Daraya massacre

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See "Cemetery Victims" below

Daraya massacre refers to killings in Daraya, just southwest of Damascus, around the days of the government re-conquest of the town in late August. Initial reports described around 200-300 total killed by the end of the weekend. Newly reported killings in the days after the government victory gave rise to plausible claims of at least 500 dead, and claims of up to 1,200 or more (see A Climbing Death Toll, below).

The alleged massacre was the largest one yet, on a par with the initial reports from the Tremseh "massacre", and growing only from there. It was called, by Alistair Burt, the UK's Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, “an atrocity of a new scale, requiring unequivocal condemnation from the entire international community,” if it wound up being "confirmed."[1] The New Yorker would reported, even at "as many as four hundred" killed, it was "the single largest atrocity yet committed in the eighteen-month-old conflict. [...] Until Daraya, the hallmark horror was the May 25th massacre of a hundred and eight civilians in the town of Houla. The new standard is four times that."[2]

The hundreds of reported victims are portrayed by opposition activists as primarily civilians killed by government forces, either in shelling or by execution. The reality however appears, at best, more mixed than that; the dead seem to be of several different kinds, each with its own open questions and clues to consider. For example, reports from non-rebel sources inside Syria, mostly residents of Daraya, include claims of a large number of loyalist civilians held hostage by rebels that wound up among the dead. [3] (see "hostages" below). Intriguingly, the largest bulk of bodies, around 100-150 displayed at a rebel-held mosque, are surrounded by vague, confused, and conflicting explanations (see "mosque Victims" below)

Scene

Daraya map.jpg Daraya town.jpg

Locations in Google maps:

  • Cemetery [4] (see "Cemetery victims" below.)
  • Seen on Addounia TV [5] (Central street corner where interviews take place and Lady Sakina's shrine as seen in Addounia TV report[6], at 4:45 resp. 10:00 min)
  • Abu Suleiman Al Darani Mosque [7] (Identified via wikimapia, on the southern outskirts - this is where rebels reportedly found 150 bodies on the 25th and over the next days buried them.) (see "Mosque victims" below)

Developments Prior to the Massacre

The events in Daraya were preceded by a week of gruesome discoveries of dozens of bodies at a time of people executed, allegedly by regime forces, across the suburbs of Damascus. Liz Sly reported for the Washington Post, for example, on many of these ... [8]

In one instance in Douma to the northeast, around sixteen men were found executed, allegedly by regime forces, some with their throats slit. But several of those victims were convincingly matched, by clothing and facial or body matches, to a similar number of loyalist hostages previously seen on video held by a rebel brigade.

Daraya, a bit further to the southwest, had reportedly been one of the opposition’s strongholds around Damascus for months. It is not, however, the same as Daraa, where anti-regime protests and violence first appeared early in 2011 (some reports seem to be confused on that point). The opposition reportedly had staged attacks on Damascus from there, and had amassed a serious arsenal. Their freedom there ended with the government offensive which culminated on Friday, August 24. Sly's report, earlier on that day, mentioned how “on Thursday, troops intensified an assault on the southwestern Damascus suburb of Darayya, a longtime opposition stronghold, hammering the area with artillery before raiding homes. The attack killed at least 15 people, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees network.”[8]

The Jakarta Globe reported "In the town of Daraya, just south of Damascus, 15 people were killed in the attacks including three children and two women, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, ... "residents are anxious and afraid that there will be another civilian massacre" in Daraya, said the Local Coordination Committees..." [9] An activist-compiled list (cannot be verified) gives a daily tally of victims of the government attack. Aug. 22 lists 15 names, Aug. 23 has 38, Aug. 24, 61, and Aug. 25 172 names (the listnumber suggests more, but some numbers were skipped). [10]

Timeline of the Re-Conquest

There is conflicting information about when this re-conquest took place and, by extension, who was in charge of the city and in a position to slaughter people on the days that happened.

According to some activists, it happened on August 24 while also the killings "began on Friday [the 24th]".[11] Some videos of numerous dead, blamed on government forces, were posted on that day. [12] There's a video from daylight hours, posted on August 25, showing what seems to be a small unit of army guys going up to an apartment in a possible low-key raid. [13] One local reported to the Guardian the switchin forces was total and early; “the Free Syrian Army withdrew from the town on 23 August and the army entered the next day.”[14]

According to other activists and official sources the withdrawals continued until August 26; the daily reports of the "Syrian Center for Documentation" which record "tactical withdrawals" on both days with heavy fighting recorded on the day between.[15] It seems that both sides were present in force from late Friday to sometime Sunday, with rebels in charge before that and the government after. Considering that dynamic and uncertain overlap, all crimes in that period are inherently ambiguous and it's down to the evidence to make the best case for who's responsible.

A Climbing Death Toll

The first reports of a significant number of massacre-type deaths emerged the afternoon of the 25th. Naharnet Newsdesk reported at 4:14 pm, citing the UK-based SOHR, "dozens of bodies were found on Saturday," 15 of which were executed or killed in fighting, and "between 40 and 50" of which were found "near a mosque," giving a total so far of at least 55-65. [16]

It jumped quickly; a Reuters report that evening by Khaled Oweis said "the bodies of at least 200 people were found ... according to activists who said most appeared to have been killed by Syrian troops "execution style"." In fact, 270 was the running total, and an activist named "Abu Kinan" said rebels had found 122 bodies "in the last hour." Oweis noted as support activist video that "showed numerous bodies of young men side-by-side at the Abu Suleiman al-Darani mosque in Daraya, many with what looked like gunshot wounds to the head and chest." [17] The number of bodies there seems to be well over 100, quite possibly the reported 150 or so cited by activists, or the 122 "Abu KInan" mentioned. However, the circumstances of their "discovery" there are in doubt. (see mosque victims and mosque mysteries below)


It kept rising: Monday the 27th, Al-Arabiya said: "some 320 bodies, including women and children, were found in houses and basements, according to activists who said most had been killed “execution-style” by troops in house-to-house raids." [18] Tuesday, the Guardian quoted "Abu Kinan" by Skype: "The total number in Daraya so far is 400 bodies. The number of bodies buried unidentified is more than 100." [19] The Christian Science Monitor reported "The Local Coordination Committees activist group said that ... another 15 bodies were found in the basement of a home on Sunday. The LCC puts the death toll for the week in Daraya at more than 630." [11] The New York Times reported also "Some activists fear the death toll may still rise: the Local Coordination Committees said that a total of 1,755 people had been detained, suggesting that hundreds more might turn up dead." [20]


Then, reportedly, hundreds more turned up dead. A SNC "general secretariat" member, Alia Mansour, told NOW Lebanon on Sept. 15 that "she was going on a hunger strike to protest the world’s silence over the massacres in her home country," especially Daraya, in which "somewhere over 1,200, 700 of which are documented by name," had been killed. "The fact that we Syrians have become just numbers was ripping me apart." [21] That the numbers were so large and kept growing was helpful, however. A week earlier, Janine DiGiovanni filed a report from Daraya for the UK Guardian : “an estimated 500 people were slaughtered in Daraya over two and a half days," with higher yet "opposition reports of more than 1,000." This was supported by "the local gravedigger" who "says he has already buried 1,000" himself, apparently at the central cemetery. DiGiovanni saw freshly dug graves there she felt held several hundred anyways. [14] The higher numbers become more plausible when one realizes that's at a second location from the mass grave at the mosque south of town, where anywhere from 150-200 victims minimum, and perhaps more than twice that many, were more openly buried in a number of long trench graves. (see Mass Graves below)

Much later, in February, 2014, a high estimate was offered by Anas al-Dabas, who "witnessed a massacre in 2012 perpetrated by Syrian military forces." He was apparently among a group sent to Washington to lobby president Obama for starner measures over chemical attacks and other incidents. He told the Daily Beast   “In August 2012, 900 people were killed in two hours, with bullets, not with chemical weapons." Clearly the massacre took longer than two hours to unfold, so that's not even an alleged total he's citing. He says he found 70 bodies right afterwards, all of whom were people he knew. [22]

While it’s impossible to sort of clearly how many were killed in the days of the massacre, before those days, and after, a collective death toll of around 600 minimum is clear, and possibly more, though not likely as high as the upper rebel estimates. The following sections address the more important questions of who was killed, when, where, how, and of course by whom and thus, why.

Activists Say ...

"The total number in Daraya so far is 400 bodies. The number of bodies buried unidentified is more than 100," one resident, Abu Kinan, told the Guardian on Tuesday via Skype. He added: "One of the massacre survivors told me that when the Syrian army stormed their alley, they put more than 50 people up against the wall. "As they began spraying them with bullets, he threw himself to the floor. He was covered with blood though he was not shot. He pretended that he was dead. Four of his family were killed." [19]

“Daraya, a city of dignity, has paid a heavy price for demanding freedom,” the group said in a statement, adding: “The death toll has doubled in the past few days due to field executions and revenge killings.” [20]

"18+ Genocide in Daraya - Assad Butchers Hundreds of Sunnis As World Watches in Silence 8-27-12." (title for a rebel video)

Activist "Abu Mua'tasim" told the Guardian "The Syrian army have stayed in some of the houses. One of these houses belongs to my friend. They made it a base. People were forced to serve them food and tea, and just before they were leaving they killed the people in the house. That was on Saturday. I know the family. They did the same thing with our neighbour Muhammad al-Sayed. The Syrian army stormed his house, [and] had some grapes, fruit and tea. He himself was serving them, but when they were just pulling out of Darayya, they killed him. Another man, Abu Yousif, was just standing by his house when the Syrian army stormed his alley. When he saw them he ran home. They detained him, and later on we found his body at the outskirt of Darayya." [23]

"One woman, found Sunday wearing all black and grieving, said that her son had tried to leave Friday, but was refused by government forces. “They told him, ‘Go back to your town and die there,’ ” she said. “And now he’s dead.” He was one of the men found in the mosque, she said, along with two of his cousins. “I will not forget my son, and I swear that I will raise his 3-year-old son to take revenge for his father from those Alawite shabiha and soldiers who kill our husbands and sons,” she shouted. “We will not forget the Assad massacres and crimes.” [20]

“The Assad forces killed them in cold blood,” Abu Ahmad, a resident of Daraya, told The New York Times. “I saw dozens of dead people, killed by the knives at the end of Kalashnikovs, or by gunfire. The regime finished off whole families, a father, mother and their children. They just killed them without any pretext.” [11]

Children and Whole Families Killed

There are photographs and video showing dead children as part of the victim tally. Perhaps the least convincing is a photo published by, for example, Daily News Egypt. Four pre-teen boys, all looking fresh and healthy, no visible signs of blood or pain on their faces, wrapped in white but not obviously dead by any means. A larger crop of the image here shows more likely dead next to them, wrapped head to toe, and one with a head showing, much darker, by some combination of pigment and perhaps decay. Two videos-both under 0:30 long, show the same array of bodies, trucked in to a gathering. 1 2 The boys and three others are not part of the Daraya massacre - that started only late the 24th when the Shabiha entered, and this video was posted by Aug. 23.

Otherwise, however, it's undeniable that even very young children were killed in the days after that. At least one baby and one little girl were reportedly killed in apparent sniper attacks into traffic. (see traffic fatalities). Some apparent teenage boys can be seen among the mosque victims (see below). Egyptian chronicles has a photo, reportedly from a mosque, of a little girl (app. nine) with a slashed face. This video, for example, shows a young boy, around ten, again totally intact and clean, from the chest up, but convincingly limp in the bottom of a mass grave (dead less than 24 hours or he'd be stiff). The saddest image, perhaps, is of two twin babies, the same fat faces, the same blood-soaked PJs, the same disrupted skulls, buried together (see photos here and here, and a video here).

The Daraya Coordination Committee activists' group said in a statement that among those found with shots to the head were eight members of the al-Qassaa family: three children, their father and mother and three other relatives. Their bodies were found in a residential building near Mussab bin Umeir mosque in Daraya, the group said.[17] Rami Abdel Rahman (SOHR) told AFP, as they reported, "that 200 bodies had been identified so far, including 15 women and 14 children, and that many of the victims had died in shelling or were summarily executed." [24] International Business Times reported "another video shows several bodies of children who were shot in their head lined up. Many of the victims appear to be quite young." [25]

Syrian Addounia TV's reporter was shown a home with several family members executed in the front hall. The information the military provided was that they were killed by rebels as they fled for being "collaborators" with the government. [6]

Hostages

Robert Fisk filed a report August 29 with the UK Independent that introduced some new features into the Western media discourse. One of these was alleged hostage trade negotiations preceding the battle for Daraya. He wrote in part:

The men and women to whom we could talk, two of whom had lost loved ones on Daraya's day of infamy four days ago, told a story different from the version that has been repeated around the world: theirs was a tale of hostage-taking by the Free Syria Army and desperate prisoner-exchange negotiations between the armed opponents of the regime and the Syrian army, before President Bashar al-Assad's government forces stormed into the town to seize it back from rebel control.
Officially, no word of such talks between the enemies has been mentioned. But senior Syrian officers told The Independent how they had "exhausted all possibilities of reconciliation" with those holding the town, while residents of Daraya said there had been an attempt by both sides to arrange a swap of civilians and off-duty soldiers – apparently kidnapped by rebels because of their family ties to the government army – with prisoners in the army's custody. When these talks broke down, the army advanced into Daraya, six miles from the centre of Damascus. [3]

One woman named Leena told Fisk about seeing "10 male bodies lying on the road near her home" while driving, prior to Syrian troops entering the city. Many more bodies were found, Fisk notes, in a graveyard (see below, cemetery victims) [3] One man told Fisk that "although he had not seen the dead in the graveyard, he believed that most were related to the government army and included several off-duty conscripts. "One of the dead was a postman – they included him because he was a government worker," the man said." He was also told of hooded gunmen who entered homes at the time, abducting people. He reasoned "If these stories," of rebel capturing government loyalists, "are true, then the armed men [who took them] were armed insurgents rather than Syrian troops." [3]

In a "press release" in response to Fisk's article posted the same day August 29 on facebook by a "Daraya Coordination Committee", it is claimed that the people who were interviewed by Fisk were too frightened to tell who killed their relatives, and that their real fate is known to the Committee who has been "in touch" with them - "of course" murdered by Army fire. A prisoner exchange is called "unbelievable" but not directly denied, instead asking the question "Even if there was a prisoner exchange and it failed, does the Assad regime have any grounds at all for this level of retaliation?"[26]

An AFP article carried by Lebanese Daily Star and others on September 2 tells the story of Manal Shirri who watched the Addounia report with friends in the lebanese town of Khibet Silem and identified her 49-year-old mother Siham Sallum, who had lived in Daraya since 2006, among the dead shown on TV. The article reports:

Citing acquaintances in Daraya, Sallum's son Mohammed said his mother was kidnapped by the rebel Free Syrian Army on Saturday alongside her husband and several other residents of the town. The rebels, he said, promised they would set them free the next day. "The rebels were getting ready for a prisoner exchange with the army, but the operation went wrong," said Mohammed. "There was bombing and fighting, and the rebels killed their hostages."[27]

Speaking to AFP via Skype, this was denied by an activist identifying himself as Abu Ahmed from Daraya, who insisted that "the FSA was only holding three army officers -- and no civilians -- at the time." Other accounts from anti-government activists affiliated with the accused hostage-killers make no mention at all of loyalist hostages, killed or held, by forces of or allied to the Free Syrian Army.

Traffic Fatalities

Older man shot dead in pickup as seen on Addounia TV

Some of those killed were in vehicles, some at least attempting to flee the city. A activist told the Guardian "he witnessed the death of an eight-year-old girl, Asma Abu al-Laban, shot by army snipers while she was in a car with her parents. "They were trying to flee the army raids. Three bullets hit her in the back and her parents brought her to a makeshift hospital. Nothing could be done for her," he said." A man trying to flee with his family told Robert Fisk, as their bus came under fire, "I told my wife to lie on the floor but a bullet came into the bus and passed right through our baby and hit my wife. It was the same bullet. They were both dead. The shooting came from trees, from a green area. Maybe it was the militants hiding behind the soil and trees who thought we were a military bus bringing soldiers." [3]

A video report by Addounia TV, Damascus has a reporter following the army into areas ostensibly just "liberated" and still not cleaned-up. It shows dead in the road - an executed motorcyclist, and a few yards away, an older man shot in his pickup truck (see inset). Blood down the door, and on the fender, suggest he was bleeding as the truck was still moving, so hit most likely by a low-level sniper. [6] Possibly related: the survivor in the cemetery- an older woman who says she was riding with her husband, a career security forces man, when they were hit, and she remembered nothing more until awakening there.

Cemetery Victims

Dead bodies on cemetery as seen on Addounia TV

Many of those killed wound up dumped around a sprawling cemetery in the city's center. Robert Fisk wrote of the "few returning citizens talking of death and assault, of foreign ‘terrorists’, its cemetery of slaughter haunted by snipers." Many bodies were found at this "Sunni Muslim graveyard – divided by the main road through Daraya," all removed prior to his visit there, with Syrian troops that came under sniper fire. [3] The cemetery seems to be the large one in the center of town, cleaved into three parts by two major cross streets, as visible on Google maps. [4]

Addounia TV's report showed much of this scene. At least five bodies are laid around the cemetery (three visible in the combined screen grabs above), one a bald man apparently tied to a gravestone. One other body was badly broken and bloody, and another a modestly-dressed younger woman in black. [6] An elderly woman was also found alive but injured, covered in blood, saying she was riding with her husband, from the security forces, and possibly with her children, when they were suddenly attacked. She was "hit" (by a bullet?) and remembers nothing until waking up in the cemetery with all the dead. A stretcher is then brought in and she's carried away. [6] This delay caused in her treatment by the video interview reportedly caused complaints within Syria leading the station to edit the sequence out in some versions. [28]

One man told Robert Fisk that "although he had not seen the dead in the graveyard, he believed that most were related to the government army and included several off-duty conscripts. "One of the dead was a postman – they included him because he was a government worker," the man said." [3] Anti-government activists also filmed the scene as a crime of the regime. Like the Sunni mosque (see below), it seems the attackers want to defile specifically sacred Sunni spaces by dumping their presumably Sunni victims. The Jakarta Globe, for one, noted "Grisly videos issued by opposition militants showed dozens of charred and bloodied bodies lined up in broad daylight in a graveyard..." [24]

Mosque Victims and Mosque Mysteries

Two bodies in mosque courtyard as seen on activist video the night of the 25th and again in the morning

The largest shown concentration of bodies, visible to opposition cameras, was what they describe as around 150 corpses laid out in the courtyard of Abu Suleiman al-Darani Mosque. There were earlier reports of bodies found near a mosque or mosques, but It is said this largest single batch were found all at once, perhaps even killed, right there. A number of widely circulated "hand-out" photos from the (activist) Shaam News Network, and/or the Local Coordination Committees, show dozens of mostly male corpses laid outside a "makeshift morgue" somewhere. All dated August 26, most views appear to have been taken early-mid-morning. These are included with several reports, like the New Yorker's opinion piece [2]. Others appear with reports from NTN, Arab News, and SINA English. The captions on the last one specifies "purports to show people killed by shabiha, pro-government militiamen." It was taken at night, so apparently pre-dawn hours of the 26th. None of these specify the name of the place being used as a "makeshift morgue."

At least three videos also show these scores of bodies laid on the courtyard of the same mosque. The most famous one is shot at night and the resolution is poor, so details are slim. That can be watched here or here. The second posting specifies in English "Syria Dictator Kills 450 in Daraya 8-25-12 Executes 150 in Abu Suleiman Aldarani Mosque." Another video also published by the Darayya Coordination Committee shows the same scene in daylight.[29] Another yet shows a night view, but with better lighting and resolution. [30] Another version of that same video has English translation of what the man filming says. By matching structural details, floor tile, and body arrangement, it's clear all these photos and videos show the same scene in this one crucial mosque that opposition media, and presumably fighters, had free access to - after the massacre, at any rate.

A tentative estimate of bodies, after some efforts at counting, is a total of about 100-120 visible, most of them in four long rows of around 20 each. The rebel claims of "more than 150" seem reasonable enough; there are plenty of areas the remainder might or might not have been. But there are also smaller estimates of the total, at around 120 (citation needed/forthcoming). The vast majority of those that can be discerned seem to be male, including a few teenagers and some older men, but mostly those of fighting age, about 19-34. Despite some clearly broken bones and signs of torture, They seem structurally intact, not crushed or ruptured shelling victims. They seem to be wrapped in their blankets, primarily, standard for the transport-then-display model of FSA corpse-handling. Some are still wrapped tightly and not displayed. At least one seems to be wrapped tightly in plastic, as well as a carrying blanket. One at least is already in a wooden coffin. Many or perhaps most of the men have (unreadable) notes pinned to their bodies.

Egyptian chronicles shows two photos show lined-up bodies outside the same mosque, as well as victims see in the dark (overnight). One of those on display is the little girl with a horrible head wound, looking more like hot artillery fragment than a sword. [12] She, along with at least one baby and others presumed women and children, are seen in the second nighttime video. (2:22) These are clustered in a side-alcove, and seem to be at least 8-12 bodies in all, perhaps more, but only a small fraction of the total seen. (The Egyptian Chronicles posting features on misplaced photo -the first one shown was already used for a massacre in Douma, late June.

Crucially, media descriptions disagree on how these corpses got inside the mosque: TurkishPress.com reported how "eyewitness" Ali Receb “said in tears that snipers had not let civilians leave the city without exception of children and old people […and…] that Assad’s supporters killed even 156 Syrians who were trying to protect themselves form any attacks at Abu Sulayman mosque.” [31] The Christian Science Monitor heard "The Local Coordination Committees activist group said that some 150 bodies were found Saturday night in the basement of a mosque in what seems to be the largest single killing site." [11] The Telegraph reported: "It was not the only mosque where bodies were found, and it was unclear whether the victims had been brought from other parts of the town or had been killed as they sought sanctuary in places of worship where they wrongly believed they might be safe." [1]

From the video evidence, the confusion is easy to settle; the bodies simply do not seem to have been executed on-site. A few arguably show enough blood loss in situ, but there's nothing like what just 5-6 men spilled across the floor and lower walls in the basement/shelter video (see below). The bodies seen in the inset image have plenty of blood on their blankets, one with facial bleeding from the eye area (covered in the morning), the other a teenage boy with lots of blood down the front of his shirt and a possible sliced throat (with an apparent ice-pack, often placed over serious wounds to slow decay, blocking the view).

Contrary to opposition claims, the victims' deaths, however achieved, and most of the bleeding, likely happened somewhere else. They may have leaked some blood after being placed here in neat rows, especially if it happened shortly after they were killed. They were filmed after that, and the night video was posted sometime on August 25, the first full day of the alleged multi-day massacre. The rebel activists seem to have access to the site, and the bodies in it, at the time of filming, shortly after the placement. At what time prior to this, and in what manner, regime forces had exclusive access to kill and/or dump there, remains to be explained.

Daraya Mosque Location.jpg

Otherwise, the natural guess is this was a rebel base both before and after. Google Maps satellite imagery taken April 26, 2012, shows a white car parked across the middle of the street, as if for security - just outside the west doors into the courtyard. Videos from the 26th show mass grave trenches being dug and filled, apparently, in the large lot on the mosque's east side. This is suggested by this original comparison of one such video [32] with the surrounding of the mosque on Google Maps, as shown below. Another video clarifies the scene, panning up to the west and seeing the dome and minaret with proper spacing. [33] (There is also another lot the same size west of this, separated only by a row of small buildings of unclear ownership).

Further analysis of available photo and videos of the Daraya massacre mass grave trenches suggests this mosque is the location of all of them. Available videos, besides the ones cited here, never pan up enough to see much of the surroundings, but they seem to be the same place. One shows a wall that's consistent. All useful photographs clarify the picture. southwest corner – corner of wall and tree spacing match , southeast corner : match on building heights and tree spacing, Northeast corner, perfect wall match and across the street same image, better resolution, west wall, tree match, dome and minaret both visible (blurry). Opposition trenches in an opposition mosque hosting at least those reported 150 corpses in rebel possession. Apparently no rebels have owned up to trucking any bodies in, but they did later truck them out to the yard and handled the burial on-site.

"Shelter" Captives and Basement Victims

Man interviewed as seen on Addounia TV

A video report by Addounia TV, Damascus has a reporter following the army into areas ostensibly just "liberated" and still not cleaned-up. People being evacuated from a rebel-administered "shelter" were also shown and spoken to at some length. All those interviewed expressed relief that Syrian government security forces were back in control. One woman, in a truck with another woman and a few children, told Addounia: "We don’t know where we’re going. They expelled us from our houses claiming security forces are coming to kill us. Once we reached here (with security) we felt safe, I swear. ... They were all men with weapons, they told us to leave our houses, security forces are coming. When security forces saw us, God protect them, they brought us a car and taking us to our homes." [6]

A man spoken to, standing together with other men and older boys, was consistent, and even described killings at the rebel-administered shelter he was forced into. As the provided English captioning says: "Yesterday armed gangs came here. They forced us to go into shelters. They said there are clashes. I ran from my home for three days now. (holding back tears) I don’t know where my family is. Our women, where are they? When we came to the shelter, they came and told us the army has come, we were relieved. They took us upstairs, took our IDs. When they saw mine they made me [stand aside by the wall]. They sent us inside a room, then we heard the sound of bullets. When we tried to return to the shelter, the women were crying loud, when we went upstairs we saw all the (other) men were dead. Yesterday we were in the shelter only hearing the sound of bullets. We don’t know them, they come from here, look, that’s their exploded car here." [6] Some other men are spoken to, showing more extreme exasperation at the armed men. The location seen at 4:44-4:49 in the Addounia video has been located, near the center of the city. [5]

Dead bodies in basement as seen on activist video

Activists posted a video of more victims discovered only on August 27, which the New York reported "showed a pile of bodies in the corner of a basement of what appeared to be a large home." [20] The basement shown in that video is large and empty enough, it doesn't visibly seem to be in a home. The basement might be recently finished, perhaps used as an underground impromptu shelter of sorts. The victims shown (see inset for some) seem to be all adult men, at least five of them, all apparently shot in the head. The two on the other side of the wall, shown later, are exceptionally bloody. [34] There is a sex segregation partially indicated among those freed from other rebel-run forced "shelters," which would explain this array more so than a family home. However, the man's reference to women shouting as the men were killed (see above) complicates that notion. (more thoughts would be helpful)

Further bringing together reports from basements and from basement shelters was Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman telling AFP, "Bodies were found in fields, basements and shelters and in the streets," ... "He said 200 bodies had been identified so far, including 15 women and 14 children, and that many of the victims had died in shelling or were summarily executed." [24]. Alleged witness Anas al-Dabas, speaking to the Daily Beast in 2014 how, after "900 people were killed in two hours," “I went to the building next to my house, we went to the basement and we saw 70 dead bodies. They were summarily executed with bullets. Their ages ranged from 15 to 75 years old. I know all of them, these were all my neighbors and friends.” [22] Janine DiGiovanni reported for the Guardian:

"People hid in basements, and when the army arrived some were pulled out and killed outside; others were sprayed with machine-gun fire, Rashid says. "We had some informers who pointed out where opposition people were. They let the women run away but they shot the men one by one. In some cases, they went into the basement and killed old men and children – just because they were boys." His wife's four brothers and three nephews were among the victims." [14]

To clarify a central point, then: the scene above is of only men. Those freed describe rebel confinement and sex segregation. Rebels claim people hid in basements of their own free will. But families on their own will not segregate themselves as seen it at least the one case (more thorough study of the videos would help here). That is a prisoner management thing, just like the witnesses describe. So whoever killed them, it seems most likely that it was rebel prisoners who were killed.

Other Killings and Deaths

Many of the dead were said to be from shelling and similar attacks by the Syrian military preceding the invasion of the 24th. One photo, of a dead woman and covered others, may show the aftermath of that. There's much blood amid a war-ravaged living room, as seen with this article (copy). It says "This citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network SNN, taken on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012, purports to show people who were killed by shabiha, pro-government militiamen in Daraya, Syria." Egyptian chronicles shares a photo from the Abu Suleiman al-Darani mosque, a dead little girl (see "mosque victims") with a horrible head wound, with its charred edges looking more like the work of a hot artillery fragment than a sword.

There were other batches of bodies seen around, blamed on the same parties (Shabiha, primarily), but more clearly executed. These, being not categorized above, are seen primarily in open spaces that opposition media had access to, and that are hard to place as related to or separate from any of the above sub-sets of killings. Abu Kinan, an activist, told the Guardian: "One of the massacre survivors told me that when the Syrian army stormed their alley, they put more than 50 people up against the wall. "As they began spraying them with bullets, he threw himself to the floor. He was covered with blood though he was not shot. He pretended that he was dead. Four of his family were killed." [19] There is a mid-resolution photo of the Daraya aftermath, run with an article in the International Business Times, showing this scene or one like it. [25] This shows at least seven fighting-age men piled by a blood-smeared wall. Two are bound hands-behind, one has been shot in the buttock and right side, and perhaps a massively broken right leg. Another man has a grossly broken left arm. One is in his underwear, and two have their pants pulled down halfway, a frequent sign of disrespect in the Islamic world. Most of them also have their shirts pulled up, perhaps for a similar reason.

Another scene was captured on video, purportedly on Aug. 27 and titled "Genocide in Daraya - Assad Butchers Hundreds of Sunnis As World Watches in Silence." In an unclear location, a total of 28 corpses, mostly adult men, are panned across. At least three children, presumably male, are present. (#8 is aged about 11, with a nasty black chest wound - #2 is about 5,in white undershirt - #5 is about 3 with long hair and a burned face). There's much torn, burned, bruised, peeled-back flesh (see #1 at 0:00, #16/17 at 0:32-35, etc.). Some bodies are turning gray, and some of the older, bald men are puffing up with days of decay. #19 is blackening and shriveling, collapsed abdomen and skeletal chest, its bloated tongue signaling distaste with the top of its head being missing for up to a month now. (0:41) Most have their pants either half-down or just gone, nearly all have their shirts removed or pulled back over the head.

Some were clearly shot in the head, and many appear to still be bound. Body #22 in that batch is a young man, red shirt pulled up, pants removed. He had blood from the nose, throat clearly sliced open. (0:54) There is a photograph also of the same array of bodies, seen from the 28 end. #22 is visible, the same evident slice of the neck. The photo is saved, but original link is elusive. (citation forthcoming) At least one other video also captured the scene, with more emphasis on the children there. [35]. And there are further videos yet - one more example with some more harrowing glimpses of the widespread torture of their bodies, cutting holes in and peeling flesh from the belly and thighs, and more, including something bloody in the groin (evident at least with #22 and 24). [36] Again, anti-government activists seem to be the nearest at hand to collect and display the evidence.

Mass Graves

Daraya massgrave 1.png

The most famous images for the Daraya massacre are those of at long trench graves used for early burial of the victims. Identified or not, Muslim practice puts a high premium on a swift burial in the dirt, within 24 hours of death if possible. Given that most of these photos and videos have been provided from anti-regime activists, they seem to be running the burial operation. As established above in Mosque Mysteries, the singular site of all known imagery of mass burials in Daraya is the large lot on the east side of the Abu Suleiman Al Darani Mosque, apparently rebel-held. It's not clear how many were interred here, but at least three long rows were dug, and were filled with dozens. The half-filled trench chown in the inset image, from a short youtube clip, holds about 15-20. [37] The minimum number buried here should be considered the 120-150 or so bodies known to be at the mosque.

One interesting video that helped establish that shows bodies on August 26 also shows additional bodies brought in besides the those previously seen. These three main bodies focused on are laid on a truck bed, in clean blankets, but have clearly been dead many days, as well as previously buried. That's judging by the red-earth cast on their skin and clothes alike, and the gross bloating of their bellies, faces, and tongues; one looks like he choked on a giant sea slug. The title translates: Darya 26 August 2012 massacre family Albulaksa," but the men wear what could be military uniforms. [38] They've been dead probably 6-9 days. Also not likely shelling victims, they are generally intact and were probably executed, days before the invasion. Even bodies over a week dead and dug back up somehow came into rebel possession to help pad the number allegedly killed in the government onslaught.

Janine DiGiovanni for the Guardian reported that "the local gravedigger says he has already buried 1,000, and more bodies are found every day." This was apparently at the cemetery in the center of town, where she saw freshly-filled graves that looked "like they harbour at least several hundred dead." [14] The higher numbers of dead become more plausible when one realizes that's at a second location from the mass grave at the mosque.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Syria: hundreds of bodies found in Daraya" By Adrian Blomfield, Middle East Correspondent, The Telegraph, August 26, 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The War Against Syria's Civilians"By John Lee Anderson, the New Yorker, August 30, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 "Robert Fisk: Inside Daraya - how a failed prisoner swap turned into a massacre." By Robert Fisk, the Independent, August 29, 2012.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Satellite imagery of Daraya, Syria, from Google Maps - Cemetery"
  5. 5.0 5.1 Satellite imagery of Daraya, Syria, from Google Maps - Street corner and Shrine
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 "Addounia TV report on the Daraya Massacre with translation" Video posted by Arabi Souri, August 26, 2012.
  7. "Satellite imagery of Daraya, Syria, from Google Maps - Mosque"
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Gruesome killings mark escalation of violence in Syrian capital" By Liz Sly, Washington Post, August 24, 2012.
  9. "Syria army launches fresh assaults in main cities" by Sara Hussein, Jakarta Globe, August 25,2012.
  10. "List Martyrs Darya days 22.23.24.25 updated constantly: Paper 4"
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 "‘Atrocity on a new scale'? Syrians piece together story of Daraya massacre. " Arthur Bright, Christian Science Monitor, August 27, 2012.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Another massacre, the biggest so far!! Egyptian chronicles, Aug. 26, 2012
  13. داريا 25 آب 2012 شبيحة الأسد وهم يقتحمون المنازلPublished on Aug 25, 2012 by mousa4hak
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Syria crisis: Daraya massacre leaves a ghost town still counting its dead By Janine DiGiovanni in Daraya. The Guardian, Sept. 7, 2012, 13:31 EDT
  15. Daily reports of the "Syrian Center for Documentation" for August 24, 25 and 26
  16. "Dozens of bodies found in besieged Syria town" by Naharnet Newsdesk 25 August 2012, 16:14
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Syria activists report "massacre" by army near Damascus" By Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Reuters, August 25, 2012, 6:07 pm EDT
  18. [1] Al-Arabiya, August 27, 2012.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Syria’s Worst Massacre: Daraya Death Toll Reaches 400" Mona Mahmood, Luke Harding and agencies in Damascus, The Guardian, Tuesday 28 August 2012 15.56 EDT
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 "Crackdown Toll Seen as Syrians Bury Hundreds" By an EMPLOYEE of THE NEW YORK TIMES in SYRIA and DAMIEN CAVE. Published: August 26, 2012
  21. Hungry for peaceNadine Elali, Now Lebanon, September 15, 2012
  22. 22.0 22.1 Obama Administration Stiffs Chemical Survivors on New Claim By Josh Rogin and Noah Shachtman. The Daily Beast, February 20, 2014
  23. Syria crisis: Fighting rages around Damascus – Tuesday 28 August 2012The Guardian, August 28 2012
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 "Assad slams anti-Syria 'conspiracy' after massacre claims Jakarta Globe, Aug. 27, 2012.
  25. 25.0 25.1 "Syria Civil War: Daraya Massacre Toll Rises as Film of Carnage Emerges (VIDEOS)" Vasudevan Sridharan, International Business Times, August 27, 2012.
  26. "Daraya Coordination Committee press release" posted on facebook, August 29, 2012
  27. Lebanese learn of mother's slaying in Syria on TV, Daily Star, Lebanon (AFP), September 2, 2012
  28. "Robert Fisk: Minister for information who wants to go straight" Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 31, 2012.
  29. داريا 26 آب 2012 مجازر النظام والمقابر الجماعية ج1 Published on Aug 26, 2012 by mousa4hak (Darayya Coordination Committee)
  30. داريا 25 آب 2012 أحد المجازر بحق المدنيين والأطفال Published on Aug 26, 2012 by mousa4hak (Darayya Coordination Committee)
  31. Eyewitnesses tell AA about Darayya massacre PUBLISHED: 8/29/2012 TurkishPress.com
  32. داريا 26 آب 2012 مجزرة عائلة البلاقسي +18Published on Aug 26, 2012 by mousa4hak
  33. شام ريف دمشق داريا دفن شهداء المجزرة الاسدية في مقبرة جماعية 26 8 2012 ج1Published on Aug 26, 2012 by SHAMSNN
  34. "داريا : مجزرة جديدة والتنكيل بالجثث 26-8-2012" Youtube video. Published on Aug 26, 2012 by mousa4hak
  35. +18 Damascus Massacre دمشق داريا - مجزرة مروعة 27-8-2012Published on Aug 27, 2012 by syrbouazizi5
  36. شام ريف دمشق داريا مجزرة جراء ... تحذير الفيديو قاسيPublished on Aug 27, 2012 by SHAMSNN
  37. داريا 26 آب 2012 - مقابر جماعيةج1 Published on Aug 26, 2012 by Published on Aug 26, 2012 by Mousa Abd Al Hak
  38. "داريا 26 آب 2012 مجزرة عائلة البلاقسي +18"Published on Aug 26, 2012 by mousa4hak