May report, of 36 Biassis killed. [12] Representing over a third and perhaps more than half of those killed, clearly this "specific community" is worth a closer look.

Sheikh Omar Biassi, government loyalist tribute image
This unfortunate family was headed by sheik Omar al-Biassi, aged 63, the imam of al-Bayda's main mosque, although by one reports he resigned two years ago. [12] Usually conflicted, this case is clearer than most everyone agrees that sheik al-Biassi was a government loyalist. Initial opposition reports name him and some relatives, but make no mention of his significance. Later on, rebel body mover "Omar, of nearby Ras al-Nabeh" mentioned seeing the body of "the village sheik, Omar al-Bayassi, whom some considered pro-government." [13] He was said to be a rejector of the violent uprising. [14] He was a member of the National Reconciliation Commission, "a known advocate of interfaith dialogue and national unity" and "a true Syrian patriot," Voice of Russia heard. [15] Reuters heard from anti-government activists "sheikh Biyasi was a government loyalist who alienated local people with his political views." "Ahmad" would have been one of those alienated, but he was only sad to see how "even though [Biassi] always opposed the protests, they still killed him." [12]

The Imam was reportedly a rebellion/protest supporter at one time, but had apparently run afoul of the opposition. An activist said, from friends in Baniyas, the sheik "was a big revhead" until the opposition "made a lie about him that SAA (Syrian Arab Army) killed him," which he had to refute on TV. "Apparently FSA hated him for this," and so they killed him for real on May 2. [16] This time they said he'd been murdered by the Assad regime, it was proven with a rebel ("citizen journalist") photo of the bloodied sheik, published only on the 4th, with the new detail "Omar Bayasi was AL Bayda Mosque's Imam," just as loyalist sources were starting to mention the fact. [17]

(note Aug. 11: the stricken part was a mix-up: a possible relative Ahmad Biassi has this story - see second article below)
 
The activist reasoned that "whoever killed those soldiers" in the early ambush "also killed the 2 [Biassi] families." [16] In fact, at least one source says sheik Omar was tasked that morning with negotiating for the release of the captured "Shabiha." As Syria Truth reported (from Arabic), the situation "prompted the army to assign the imam to negotiate with the gunmen for the release of the hostages." They answered with a resounding no, presumably killed the captives, then also "resorted to killing the sheik and his wife (there is information saying they were killed in a slaughter, but it is uncertain)." [14]

Skeikh Biassi, anti-government activist photo
 
At least sheik Omar's son as well is mentioned in other sources, and included for good measure was his sister's family, the activist's sources heard: "The other family that was killed was his sister - Manar Biaasie, her husband and their kids." [16] The New York Times pulled heartstrings with two specified victims: "Moaz al-Biassi, 1 year old, and his sister Afnan, 3." [13] For a possible further detail, one opposition-supplied family member cited a husband-wife couple, allegedly her aunt and uncle, killed with their three children; all were "slaughtered in the neck." [18]

More details: An early short list of victims in Arabic featured "Omar Nassiriyah aka Omar Biassi," prominence not mentioned, and "Manar Albiassi" and "Zakaria al-Shawish," given as married to each other and killed together, with no mention of children. [19] The SCDV lists 22 Bayyasi and Bayyasa names, including Manar Ezzadin and Omar Aziz ("known as Omar Naser"), plus Omar's wife and a daughter, names not given, and a son, Hamza Omar Aziz. [11] There's also the "Fattouh Bayyasa" sub-family, apparently related by marriage, with four children and four adults (including mother Safaa Ali Bayyasa) listed as killed there. [20] With all Fattouhs and Mr. Shawish added, there are 24 names of those killed on the 2nd, identifiable as kin of the imam.

The same database shows at least two more dying in the following days; on May 4, Isma Bayyasi, adult male, died in al-Bayda from "shooting" - not field execution - "by regime forces sniper's shot." Then on May 6, somewhere in Banias, one Fahima Yasin Bayyasi, female, age 20, was also killed by "shooting." [21]

All-in-all, alleged survivor "Ahmad" told Reuters, "the Biyasi family suffered some of the worst losses, with 36 documented deaths," all or most of them visually verified by Ahmed himself. There is a lot of detail he shares, from his "meticulous notes" on the bodies he personally discovered in situ, correlated with available videos he almost seems to be just describing. [12]

All this will require more analysis for fuller understanding, but so far familiar patterns seem evident. The opposition activists have informants embedded, it almost seems, with the angel of death's own battalion. As usual, the "Shabiha" left their victims behind unguarded, it almost seems with phone tips to rebel videographers, in hopes of having their crime exposed to the world. As with Houla and so many other scenes of so many other heinous crimes, the degree of access these "activists" enjoy is rather suspicious.
Ignoring Community Specifics as Diagnostic of Mental Corruption

As to why the regime killed its own loyalists here, and kept picking them off for days, activists didn't and perhaps couldn't explain. "Even though [Biassi] always opposed the protests," said "Ahmad," "they still killed him" and also eradicated his seed in a very targeted and specific way. Presumably, they would have us believe, the only reason was the family's religion, and their general prominence in that religious context.

Sheik al-Biassi was a leading Sunni to be sure, and would have spoken for the sane majority who reject evil. And he was slaughtered with his kin by it seems the rebel terrorists, to send a message to those who might get in their way next time. We should all be "appalled at the apparent killing of women, children and men" in al-Bayda, to quote Ms. Pillay: it "should spur the international community to act to find a solution to the conflict." Further, "those responsible for serious human rights violations," and it's reasonably clear who that was in al-Bayda on May 2, should be "made to account for their crimes," not handed more weapons, as the Western powers and their clients have been allowing for two years now.

If the al-Bayda massacre was a rebel operation, the reported follow-on massacre in the Ras al-Nabi' district of Baniyas falls into suspicion of being the same. And if any families can be seen targeted in both towns, it strengthens the connection. It does seem that happens here, at least per the opposition SCDV martyrs database. Any of these could just be two families of the same name, or related: Taha (4 members killed in Bayda, 11 in Baniyas), Khaddam (a man in Bayda, a man, two women, a boy and a girl in Baniyas), Lolo (an adult male in each massacre), Othman (4 members in Bayda, one in Baniyas), and, if Dahbash and Debesh are the same name/family, an apparent father-son set was killed in each massacre. [22] Following from the Biassis, one family we have the most information on, these common threads suggest that the same rebels, with the same mysterious gripes against certain families, carried out both massacres.

But Navi (the naïve?) already said the government should be blamed for this, because the "specific" victims were "perceived to be supportive of the opposition." She should explain now by whom they were perceived that way, and how accurate she thinks that perception was. Clearly it was not from accurate victim specifics of the al-Bayda massacre, as the opposite case is much better illustrated there.

Rather, the perception comes, at least in part, from the dangerous myth that Syria's Sunnis at large have risen up, and are collectively suffering massacres in return. This myth has been aggressively fostered by the opposition from the beginning, and continues even as semi-credible reports recently said at least one in three victims, of around 100-120,000 killed, were of the demonized Alawite sect. This came from the usually gospel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, no less, passing on calculations (which are open to debate) of as many as 41,000 Alawites, military and civilian, snuffed out by Sunni extremist rebels since 2011. [23]

And the myth has always ignored the majority of Sunnis - likely a vast majority - who still support the government as the party of sanity. In fact, it seems to be those most visible among the Sunnis in that support, and their families, that are being wiped out - along with the Alawite "enemies of God" - for breaking this poorly-written rebel script.

And where are the "world community's" Human Rights gatekeepers, like Navi Pillay, as these crimes occur time and again? Playing logic games about vague "specifics," to cover for their blatant covering for the perpetrators, and to enable continued punishment of the victims, it seems.

Sources
ACLOS = A Closer Look On Syria, a research site where the author's research is done
[1] Press briefing, United Nations Office at Geneva, May 10, 2013 http://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B9C2E/(httpNewsByYear_en)/F540CE03B72CB7DDC1257B6700369815
[4] Official Truth, Real Truth, and Impunity for the Syrian Houla Massacre of May, 2012. PDF report, 79 pages, published May 15, 2013. Citizen's Investigation into War Crimes in Libya. PDF download page: http://ciwclibya.org/reports/realtruthhoula.html
[5] The "Graying" of the Islamist Houla Massacre http://ciwclibya.org/syria/thegrayingoftheislamisthoulamassacre.html
 
[13] An Atrocity in Syria, With No Victim Too Small. By Anne Barnard and Hania Mourtada, New York Times, May 14, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/15/world/middleeast/grisly-killings-in-syrian-towns-dim-hopes-for-peace-talks.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
[16] posted Facebook Timeline photo (warning, graphic) with extended comments Posted by Syriangirl Partisan, May 10, 2013 https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=316418491821439&set=a.118282211635069.19554.100003598729905&type=1
[17] Yalla Souriya, May 4, 2013 http://yallasouriya.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/syuria-omar-bayasi-was-al-bayda-mosques-imam/
[18] Syria: Sunni village 'massacred' in Alawite heartland By Ruth Sherlock, Magdy Samaan, and Richard Spencer, the Telegraph, 6:32PM BST 03 May 2013 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10036680/Syria-Sunni-village-massacred-in-Alawite-heartland.html

[19] Partial victims list, May 2, Arabic language https://www.facebook.com/Saned.N.N/posts/648416878518109



[22] ACLOS: http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Talk:Baniyas_massacre#Families_Hit_in_Both_Baniyas_Massacres


http://abna.ir/data.asp?lang=3&Id=419737 http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Sectarianism_in_the_Syrian_Conflict#41.2C000_Dead.3F
 
 
The Biassi Family = Two "Specific Communities"
By Adam Larson, CIWCL
August 6, 2013

I must qualify the above article ("Targeting Specific Communities...") with an important note: there are a few possible reasons, which we didn't at first know about, that Ms. Pillay's comments might be less "crude" and "sloppy" than I thought. However, they still seem less than admirable in that sense, and remain "dangerous" and borderline criminal in their foolish simplicity. On deeper study (at A Closer Look On Syria), it emerged that the families targeted in the May massacres - especially the Biassis - also have members involved in, or suspected of involvement in, the rebel's muted history around Baniyas. Most famously, a reported 100 local men and boys were briefly detained in mid-April, 2011, rounded up in the al-Bayda's main square and, in an infamous video, stomped on. At least fifteen family names appear on both lists, members arrested in 2011 and others slaughtered in 2013. Of course common family names in the same basic area doesn't always mean too much in the Arab world, but this seems beyond coincidence.

The Biassi family - apparently a large one with many sons - leads this parallel with some 12 arrests and a reported 36 deaths. Furthermore, some of the other familiar-named families suffering deaths in 2013 were from the portion that was married into the Biassis.

So this decimated family was riddled with anti-government activism, and that should be considered alongside the victims these suffered, reportedly at the hands of the same pro-regime thugs who stomped on them two years earlier. But as we know the Biassi family of the Baniyas area is also marked with the public stance of the imam Sheikh Omar, which we can now see more clearly and which is at times harsh. This marks the presence of a rival clique within the family, one with a quieter profile and uncertain size. But it was likely of some influence if this leading member was so solidly in it.

Put simply, we can call these two camps the Sheikh Omar school (pro-government) and the "Abu Ali" school (anti). The following shares highlights of what we've found to describe each camp, it thoughts and actions, in the service of understand what happened to some among this divided mass of a family, and the many others others like it with their own names and histories. Links and further explanations are or will be collected at this spot at A Closer Look On Syria, and elsewhere on that and related pages, allowing this to get done and published.

The "Abu Ali" School
Twelve Biassis were among those arrested in the raids of mid-April, 2011, and at least one member (possibly among those detained) seems to have been planning very ambitious "protests." A confession aired on May 23 claimed one "Abu Ali" Biassi was the "defense minister" of an "emirate" planned for Baniyas in these first days. The "emir" was a local, Sheikh Anis' (? - انس ) Aarot. All were paid and provided weapons from outside, explosives, rifles and pistols from Lebanon. Rahman Mosque was their warehouse. There was a plan of minister Biassi's to rig explosives at the Baniyas refinery and the thermal station, to be blown up on the orders of the ministers. They had the explosives, the captive driver says, but this was apparently where they were busted instead.

One young man given as Ahmad Biassi was shown on a video of this time, in the al-Bayda square, holding his ID card and perhaps announcing his defection or anti-government beliefs. Ahmad was reported in May 2011, by the BBC and others, to have been arrested and tortured to death in a government prison. He appeared on Syrian state TV swiftly refuting that; he claimed to be alive and free, never was arrested, and was surprised and disturbed to hear otherwise.

Thus this Ahmad may present a transitional clique, people who supported the rebellion in its heady "Arab Spring" beginning but came to reject its brutality and deceit and become fence-sitters or even government supporters. There is a victim of that name (Ahmed Mohammed Biassi) killed in 2013, but it's at least as likely to be a different but related man as it is to be him. More raids and arrests came late in 2011, on December 5, with a Mustafa Biassi and Mohamed Biasi, among others, arrested. An Ahmed Biassi from Baniyas, visibly not the kid mentioned but probably related, died fighting with the FSA in Aleppo in September, 2012. But things remained fairly quiet around their hometown into the following year, until just before the massacres of May 2013.

A Mustafa Ali Biassi, politics unknown but aged near 50, was reported arrested on May 1, as rebels bagen various operation in the area and security forces started a crackdown. Then -perhaps that night - came the massacres with so many members snuffed out, "fierce clashes," more arrests, and a time of calm. There were more arrests and fighting July 20-22, and a reported mini-massacre of a Biassi-related family (Fattouh). A young Mohammed Mustafa Biassi was arrested then and confessed on Sama TV, on the 27th, to helping plan attacks on police and military. He also told how his cornered group nearly tossed one of their "poisonous boms" at approaching soldiers but feared they would die as well. (if only they had long range rockets like the guys nearer to Turkey!)

The Sheikh Omar School
And so this prolific family's entanglement with the extremist uprising is clear, but there is still the other clique. Again, this is of unknown size and fervor, we have so far only Sheikh Omar making a few appearances to give it a voice we can hear at the moment.

That spokesman was described by loyalist admirers as "a member of the National Reconciliation Committee and a known advocate of interfaith dialogue and national unity" and a "true Syrian patriot," as Voice of Russia heard. These are not values the rebels like. Opposition activist Ahmad cofirmed to Reuters "sheikh Biyasi … was a government loyalist who alienated local people with his political views." New York Times heard from a rebel who spotted the body of "the village sheik, Omar al-Bayassi, whom some considered pro-government."

The site Islam Syria reported that among those massacred were "Baathists partisans ... including the imam of the mosque of Sheikh Omar Biasi. That Baathis appeared on (some TV channel) and pointed to the Mujahideen calling them armed terrorist gangs." It's probably a different video, shown by SANA, that the CIWCL located and had translated. In it, Omar shares some of his views at a conference featuring Catholic priests in the sparse audience. The video is not dated, but in it he says something like "We believe that resolving the crisis in Syria, which was safe and stable, will be done by dialogue, for the ship with its captain Bashar al-Assad to reach safety."

On April 3, 2013 - one month before the massacre - An "Omar Biassi" spoke up on a discussion forum, "think(ing) about how we can save the country" and "weep(ing) over the country." It's not certainly him, or even supposed to be, and the text is hard to translate. But this Omar mentions how "the state's uncle (Assad?) held traitors accountable" but this increased the "bleeding of the people." Of that, they had "two years and as much as we (can bear?)" "The only solution," he seemed to feel, was to "kill them." "Syria ... victorious, God willing." Another comment said "I agree with Omar Biasi," calling the rebellion a "poison" that "kills (Syria) from the inside." He or she clarified Biassi's position; "Syrian officials have proven their failure time and again" to stop the violence, but still "now is a great opportunity to put all the corrupt and traitors in prisons or graves." The imam's stance at the rebellion's outset isn't clear to us yet, but Ahmad told Reuters "he always opposed the protests." The earliest mention yet found says that in the hours before the December 5, 2011 arrests, someone - reportedly pro-regime militias - set fire to sheikh Omar's car. It might instead have been fellow Biassis. Other relatives may have been involved later when, one month after Omar apparently called for the general death of the rebels, he and a lot of his family were killed instead.

Conclusion
So Navi Pillay could point to the the prominence of the Biassi family in the local opposition as evidence they (plus the 14+ other families with names appearing on both lists) might be "perceived to be supportive of the opposition." But this too, barring better specifics yet, would still be sloppy. The most prominent victim with the clearest political stance still remains Sheikh Omar Biassi, the imam of al-Bayda's mosque. He and his views alone proves there is another camp, firmly anti-opposition, with the inverse corollary about who would have a reason to kill them.

This mysterious clique lost at least one prominent member, to the unknown number killed - possibly zero - from among those who had signed on with the rebellion. *

As the rebel narrative goes, even though this martyr for his beliefs always opposed the protests, was a perceived Baath-party supporter, alienated "local" (rebel) people, apparently called for them to be killed, and finally called them terrorists in a TV interview, Islam Syria reported. They elaborate "after the end of the interview (how long after?) they (who?) dragged him to the arena (Which arena? Straight from the TV station?) and slaughtered him with his wife and four children.... Then they demolished the mosque of the village, and set fire to it" and blamed the same fictitious "armed gangs of terrorists" Omar had just pointed to.

He and the other victims pleaded, it was learned somehow, "we Baathists like you, but they replied all of you are dogs and agents of Israel and America" and cut them down. And therefore, Islam Syria's ridiculous story continues, "it is clear and evident to the Baathists among the Sunnis that they are being targeted with death too," that even - that especially - "stand(ing) with tyrants" will not protect them. Their imminent mass-defection should be expected any day, if this is at all true.
 
Visual Aids

map of the scene with victims in the open marked in red

curbside victims from a distance,
composite view, Al-Khabar TV

Victim Ahmad Othman, seen where he was killed pre-dawn,
and again after sunrise where someone else says he was killed
(re-arranging bodies to create false narratives, not a good sign)

We're not sure who took this odd photo of little Hamza Fattouh-Biassi
 
Rebel photo of charred bodies, still smoking heavily,
the fire clearly just now extinguished.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Ghouta Massacres By District, Part 2: Jobar

Ghouta Massacres (plural) By District
Part 2: Jobar
May 4, 2015
(incomplete)

Background:
Jobar is large, relatively populous and central, and primarily opposition-controlled at the time of the attack. It cannot have suffered a direct attack of the accepted kind, but apparently hosted the launching of the rockets that fell elsewhere, and one of the district that clearly deserved its own ACLOS page aside from the general locations page. It's the focus of a few fascinating relations and detailed study, some of which I didn't fully follow the first time around. A couple, in summary:

Attack on Jobar Alleged?  One important piece of evidence is a video statement from Jobar's "medical point" (rebel-managed) about what sounds like a strange version of the attack that never happened. (Video, with English subtitles) He specifies that it's about sunrise as he speaks, and gives much dubious detail about the preceding hours, but still with some details worth considering. His details about the East Ghouta rebel medical point system is covered at ACLOS here.
 
The unnamed Jobar site director explains "The front of Ain Tarma and Jobar in Eastern Ghouta was bombarded with chemical weapons. We noted the incident early, thankfully. We put ourselves on the highest alert." He seems to treat Jobar and "Ain Tarma" medical points as almost one unit, with him taking over management in Ain Tarma at some point. (see part 5) But looking at the map, there should be no shared Jobar-Ain Tarma front - they don't touch. He might be using different definitions, including Zamalka and Ain Tarma under the one name, but he also mentions other medical points he didn't run, one in Zamalka. But he only mentions sharing drugs and supplies with Ain Tarma, going through an astounding 25,000 ampules of Atropine, which was all they had. He says an unspecified number of medics also died.
 
The guy mentions no other attacked areas, but goes on to say the casualties in this one "front" were "massive." He gives no total numbers but says he alone handled 50 dead children between the two medical points. The VDC lists 117 children dead in the whole attack, so he claims he oversaw about half of them, If this is true, it's an important clue.

It doesn't come through clearly, like that medic made it sound, that Jobar itself was hit with rockets, but the claim was explicitly lodged tosome degree anyway. There was a video at this EA Worldview article (since pulled, probably the same video) called "Statement Of Medical Committee After Attack On Jobar, Damascus." Initial opposition reports sounded like many died in an attack there - Jobar was one of those districts mentioned with 50+ victims minimum. And Reuters' reliable rebel repeater Khaled Oweis at least reported here "To the West, in Mouadamiya, activists said at least 80 people were killed when the district was hit with nerve gas an hour after the attack on Irbin, Ain Tarma and Jobar." Oweis, with Dominic Evans, also wrote here that "Activists said rockets with chemical agents hit the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar during fierce pre-dawn bombardment by government forces."

Jobar was not hit:
Within a day or so sources agreed Jobar had no attack or direct ceaths or "massive" illness. People may have been taken there, but that's a different story. I'm a little hazy on the different sources, but it seems some would again claim a Jobar attack. However, by the more credible sources (like the UN's investigators) Jobar is another area not directly hit, and with wind blowing away from it. Any locals would have to go elsewhere to die from "Assad's" Sarin rockets.

To die in a rebel-held basement, however, might well be do-able in Jobar. And this may have happened, on a scale that was "massive," like nearly half the total, including around 50 children. The way they wound up spread so widely might suggest less centralization than that however, with people killed in smaller batches all over. And anything that seems like an extra-tempting lead could, of course, be a false one.
 
But the victims seem to get partly "corrected" to be from Zamalka, mainly. The VDC records reflect 4 victims who were wrongly listed as from Jobar, but still show 82 victims - nearly 10% of the total - were from Jobar. And unless the Sarin picked off their relatives in different areas, some of the family members of these should have been claimed as Jobar victims too. How many were so claimed, however briefly, and however many actually died in Jobar ... VDC lists two, both rebel fighters! ... it seems possible this remains unclear because the opposition had to work around this early script defect with some clever accounting.
 
East Ghouta Hit From Jobar?
The best reading of rocket impact angles combined with established range of 2-3 km, puts the launch of the 12 Zamalka rockets in or near the northern tip of Jobar (as shown on the map above - see Sasa Wawa/WhoGhouta analysis for details, and note the evident arc of impacts lining up with that reading). This was at the time something of a no-man's-land accessible to either side, for limited operations anyway - like firing 12 rockets that would be blamed for the chemical massacre (wrongly, in my opinion, but again that's very contested). 
 
Jobar's Rebel CW Industry:
(See ACLOS section) In mid-July a rebel chemical factory was uncovered in Jobar, with corrosoves made in Saudi Arabia, and various tools for what the state media claimed was a plan to fire mortars and/or rockets with chemical warheads in the Damascus suburbs. That exact operation was shut down.

But the August 21 incident went ahead, and the army began a new offensive in response. On August 24, SAA soldiers uncovered another underground facility with material for improvised explosives, including propane tanks like the "hell cannon" can fire, protective gear, and boxes of Atropine ampules. State TV reported this, showed video, and said several soldiers suffered suffocation issues when they entered the place. Later, I think ... one of these tested positive for Sarin exposure when the UN's investigators tested him, with others testing negative but only weeks after the attack, and afer 4 tested positive in a Syrian hospital right after the incident - see Aug. 24 Jobar section by WhoGhouta here

Victims Records
Early total: 50-67 Final total: not mentioned (implied, zero)

VDC records:
82 from Jobar (4 FSA, 78 civilians, died in Ain Tarma, Zamalka, "East Ghota," unstated)
died in Jobar = 2 (both FSA, they shielded the civilians there?)
Jobar in notes = 4 (civilians, to say they were actually not from Jobar)

Died In Jobar
Again, VDC lists TWO people, both FSA fighters, dying in Jobar. Maybe they were affected elsewhere but made it back to base before croaking?
* Hasan Ali Hamza 92599 FSA from Hamouria Martyrdom location Damascus: Jobar. Morgue photo included.
Abdul Rahman al-Modawer 92594 FSA Martyrdom location Damascus: Jobar "Known as (Abu Bashar), Operation leader." What kind of operations? 3 photos of him alive included. He has a red beard that seems to get longer over time.

Compare the second to:
* Entry 194 on this Facebook list for Douma: (auto-translated) Abdul Rahman trochanter (Abu Bashar al-) / Damascus - (from?) Douma / Army free (FSA) / cited (died) in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus. A linked photo (gone now) looks like a CW victim, asphyxiation, roughed up eyes, mucous from the nose. Did he have a red beard? I don't remember. What may be the photo, from another page connected to Douma's local coordination committee, is shown below under clinical signs. It looks like a guy seen on a video searching the Arabic name here: عبد الرحمن المدور  - still at right.

* VDC Abdulrahman Qatma 92454 FSA Jobar, Martyrdom location Damascus Suburbs: East Ghota rescued to Hamouria and buried there. Again no image

* VDC Adnan Qatma, 92408 AM, civilian, from Jobar, rescued to Hamouria and buried there, called as Abo Rodwan (AbdulRahman? same guy? Or did the gas get his brother or something?)

Some of the Civilians, all of whom Died Somewhere Else
Baghdadi: 8-9 with this name: A very interesting family from a mix of Jobar, Jobar corrected to Zamalka, and/or corrected to Deir-Ezzor province (but were passed through and named by a "hospital"
* 92001 Osama al-Baghdadi, AM, non-civilian, FSA, from Zamalka (photo, in militant gear) unique notes say "His nickname is : Abo jaafar, the leader of Mojahidi Alsham batalion." That's interesting. Whether he's related to the rest of these Baghdadi victims or a coincidence is not totally clear.
* 92108 Abo Zaid al-Bagdadi AM Zamalka The name Came From al-Ihsan hospital in hmouria
* 92141 Ahmad Abd al-Qader Bagdadi AM Deir Ezzor Martyrdom location Damascus Suburbs: Ein Tarma. unique notes: "it came from another source that he is from Jobar"
* 92142 Doae Ahmad Abd al-Qader Bagdadi AF from Deir Ezzor Martyrdom location Damascus Suburbs: Ein Tarma (suggested: Ahmad's sister)
* 92144 Houda Ahmad Abd al-Qader Bagdadi Province Deir Ezzor Sex Adult - Female Martyrdom location Damascus Suburbs: Ein Tarma. notes: "it came from another source that she is from Jobar" (implied: another sister)
** dl? 93284 Houda Bagdadi Child - Female, from Jobar, died in Zamalka
* 92395 Khadija Baghdadi AF Jobar. Martyrdom location Damascus countryside: Zamalka. unique notes: She was buried in Hamouria
* 92928 Ahmad Bagdadi AM, Jobar, died in Zamalka
* 92945 Unidentified (Believed to be from Al-Bagdadi family) (includes morgue photo) Fom Zamalka. Martyrdom location Deir Al-Asaffir. unique notes: Believed to be from Al-Bagdadi family exposed to the chemical attack in Zamalka

Hazroumeh: 19 with this name listed for the whole massacre, minus 5 double-listings = 14. largely from Jobar but died in Ain Tarma, buried there or in Hamouriya.
* Inaam Hazroumah AF Zamalka no more info
* Baraa Hazroumah CF Jobar ML Ein Tarma rescued to Erbeen
* Hassan Hazroumeh AM Z no more
* Jana Ahmad Hazroumeh CF Jobar photo 93777 (cyanotic, Hello Kitty) age 4 died in Ein Tarma
* Nour Hazroumeh AF Jobar ML Ein Tarma Rank: Hamouria Notes: Buried in a Hamouria cemetery (no one shares that exact note - all Ham in notes = 15, mostly Jobar, 14 w/standard note "rescued to Hamouria and buried there")
** Nour Hazrumi AF Z no more ("correction" entry)
* Safa Hazroumeh 93789 AF Jobar ML AT rescued to Hamouria and buried there
** Safa Hazrumi AF Z no more ("correction" entry)
* Hala Hazroumeh 93790 AF ML AT Jobar rescued to Hamouria and buried there
** Hala Hazrumi AF Z no more ("correction" entry)
* Rawda Hazroumeh AF J ML AT rescued to Hamouria and buried there
** Rawda Hazrumi AF Z no more ("correction" entry)
Marwa Mohammad Hazrouma AF Ein Tarma age 18, no more info
Nouri Tawfeq Hazromeh AM Jobar The name Came From al-Ihsan hospital in hmouria
* Ayman Hazromeh 92612 AM J Married With Children martyred with his son
* Mohammad Ayman Hazroumeh 93788 CM Jobar photo (should be a son of Ayman)
** Mohammad Hazromeh 92611 CM Jobar, died in Ain Tarma, photo (same - double-listed) "Known as (Abo Ayman)," (father of Ayman? A bit young) "... Martyred With His Father"
* Husam Hazromeh AM Jobar no more
* Alaa Hazroumah CF Zamalka no more
5 double-listings = 14

Rafqa Naqeshbandi AF, Kafr Batna - Mohammad Waleed Naqeshbandi AM, Jobar - Yahia Naqeshbandi AM, Jobar -Ziad Naqeshbandi AM, Jobar - Amal al-Nakshbandi AF, Zamalka - Amirah al-Nakishbandi AF, Zamalka - Fawaz al-Naqishbandi AM Zamalka - Maha Naqshbandi AF, Zamalka

Other: Juha, Unidentified...forthcoming.

al-Ihsan hospital in Hamouria: "The name Came From al-Ihsan hospital in hmouria" for these 37 Ghouta victims from Jobar, Zamalka, Ain Tarma. Some include:
* 92122 Mohammad al-Qaq AM, Jobar. Qaq is a rare name shared by 7 previous civilian victims in all of Syria's conflict, per VDC records, mostly in Idlib. They tend to die close to each other in time, in small bursts of three. He was the 8th, or at least there were 9 total before #10 died on March 16, 2015 - Ayosh al-Qaaq (diff. spelling) of Sarmin, Idlib, the grandmother of the Taleb family allegedly killed by chlorine in March 2015, whose grandchildren's preventable death in a rebel "medical point" moved the UNSC to tears.... And 3 more Qaq relatives were killed by "regime missiles" in Sarmin a week later, so now it's 12 dead, 1/6 of those in dubious chemical attacks blamed on the government.
* The rest contain names seen elsewhere, like a random-seeming mix of the same several families, like the 17 listed from al-Sel hospital in Kafr Batna (see part 7). Several of the same names, in fact. Bagdadi, Srouji, Hazroumeh. Some one-name folks: Shima, Abdlerahman (a doctor), A'aqeb.

Clinical Signs
The number of victims with photos is fairly small, and only some of those seem worth much as clues.

Abdulrahman Trochanter/Qatma/Modawer
cyanosis? miosis?
 
92599 Hasan Ali Hamza
 
Unidentified woman 94546
 
unidentified boy 94547
 
more forthcoming?
o

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Ghouta Massacres by District {Masterlist}

Ghouta Massacres (plural) by District {Masterlist}
(incomplete)
May 3, 2015

* The launch point for renewed investigation of the August, 2013 incident is
<< Another 60 Minutes for the Ghota Chemical Massacres (Plural). (forthcoming)
If it's important enough for them to revive in the background as the world ponders a no-fly zone over alleged chlorine attacks (see here for the truth on that) ... well, I have some things to add, and some other additions still to discover.
 
Previous findings: Various pages under Talk:Alleged Chemical Attack, August 21, 2013 at the open research wiki A Closer Look On Syria (ACLOS). Relating to this is Denis O'Brien's detailed study from April, 2014 Murder in the SunMorgue: A Critique of the Sarin Myth and a Cyber-Investigation of the Ghouta Massacre Mystery (hereafter MITSM) and its summary article (by me) The Ghouta Massacre's Sarin Myth, Brightly Lit: Exploring Kafr Batna's ... Rebel Gas Chambers? That work focuses on one collection of corpses (app. 100, minimum, to rebel reports of "150") at a morgue in the southern district of Kafr Batna. It suggested the victims here were killed with something other than the blamed Sarin - likely carbon monoxide gas. It almost requires rebels did it, and that the victims were controlled captives of theirs - an impression solidified by their obvious execution of one survivor - they cut his throat when "Assad's gas" didn't finish the job, and then made a lame effort at concealing the fact.
 
MITSM was a good start, not followed up on that well, so far... The Kafr Batna case illustrates that there was localization - the victims were gassed not because they were downwind from any rocket but due to being trapped beneath the rebel-held morgue, with poisoned air inside rooms - basically, in gas chambers. As I said in the summary, "it seems unlikely a mass killing in Kafr Batna would coincide with a government Sarin attack in other areas. More likely, it would be just one point in a massive rebel crime spree across the area, played out mainly on controlled captives."

I'm just starting this new round of work on my own here, with no promises. I or someone may shift to a spot at the ACLOS wiki, but for now... this will go by distict, expanding on the theme of plural massacres in different areas. It's a geographical organization, so the best start is with some map-based graphics. (See also: ACLOS Location talk page)

Above: Chemical Massacre Syria Infographic including Moadamiyeh al-Sham, southwest, and the various areas of East Ghouta they initially claimed were hit by Sarin rockets, altogether killing, they estimated, 1,300 people. In the center is where they thought all relevant artillery was fired from, but this has been thoroughly discredited. Moadamiyeh is not clear, but the East Ghouta rockets were fired from somewhere around the northern tip of Jobar district (see next map)

Below, a map of the Eastern Ghouta region with districts outlined and color-coded by reported numbers of dead (per table below). The light blue dots = app. rocket imapcts, with extended lines showing the approximate wind direction and expected drift (almost surely a bit different from this but probably close).

I seriously doubt these rockets had anything to do with the mass deaths, but many people on all sides of the debate disagree on that point, so ... considering that alleged fact of Sarin, spreading from these impacts, of rockets fired from there, by whoever... depending how deadly the dispersed drift was, we should expect some deaths in Zamalka, Ain Tarma, and Hazzeh. Places that should have zero Sarin vapor in any of their streets would be Jobar, Irbeen, Jisreen, Harasta, and Douma. Saqba and Hamouriya are in the middle of that continuum, depending on wind.

Below, a death toll table comparing four early reports with area break-down, placed by the numbers they offered:
 
* 280+: Reported by Jsreen Revolution very early on (removed before I could sort it out). This is useful for an early glimpse of the accounting of a small number, but the batches were never clear; 4 towns mentioned: Ain Tarma - Zamalka - Hazeh ( حزة ) - Jobar, with five areas listed. The 5th is likely Irbin, deduced from the breakdown (23 kids, 17 women, 11 men), partly matching the next entry. The others, unclear which, had early tolls of: 61, 67, 50+, 50+
* 646: Reported by sos.syr.un, Aug.22: Over 2/3 of their victims unidentified ("did not reach their names") 201 are named, cities mixed in, hard to tally. The anonymous arrivals at each area's "medical points" are listed below.
* 1,228: Reported by Douma Coordinating Committee, Aug. 21: "The number of martyrs by medical points in East Gouta - Census Bureau legal unified."
* 1,300 (clearly rounded, almost same as above) - Chemical Massacre Syria Infographic (shown above)


Victims by City

City

280+

646

1,228

1,300

M. al-Sham

n/m

36

n/m

70

Zamalka

?? 50-67

n/m

400

400

Ain Tarma

?? 50-67

n/m

75

75

Hazeh

?? 50-67

n/m

n/m

n/m

Kafr Batna

n/m

100

150

150

Jisreen

n/m

4

16(3 kids)

16(3)

Saqba

n/m

69

69

69

Hamouriya

n/m

150(50c-40w-50m)

312

300

Irbin

51? (23c-17w-11m

50? (23-17-??)

63 (30-16-17)

63 (30-16-17)

Douma

n/m

58

150

n/m

Harasta

n/m

n/m

5 (1 woman)

n/m

Jobar

?? (50-67)

n/m

n/m

n/m
 
Note: the final numbers here get us quite close to the dramatic claims of the Obama administration that 1.429 managed to perish in this attack. That, however, provides no area break-down, and so is less useful to note here. The 1,300 is probably an exaggeration, but maybe not or maybe not by much. Video-based assessments affirm a minimum of around 3-400 dead. Including photos and various records, I've suspected it's probably about twice this many, 700-900. But that's sort of a guess.  Note also how many of the supposed non-guesses rebels offered are still clearly rounded off, not exact. 300, 400, 150 are not likely to be exact tallies.
 
But as MITSM proves, it's the quality (nature) of death that matters far more than the quantity of it, when it comes to assessing the crime and the blame over it. And that's to be the main focus of this study. Here all 12 districts (or most?) gets its own post (eventually, as possible), and they each get filled in (as possible) with three sections:
Background: summary, partial - what was reported for that district, what we've found previously, highlights and oddities to consider - less focus here, may be slow to get filled-in.
More emphasis on the other two sections searching for new info between the lines (and expanding on the starts here at ACLOS):
Victim records: mostly perusing the database of the opposition Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria (see ACLOS page) for patterns among the victims - who was related to who, where from ,where died, who has a photo, who's listed twice, etc.
Clinical Signs or clinical features minus symptoms, which a patient complains of, and these people are past complaining - their bodies just display signs. Showing pictures with an eye to diagnosing what poison is most likely for each group, and how many different groups there might be (how many Ghouta Massacres - can't be known, but guesses can be narrowed)

Ghouta Massacres by District
Order of listing here will go west-to-east, with other considerations for logic flow, with info placed where it seems to fit, sometimes probably in a few places:

Part 1) Moadamiyeh al-Sham

2) Jobar

3) Zamalka

4) Irbeen

5) Ain Tarma

6) Hazzeh

7) Kafr Batna

8)
9) Saqba, Jisreen, Hamouriya - order not sure
10)

11) Harasta
12) Douma (maybe these last five can squish into two posts?)

Findings, Summarized:
(forthcoming, as possible)