(this post created on July 6 but re-dated to keep at top)
Last Edit: July 20
Note July 19: With the 2014 report now published, this site is officially open for business. Please see the report, dear reader, and consider yourself invited to comment. A somewhat slow start is expected ...
This site is intended as a limited purpose tool to revive interest in and examination of one important event in the brutal and long-running Syrian conflict. This is the Houla Massacre of over 100 civilians on May 25, 2012
* Those needing a refresher on the basics, see Houla Massacre Primer.
It's the one famous for having 49 (or even more) children among the dead, some of them horribly slaughtered - either by Alawite Shabiha from down the road, or by false-flagging foreign-backed terrorists, depending who you ask.
It was the first incident that sparked me to suggest the creation of the research website A Closer Look On Syria (ACLOS) in June, 2012. There I and a few others teamed up to examine this and other incidents. The Houla research spawned several sub-pages, which are/will be organized for usefulness here:
* ACLOS Research Guide
Some key parts of this were partly related, along with works by by a few other authors, in a 2013 report (see page for that here). Now the best form of (arguably) the most potent part of it is packaged in new report:
* The Battle for the Houla Massacre: The Video Evidence Explained (and the rest reconsidered) PDF, 61 pages - Get it here.
I decided a space was needed, at least one, for the evidence to be reviewed and challenged - the new report especially. This site will host that, starting with:
* 2014 Report: Main Challenge Space
(and in more specific posts to come.)
There will also be space (and time?) left for the rest of the evidence, at least parts of it, to get a wider viewing. I'm hoping for lively debate and participatory, comment-driven appeal. I'm currently alerting some minds I'd like to see activated on this, and I hope to hear from them here. This is a complex issue with many parts, and a fair amount of information (mis, dis, and straight) to work with. But with a full blog dedicated to it, it could be thoroughly reviewed, depending how many people put in what kind and amount of energy in what time frame. It's hoped this site and related work will help revive public interest and push for a new and more even-handed investigation.
Any subject posts with comment spaces that someone waishes I would create because I haven't yet - egg me on here.
Monday, August 4, 2014
July 22, 2014lat edits August 4, 2014
I'm not meaning to find things this interesting at the moment, but ... As I just posted in graphic form here at ACLOS, there's some intriguing patterns in a reginal rash of violence on the same Friday as the Houla Massacre, and a bit of stuff right before and after. The details are discussed in the talk page there, worth copying here, but in reverse for variety.
First, a report from October, 2013:
- Lebanese Al Manar TV reported the release of 9 Lebanese pilgrims after 17 months of being held captive by Qatari-backed terrorists in north of Syria.
- On 22 May 2012 a group of terrorists stopped a passenger’s bus near the Turkish borders north of Syria and the passengers were held by a group of anti-Islamic Wahhabi terrorists with direct links to Turkish prime minister office and the Qatari Emir. The terrorists then released the women and children and kept 11 men captive, 2 of them managed to escape after a Syrian Arab Army operation in Azaz last year that killed one of the terrorists leaders responsible of the kidnapping.
I doubt this basic event - the taking of a busload of people including (Shi'ites, it sounds like, from Lebanon) three days before the Houla Massacre and a long ways away - will be disputed. Just where south of the border this happened isn't clear, but presumably way north of the al-Houla area. But another source might help narrow it down, and show the terrorists did not release all their women and children hostages. Nor the driver. Unless maybe there were two busses hijacked that day ...
here's the clincher story, part 1: VDC query - all Hama martyrs May 24 - 7 total. All but the top one play in here. Five represent a family:
* Natania Oreib Al-Saleem, Child - Male
* Yahya Oreib Al-Saleem, Child - Female
* Yakoub Oreib Al-Saleem, Child - Male
* Farouq Oreib Al-Saleem, Child-Male
* Fadwa Al-Shaddeh, Adult Female (mother) (details f/c as needed, available there, including (alive) photos).
These entries tend to say "Date of death: 2012-05-24," "Cause of Death: Kidnapping - Execution" Notes:
"The whole family, consisted of a mother and five children were kidnapped 2 days ago while they were on their way back from Sahl Al-Ghan to Hama. They were executed, and their corpses were found today in Mesyaf. They were slaughtered by knives."Note "Shabiha" or the regime aren't specifically blamed. The VDC, like the SOHR, accepts information from a variety of sources, so maybe no rebels even reported this, just alarmed locals. Who knows? There is apparently one child not listed - maybe not dead for all we know.
Sahl al-Ghan ... not sure how I figured out that means al-Ghab plain, aka Sahl al-Ghab. It's north and west of Hama, and part of the province - its northern panhandle I didn't know about, running north, flanking Latakia up to the Turkish border. It's a large, vague locale to return from. You might drive south to Mesyaf a bit south of its south end, then east to Hama. Or get killed anywhere prior and dumped in Mesyaf - not far from Aqrab, just 16 km direct.
This family wasn't driving their own car back from wherever as far north almost as Turkey. The other relevant victim on that list is Refaat Al-Hussein, adult male, killed also May 24 by "Kidnapping - Torture - Execution." Notes:
"He was a bus driver. He was transporting the family who was slaughtered. His corpse was found too with signs of torture."So ... were there only the six passengers on his bus, or are these seven corpses the residue of a once-larger pool? The date of death isn't clear - found "today," apparently meaning the 24th, after being captured by some kind of bus hijackers two days earlier, is the best reading - so it should be May 22.
If the bus hijackings are the same, and both reports are accurate, we can say it was at the north end of the Al-Ghab plain not far from Turkey and the infiltration points there for foreign Islamists. And if this all lines up, these 7 or so victims of that then proceeded way south with some friends of their captors before getting dumped by the 24th just shy of the arena's edge for the coming Houla Massacre. This has its Aqrab connections - fighters from there swooping south to help, victims from there dying either with the Abdulrazaqs in Taldou, in Aqrab, or both) - and alleged units of unknown foreigners, presumably filtered in via Turkey as usual. This Salem-Shaddeh family might've been the kind of thing a horde of fresh Ottoman mercenaries track in on their boots/sandals.
It might sound like grasping at straws except we must remember video evidence repeatedly backs the witnesses who describe a rebel attack on Taldou the 25th. They say that attack was huge, with 6-800 fighters total. That's an attractive (alleged) force, like a dry sponge is to water. Hundreds of people, probably more than were just hanging around already, would need to swoop in, probably from the north, at about this time, to fill the space that apparently was filled. So I propose it's quite likely the southward journey of that poor Syrian family and their driver is a valuable clue to understanding the Houla Massacre.
Update, August 4:
I just stumbled across the missing Oreib-al-Saleem child: listed as dying earlier, on May 22, VDC victim #16911 Shahd Oreib Al-Saleem], girl, age 4 (rounded down, it appears - see photo). Her notes are the same, kidnapped, slaughtered with knives. A Facebook page is provided: https://www.facebook.com/aribalsalim This was started on May 24 to share photos of the just-killed children. It's all in Arabic and I didn't check the content, but it seems to completely lack rebel colors and icons - and government ones. It was active at least into 2013.
From the VDC entry, her photo at left. What eyes. The name Shahed means "witness," it seems - a girl of that name had her mouth torn off a few days later in al-Houla. Again, what this episode suggests is a mappable movement of child-slaughtering terror towards the site of the Houla Massacre. And it's not from the Alawite villages just south of there, but from the distant and ominous Turkish border to the north. Someone should seal that thing off for good. I think little Shahed would agree.