Hafez al-Assad, former dictator of Syria, was not a nice guy. In 1982, Assad slaughtered tens of thousands of innocent Sunni Muslims in the city of Hama.
But compared to his son, the current leader of Syria, the elder Assad was a humanitarian.
Since 2011, Bashar al-Assad barbarism has taken at least 200,000 lives. They suffered terribly. Many died in the indiscriminate fire of Assad’s barrel bombs. Many died from starvation. Some died as their lungs drowned in chlorine or collapsed from nerve agents.
The Assad family. Profession: Human ButchersThe Assad family. Profession: Human Butchers
This horror must not be left to statistics alone. It requires testimony from families of the dead. Here are five stories from the documented suffering of tens of thousands.
1. Ahmad al-Musalmani
As Human Rights Watch explains (page 48), Ahmad, then a 14-year-old boy was an early victim of the Syrian Civil War. Taken from his family while visiting Syria for his mother’s funeral, Ahmad was imprisoned by the Syrian Air Force. Assad’s allies extorted Ahmad’s family under the pretense of his possible freedom, but the boy was never released. It was only when a former regime photographer released photos of the government’s victims that Ahmad’s fate became clear. His body showed “several marks of blunt force trauma.” Ahmad’s crime? Having an anti-Assad video on his cell phone.
Ahmad’s crime? Having an anti-Assad video on his cell phone.
2. Nabil, and the Tank Children
In interviews with parents and children, the charity,Save the Children also testifies to this great injustice. One story stood out to me; that of a father, Nabil. Nabil describes what happened when Assad’s forces arrived. “When two tanks came into the village I saw children attached to them, tied up by their hands and feet, and by their torsos. The tanks came through the village and no one stood in their way or fought because we knew we would kill the children.” Nabil explains that these atrocities have imposed perpetual anguish on Syrian minds. And that’s exactly how Assad wants it. If dead in mind or soul, Assad assumes, his people will reflexively kneel to him once again.
3. Aya and Ahmed
This time last week, Aya and Ahmed were healthy 9-month-old twins. They had their whole lives ahead of them. The next day that changed. Assad’s sarin attack on Khan Shaykhun blocked Aya and Ahmed’s neural pathways. Unable to breathe, they suffocated in their father’s arms. Look at their bodies.
4. Austin Tice
Austin Tice is an American journalist and former Marine who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012. As of last December, the U.S. government believed Tice was alive. A group close to the Assad regime is likely holding him. With their loved one detained for nearly five years, Tice’s family has suffered great anguish. Unfortunately, Assad and his allies see human life as a means to an end rather than a sacred end in and of itself.
Assad and his allies see human life as a means to an end rather than a sacred end in and of itself.
5. The Unnamed Dead
A February report from Amnesty International documented the murders of tens of thousands of people in Syria’s prisons. Due process is non-existent in these modern oubliettes. There is no review, no appeal, no evidence, and no mercy. Amnesty detailed hangings at Saydnaya prison:
After the victims are dropped or pushed, they usually hang for around 15 minutes. At this point, the doctor in the room indicates which detainees have not yet died. These victims are pulled downward by the officers’ assistants, which causes the victims’ necks to break. A former judge from the Military Court recalled this stage of the execution: “They kept them there for 10 to 15 minutes. Some didn’t die because they are light. For the young ones, their weight wouldn’t kill them. The officers’ assistants would pull them down and break their necks. Two officers’ assistants were in charge of this.”
Still, even in these miserable citadels of death there is some hope. Attempting to avoid international scrutiny, the Assad regime occasionally releases a few lucky prisoners. Sometimes they are freed in prisoner exchanges, sometimes for bribes, and perhaps sometimes as small acts of mercy by individual officers.
Regardless, Assad’s grotesque quality is that he doesn’t just kill civilians — he kills them painfully. Contemplate the photos below. These are the 21st century heirs to Auschwitz.
(Credit: Amnesty International)(Credit: Amnesty International)
What does this mean for us in America?
For one, it demands our constant open eyes. Debates about U.S. policy in Syria are necessarily complex. The suffering, however, is simple. Americans are statistically the most generous people in the world. Let us advance that foundation by supporting charities doing fantastic work in Syria.
Ultimately, it is important the Trump Administration use existing resources to support refugees without compromising our national security.
Tom Rogan is a columnist for Opportunity Lives and National Review, a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets. Email him at Thomas.RoganE@gmail.com.