A new report in Germany’s leading daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), is gathering attention among those who view with suspicion most other reports on Syria being published in the Western media.
The report claims that the Houla massacre in which 108 people died on May 25 was not committed by members of the pro-Assad Shabiha but was in fact carried out by anti-Assad Sunni militants and that nearly all the victims were members of the Alawi and Shia minorities.
Moon of Alabama writes:
While I do not agree with the FAZ’s general editorial positions, I have followed Rainer Hermann reports for years. In my view he is an very reliable and knowledgeable reporter who would not have written the above if he had doubts or no additional confirmation about what he was told by the opposition members he talked to.
In a translation appearing at National Review, Hermann refers to eyewitness accounts, saying:
Those killed were almost exclusively from families belonging to Houla’s Alawi and Shia minorities. Over 90% of Houla’s population are Sunnis. Several dozen members of a family were slaughtered, which had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam.
Earlier reports, including one from Human Rights Watch which interviewed surviving relatives of the families, said that 62 of the dead belonged to Abdel Razzak family with Reuters reporting that this was a Sunni family. Hermann’s report provides no family names but asserts that almost none of those killed were Sunnis.
In the absence of any additional information, I’m inclined to still believe the original reports.
Who’s running with the Hermann report? Antiwar.com, National Review, Global Research, Moon of Alabama, DEBKA File, American Thinker, and Lew Rockwell — a curious amalgam of the left, right, and libertarian.
Update: Human Rights Watch confirmed to me that the Abdel Razzak family are indeed Sunnis and that after the massacre those members of the family who survived sought the protection of the Free Syrian Army.
Even before the FAZ report appeared, rumors had started circulating that the victims of the massacre were converts to Shiism and thus HRW asked residents of Houla (including survivors from the Abdel Razzak family) about these allegations but they all denied them and said that all those killed from that family were Sunnis. The majority of the victims of the massacre were from the Abdel Razzak family.