The world stands by as Assad continues killing his own people

BILD am SONNTAG reports: As coroner Dr. Abed Tawab Shahrour (50) opens the blue rubbish bag, once again he thinks, “Please, not another child”. But contained within this makeshift body bag in the Pathology Department of the University Hospital of Aleppo lies the small body of Hadi Zahrour, lips dark purple, his face contorted in agony. Stuck to the dead boy’s forehead is a Post-It. Someone has written the number 2160 on it by hand. “Brown eyes, fair skin, under ten years old. Death caused by inhalation of toxic substances” will later appear in an eight-line report on number 2160. The dark-haired child’s file offers no further information. Here, on the tables at the morgue, there are too many victims of dictator Bashar al-Assad (49).

At that time, in 2013, Dr. Shahrour was Chief Pathologist at the University Hospital of Aleppo. He secretly took a photo of the dead child with his Nokia 5130. “I kept it so that later I could tell the world what is happening to my people”, says the doctor.

He is one of four witnesses interviewed by BILD am SONNTAG. None of them started out as revolutionaries. The only way to be awarded their posts was to be law-abiding members of Assad’s Baath Party. At the beginning of the Syrian revolution, they worked for the regime until, in the face of the atrocities they were witnessing and at the risk of their own lives, they switched sides. By doing so, they put themselves and their families at risk, lost their livelihoods and were forced to leave their homes.

We meet Dr. Shahrour in Turkey, to where he fled. The doctor tells us about 19th March two years ago, the day when Hadi ceased to be a cheerful schoolboy and became just another number in Assad’s death registers. In Khan al-Assal, a small suburb of Aleppo, a poison gas attack at seven o’ clock in the morning killed at least 13 people in addition to Hadi and injured approximately 120 others. On that spring day, seven months had passed since Barack Obama’s famous “red line” speech. In it, the US president warned of military intervention if Assad continued to use poison gas against his own people.

Five months later still, up to 1,700 people died in Ghouta in Damascus after an attack with the nerve agent sarin, and many more have followed – right up until the present day. U.N. inspectors dispatched to the scene were allegedly not able to find adequate proof of who was responsible for the attacks. Since Khan al-Assal, the delegation has not even travelled to Syria. “For security reasons”, according to the final report.

Three years after Obama’s speech, Syria lies in ruins. Every week, war crimes are still perpetrated: barrel bombs, prohibited under international law of war, continue to fall on schools, neighbourhoods and marketplaces. [Continue reading…]

Peter Bouckaert writes: Last Sunday’s bombing by the Syrian government of a busy marketplace in the town of Douma, killing at least 112 of its own citizens, was one of deadliest attacks in an ever-more-devastating conflict. The four strikes came during the busy midday period, as if to maximise destruction. Once again, we were confronted with haunting images of rooms filled with the bodies of the victims, many of them children, being prepared for burial.

Almost exactly 20 years ago, a similarly brutal bombing of a marketplace during the Bosnian war changed the course of that conflict. On 28 August, 1995, during its siege of the city of Sarajevo, forces of the breakaway Republika Srpska fired 5 mortar shells into the Markale market, killing 43 and wounding 75.

The horror and outrage generated by that attack – the second on the Markale market, following a 5 February, 1994 strike that killed 68 – unified much of the international community into action. Several of the main Serbian officers implicated in the two market shellings, including Generals Stanislav Galic, Dragomir Milosevic, and Momcilo Perisic, were later tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for their role in the market shellings. Galic was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity during the siege of Sarajevo.

Sadly, it seems unlikely that the horror of the latest market attack in Douma will bring about any effective international response. The attack received widespread media coverage, but faded almost immediately. Instead of becoming a game changer like the Markale market killings, Douma seems destined to become yet another grim marker in a conflict drowning in so many grim markers that even those who follow it closely have trouble remembering them all. In the meanwhile, the civilian population of Syria continues to suffer and die, almost bereft of any hope out of this ever-more brutal conflict. [Continue reading…]

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