Mike Giglio and Munzer al-Awad report: The 53-year-old father of two was convinced that Bashar al-Assad wanted him to flee Syria.
More than two years after he buried the bodies from a massacre in his village near Damascus by forces loyal to the Syrian president, he sat in an Istanbul park alongside dozens of other refugees, waiting with their life jackets to make the journey to Europe by sea.
“They want to empty the country,” he said, sitting with his wife and two children as he described how government soldiers had bombed the village of Jdeidet al-Fadel and then executed residents in their homes, suspecting them of rebel sympathies. Some, he said, were “beheaded like chickens.” After helping with the burials, he snuck his family into Turkey.
The refugee crisis isn’t just a by-product of the brutal civil war in Syria, according to many of those fleeing, as well as Western officials and analysts tracking the conflict. It’s part of a concerted effort by the Syrian government, which has killed the vast majority of civilians in a war that has left more than 200,000 people dead.
Assad has lost control over more than three-quarters of the country, and targeting civilians in those areas has been part of his strategy from the start of the four-year-old civil war. His forces work to make opposition-held areas unlivable for rebels and civilians alike — a tactic guaranteed to create masses of refugees. [Continue reading…]
The photographer, Bradley Secker, has documented Syria’s ongoing Nakba with images that should bring to mind the catastrophe leading to the creation of Israel over 60 years ago.