The Syrian people for the past 15 months have felt abandoned by the international world, and rightly so. Unable to protect themselves from the consistent likelihood of butchering and bombardment by Assad military forces and thugs, they not only face the existential threat of annihilation but have also been battling imminent death due to the lack of basic necessities and medical supplies.
The Syrian Expatriates Organization (SEO), a non-profit educational group of Syrians living abroad, hosted a press conference with a panel of activists at the National Press Club in Washington D.C June 15, calling for the international community to take immediate action after Assad unleashed his forces on Syrian rural towns -despite the presence of UN monitors-resulting in several massacres, primarily of children and women. The panel included Abdul Majeed Katranji from the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), Rafif Jouejati, from FREE Syria- Foundation to Restore Equality and Education in Syria, and activists from inside Syria who phoned in via Skype.
“The major priority of this press conference was to shed more light on the humanitarian and medical suffering of our people, getting the facts straight from activists and people inside Syria,” said SEO board member, Sawsan Jabri. “We hope to raise awareness about the crisis in Syria among the major media outlets, as a step to compel the international community to adopt necessary measures to alleviate the suffering of our people.”
The activists, Abu Arab from Hama and Abu Osama from Al-Houla, took turns to recount two of the most recent and brutal attacks on civilian villages, Al-Houla in the city of Homs and Qubair in the city of Hama.
Abu Arab described Hama as a “captive city” with its people becoming victims of random and unnecessary raiding and detentions by regime forces “in order to break the resistance of the city.” He proceeded to tell reporters of the June 6 massacre of Qubair; “hundreds of militias and thugs gathered with tanks where they surrounded the farmland of Qubair and began shelling houses at random, while knowing that the village had nothing to do with the revolution,” he said. “They carried out dozens of field executions.”
Citizens were murdered using a variety of methods: slaughtering and stabbing, close-range shooting and burning people alive. Seventy-eight people were killed in total in this village alone, including women and children. One of the most painful sights, Abu Arab said, was that of a dead mother embracing her two children as they were burned alive after their home was shelled.
The inhumane torture and murder of innocent children has been a regime tactic since the beginning used as a desperate move to deter the revolution – the revolution erupted after the children in the city of Dara’a were beaten and had their fingernails plucked for writing anti-regime slogans on school walls.
A few days prior to the Hama massacre, the village of Al-Houla underwent a two-day murder campaign on May 25, between the hours of 4:30 and 6:00 p.m. and May 26 around four in the morning, explained Abu Osama. Over 100 people were killed, including 49 women and 38 children.
Homs, an opposition stronghold, has become a desolate city, explained another activist, Abu Rami. To make life more difficult on the remaining citizens, the electricity and water supplies have been targeted by the regime and either cut off or shelled. For months this city has been heavily besieged, preventing the flow of food and medical supplies.
“Shabiha (thugs) or we burn the country,” added panelist Jouejati from FREE Syria, has become the Assad forces’ slogan. By destroying the country’s basic infrastructure and killing the people the regime has “targeted the past of Syria, its present and future by killing its children,” said Jouejati.
Abu Rami, who works with a volunteer medical group in a makeshift clinic, told reporters that doctors are constantly targeted. Jouejati explained that it has become a crime to treat someone injured and wounded by army fire, a crime that is punishable by death. Due to this, people all over Syria are left to be treated in secret by volunteers who lack medical knowledge.
The situation in Syria is extremely dire that infections and diseases are rampant due to countless bodies left in the streets. Assad loyalists are preventing people from getting the little medical care available and from burying the dead, said an activist from Damascus, Abu Hadi.
“This tragedy could have easily been averted,” explained Katranji from SAMS. This is not an attack simply on human beings, he continued, but an assault on an entire society and its survival.