“They are led like cattle, blindfolded and handcuffed. They are only asked to run to a prepared pit. For a few seconds, bullets pierce their heads and bodies with bullets in their heads and bodies. Fuel is poured over them, they are burned and their traces disappear, as if nothing had happened.”
Among them was an elderly man, according to what Al-Hurra saw a seven-minute video recording of the massacre. He stumbled before falling into the filter pit, and as he shouted “Oh, bye, oh, bye,” they shot him in the head and into his heart and started laughing.
Six other people, who were wearing shabby clothes, were taken away one by one. Some kicked their feet into the pit and shot them in the head to make sure they were eliminated, while others were pushed and ended their lives having fun, before falling over the corpses of their peers.
On the other hand, there were no expressions on the faces of the perpetrators. “They did not bat an eyelid,” as the Syrians say locally. It seemed as if they had a task that must be accomplished as soon as possible, or rather a hole that must be closed with corpses “for the eyes of the teacher and the oil suit he did not wear.”
They are brief details of an investigation published by the British newspaper “The Guardian”, on Wednesday, in which it revealed a war crime carried out by a member of the Syrian regime’s intelligence called “Amjad Youssef”, eight years ago (in 2013), in the Damascus Tadamon neighborhood in the vicinity of the capital.
Although this massacre is not the first of its kind in Syria, perpetrated by members of the Syrian regime forces, the mechanism in which it was revealed opened the wounds of Syrians, from the people of the capital and its surroundings and the rest of the Syrian governorates, and those in the diaspora and countries of asylum.
The investigation, which was prepared by researchers Ansar Shahoud and Ugur Umit Ongor, who work at the “Center for the Holocaust and Genocide” at the University of Amsterdam, documented the crime with video, in the name of the perpetrator and his picture, to go far and over years to meet him virtually face to face, and withdraw part of the details of the “Black Day”, with his tongue and his confessions. .
“The massacre is a small detail of a million innocent Syrians,” “One person like Amjad Youssef can kill in cold blood 47 civilians. We can imagine how many Amjad Youssef were in the Syrian army and intelligence over 10 years,” “Assad and his regime preceded ISIS and all the extremists in terms of crime.” “. This is how most of the comments made by Syrians opposing the Assad regime, on social media, during the past hours.
While many of them emphasized that what happened in solidarity is a simple point in the “sea of great criminality of the Syrian regime”, others asked: “How many massacres were committed in Syria and were not taken or photographed? It was not leaked or made public?!”.
In contrast to the horror of what was reported by the investigation of the “Solidarity Massacre”, there was a scene whose “hard parts are difficult to describe”, which is indicated by the interview of witnesses from residents and activists from south Damascus and the Tadamon neighborhood of the Al-Hurra website.
Doaa, a Syrian journalist residing in Gaziantep, looks back when she reads any news or report related to the “solidarity massacre”. She is the one who lost a number of her relatives at the security checkpoints there, between 2013 and 2014.
She says, “I wonder if they committed the massacre on this street or on the other street?”
In 2013, Doaa’s uncle was arrested at the Yarmouk camp security checkpoint affiliated with the Syrian regime militias.
After that time, they were informed that he had been liquidated in the field, adding: “We did not get any sure news, but after Caesar’s photos were leaked, we recognized his face.”
“The Solidarity massacre is not the first to happen in the neighborhood, but there were many similar massacres,” especially at the beginning of the Syrian revolution, and the transition of the peaceful movement to an armed one, with the start of the formation of “Free Army” factions, and the spread of Assad forces’ militias in the area.
And Doaa continues, “There are many people. Yesterday, Wednesday, we sat guessing about the date of their arrest, to find out whether they were in the massacre or not. It is more unfortunate that there are people who want to cut doubt with certainty, so that they know the fate of their children and their families.”
And the execution of the uncle of the Syrian journalist was not the only one that her family was exposed to. In the history of the “Solidarity Massacre” the niece of Doaa’s cousin also lost her husband.
After the Guardian’s investigation spread on Wednesday, she points out: “They sent me his family and said: He probably died in this massacre. They just want to make sure!”
She explains: “Many people from south Damascus, including our family and relatives, have forcibly disappeared in this area – that is, the square between the Yarmouk camp checkpoint, Al-Zahira, Al-Tadamon and Daf Al-Shouk – so far there is no news about them. Are they dead or alive?”
Journalist Doaa’s story is not different from Catherine Ahmed, a Palestinian-Syrian journalist from Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus, and currently residing in northern Syria, which is under the control of the opposition factions.
In the same period that the Guardian investigation documented, the “solidarity massacre” happened, Catherine’s family lost her uncle’s wife, along with 9 other women, when they were buying bread and preparing to move to Yarmouk camp, which was then under the control of the “Free Syrian Army” and the Palestinian opposition factions.
Ahmed told Al-Hurra: “My uncle’s wife had 4 children,” and that for six months, “our attempts did not lead to anything in order to reveal her fate,” despite the fact that the family paid large sums to an officer and “shabiha within the security branches.”
“Attempts to search for her were continuing, but the answer from all security branches: We have no one with that name.”
The feeling of despair prevailed for months, until “news came as a shock”, informing the husband of the missing woman that she had been “arrested and taken to homes that are like temporary detention centers in Al-Tadamon. She was liquidated and burned, by one of the shabiha in retaliation for his relative.”
At that time, Catherine’s family was besieged in Yarmouk camp, and they had no internet or electricity, to let them know what happened.
Today, Ahmed recalls: “When I watched the investigation video, we experienced the shock again, as if what was happening for the first time. I tried to imagine what their fate would be like, but I did not expect for a moment that it would be so severe.”
In addition to her uncle’s wife, Catherine lost her two cousins, who were arrested at a security checkpoint in southern Damascus known as “Ali al-Wahsh Checkpoint”. They were “killed and burned in a manner similar to the solidarity massacre that was recently revealed.”
Ahmed added: “Half of our family was arrested. Some of them were released and others got the news of their martyrdom. A third section we don’t know anything about.”
‘Disappeared by the hundreds’
Al-Tadamon neighborhood is located outside the southern gate of the old city of Damascus, on the outskirts of the Damascus neighborhood of Al-Midan, and to the southwest of Bab Sharqi neighborhood, which is the heart of the bustling nightlife of Damascus.
With the outbreak of demonstrations in various neighborhoods of Damascus in the spring of 2011, the neighborhood witnessed peaceful protests. The Syrian regime responded to this by establishing “Shabiha groups”, militias that suppressed the protests in a very violent manner.
Members of these militias usually wear civilian clothes, and they are chosen at random from among young people with minority backgrounds, according to the Arabic version of the Guardian investigation published by Al-Gomhouria newspaper.
The investigation stated that the regime formalized the shabiha groups by including them under the so-called “National Defense Forces” in the winter of 2012, when it was granted the authority to set up checkpoints to arrest and detain people, without accountability or oversight, with complete impunity, in addition to to their previous powers to use weapons and kill protesters.
Mahmoud Zaghmout, a member of the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria, spoke to Al-Hurra website about the loss of many families and hundreds of civilians in the period from late 2012 until late 2013.
The human rights activist adds: “The arrests were made at the Baraka checkpoint, which is controlled by the shabiha Nasreen who are affiliated with the Syrian regime’s sect.”
It was also carried out at the “Al-Bashir Mosque Checkpoint, which is under the control of the Popular Committees, Military Security 227 and the Palestine Branch, in addition to the Fatah Al-Intifada groups, the Free Palestine Movement and the Popular Front – General Command.”
Zaghmout explains: “The issue of arbitrary arrest was used as a form of collective punishment against the residents of the area because they were outside the control of the Syrian regime. Most of them are innocent women, the elderly, and sometimes children.”
The activist notes: “We have Palestinian families that have completely disappeared, such as the Amayri family, whose sons were kidnapped by groups on Nasreen Street in Al-Tadamon neighborhood, on 06-16-2013.”
In turn, Matar Ismail, who witnessed many events in southern Damascus, adds that “the shabiha of Nisreen Street were famous for suppressing demonstrations and then taking up arms early and forming militias that committed hundreds of massacres against civilians.”
These armed groups took “a sectarian character, as they were mostly formed from members of one sect, and among them was the criminal Amjad Al-Youssef, the officer – or the officer’s class – in the Region 227 branch of the Military Security Division.”
During the period in which the “solidarity massacre” was committed, Ismail was present in the neighborhood, but in the areas under the control of the opposition factions.
He added to Al-Hurra: “The shabiha Nasreen were taking revenge on the few civilians who clung to their homes as a result of poverty and lack of resourcefulness, through systematic liquidation operations and cold-blooded executions, especially when they lost a military post or a dead man was killed in their ranks during the armed clashes.”