Douma Massacre (early July)

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This was a massacre, or massacre-like string of killings reported in early July 2012. Douma is a suburb of about 110,000 just northeast of Damascus. Most of the actual killing shown seems to have happened days earlier, spanning at least the last week of June. The overall death toll is not clear, but apparently well over 50 at least, possibly in the low hundreds.

Clay Claiborne's Report

Clay Claiborne, at the Daily Kos, has the most cogent summation of the alleged government massacre that somehow went little-noticed despite its apparent size and hideous nature. He shared a few articles and Facebook posts, some photos, and quite a few grisly videos. He wrote perhaps hyperbolically on America's independence day, as the story was breaking at its muted peak:

A massacre on a world historic level has taken place in Douma, Syria in the last week. … It went on through Saturday as the world leaders met about the Syrian crisis in the splendor of Geneva and decided to give Bashar al-Assad more time to handle it his way. It reached a crescendo as the UN Action Group adjourned and the diplomats went off to the press conferences.
Visitors to Douma now describe abandon neighborhoods, completely destroyed with bodies rotting in the streets. It is far to early to know what the death count is. Most probably we will never know. Douma was a city of a half million souls." [1]

Claiborne was sent a photo from the Houla massacre as well, presented as from Douma. It's an unusual view, but compare to: a more common one and note the center stripe of tan is covered, but barely visible in spots between bodies. Check the area by the door and the red carpet. Same carpet design, bodies there in pink and multi-color underneath the white. Otherwise, his collected videos, articles, and photos seem to be relevant and form the core of the materials studied for this article.

Who Was in Charge?

Again, the story is government shelling, a rebel retreat, a government/Shabiha invasion and massacre, then activists taking over the scene and documenting theevidence left behind. As Reuters reported July 4: "Video shot by opponents of President Bashar al-Assad in the city about 15 km (10 miles) north of Damascus on Tuesday displayed gory scenes in homes they said had been overrun by pro-government "shabbiha" paramilitary gangs, after army shelling over the weekend forced rebel fighters to retreat." [2]

As Claiborne passed on: "Al Jazeera Arabic report by Amer Kubaisi on the destruction of Douma. July 3, 2012 |Activists said that 113 people were killed on Monday. Helicopters were used in some areas. The Syrian army launched attacks on this suburb near Damascus killing dozens and displacing families." [1]

However, the rebels also posted a video of the effective destruction of a government tank in Douma on the 4th. And their activists were freely collecting and branding the evidence in those days, rather than the authorities doing so (at least in the cases under question). And a July 4 Reuters report suggested rebels werestill fighting there, just the civilians had all left:

"Given obstacles to independent media coverage in Syria, there was no way of verifying the authenticity of the activist video or the information conveyed. One resident named Ziad told Reuters by telephone that 90 percent of Douma citizens had fled the city of around 110,000 inhabitants. ... "If the government lets them back the rebels will move on to another area to fight," said Douma resident Ziad. "If not they'll do to Douma what they did to Homs," he added, referring to the central city which has seen prolonged urban war." [2]

A June 30 activist dispatch warned "The Damascus Centre for Human Rights Studies and the Syrian Network for Human Rights have verified that regime forces are systematically attempting to wipe the city of Douma off the face of the earth..."

"The Syrian regime’s army troops and security forces raided the city of Douma after fiercely shelling and bombarding it with helicopters. Therefore, the Free Syrian Army members and more than 95 % of its residents fled the city after scores of residents were killed with continual fierce shelling. On Thursday, 28/06/2012, the Syrian regime’s army took the lives of 71 citizens in the city of Douma." [3]

But even without the reinforcement corridor requested, rebel units in Douma still existed, or existed again, in mid-August. For one activity among others, consider the Douma Hostage Massacre where rebels slit the throats of sixteen apparently civilian prisoners. These were previously seen on rebel video, then passed off as regime victims after being "found" dead.

Human Remains in Garbage Bins?

The most incendiary, offensive, and disturbing detail that wins the day for defining the Douma massacre is the discovery that, apparently, implicitly, the (Alwai) Shabiha were castrating rebel (Sunni) boys. One way or another, they were tossing their charred genitalia in the trash receptacles of Douma's alleyways for activists to find.

Reuters: Trail of carnage in trash bins of Damascus suburb

"These are pieces of our children we're pulling out of dumpsters ... We found these body parts and we are still looking for more. These are burned human body parts," said a man picking through an overturned garbage bin. "These are male reproductive organs," he said.
displayed pieces of charred flesh which activists said were severed genitals. "There was more here yesterday," said a man wearing plastic gloves." "But the dogs were taking them." [2]

What seems to be the video in question can be seen here. The nine pieces of drying, rancid flesh shown laid out on cardboard are not readily identifiable as internal or external reproductive organs. The semi-phallic shape (more like a crook-neck squash) clearly makes no sense for a dead penis, even a very large one. There are two recurring complex shapes here, suggesting these are certain organs, and not clearly human at all on the face of it. Somehow goose necks come to mind.

Syrians find mutilated corpses in trash cans By: Amy Silverstein, Global Post, July 4, 2012. [4]

Local activists in Syria say that they are pulling mutilated corpses out of trash cans in Douma. Local state media, meanwhile, is painting a much rosier picture and downplaying concerns about violence, Reuters reported today.

The report comes after security forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar-al Assad stormed through Douma last week, killing at least 83 people, an NGO told the Agence France-Presse.

This remains to be seen. Just below are mentioned two bodies in the street next to a dumpster, not in it. But if true,the question will remain of whose corpses they are and who stuffed them there, barring evidence better than "activists say."

Bodies in the Streets

One frequent sight in videos of the aftermath in this city is bodies rotting in pools of blood. Most of these were seen on about July 3 and 4, and appear to have been dead several days and fairly advanced decay. Some videos, like this and this, show such bodies - with apparently charred heads - already loaded into trucks. A video of July 2 shows executed people on the street, being covered and/or removed, several days dead, darkening with decay - it's dated July 2. One victims shown is a man pulled from his truck and shot on the ground, his feet still up in the truck. He was hauling a lot of large colorful pillows. His head was possibly burnt, as was perhaps some of the other dead. Another short video is a little clearer on the trucker.

File:Douma victim throat detail.png
Victim in black, detail on throat
A video posted July 5 shows a rubble-strewn street, overturned motorcycle, and two dead bodies next to a garbage bin, executed days before, bloated, skin blistering, crawling with maggots, eyes puffing out of their sockets. The one in green fatigues seems to have a bullet hole between the eyes - obviously a “defector.” The other man wears black formal wear,possibly some kind of uniform, and a less clear method of death. He has a nasty wound on his throat, but it doesn't seem to be a full-on sliced jugular. Clearly their deaths had nothing to with shelling, so the video title, "Syrian Militas shelled the town of Douma," might seek to explain why this revenge killing was justified.

Bodies Inside Homes

Into early July but more so in later June, bodies were discoved and then filmed by rebel/activists inside the homes they were massacred in. Ugarit News reported in a Facebook post: "Activists in Douma continued to recover the massacres’ victims who were killed in basements or buried under the rubble."

One video, Reuters reported, "showed a woman and her child prone in a living room. The activist narrating the video said they had been stabbed." [2]

One looks like a genuine shelling victim, in that he's in a shelled room and covered in dust, right hand frozen up defensively. However, it should be noted nothing crushed him - he's only amid the rubble, shielded from the pole stopped short, and under dust, but the layer of dust on him is on top of a blanket covering him,bloodied beneath by something besides shelling, it seems. see here, posted July 4.

Hamdan Hospital Attack

Something Clay Claiborne picked up, source unclear, adds a disturbing twist to the story: "The army stormed Hamdan Hospital, expelled the medical staff and killed the wounded. The smell in the hospital is almost indescribable. | July 4, 2012" Possible video, about 4 minutes, was shared: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmobG5uHbHk [1] Syria, Rural Damascus, Douma, July 01, 2012 / Hamdan Hospital is Deserted! Published on Jul 1, 2012 by proudlydoumani1. (same video as above, but with english subtitles) Description: "Activists report form Hamadan Hospital in Douma after the withdrawal of the regime militias. Hospital seemed deserted and bodies, nurses, patients and even infants were all kidnapped by Al-Assad militias." Another posting, July 2, gives the date June 29. Disassembled beds, missing patients, some blood on the floor. The narrator says babies were removed from incubators. One woman is found alive -a respirator on her face, her bed is soaked with blood, but the cameraman finds her moving and calls to get her some help. "There aren't any doctors. My God, what are we going to do to save her?" The cameraman breaks down in strange sobs.

There is another, shorter video: Syria, Douma, July 04, 2012 Activists Tour Hamdan Hospital After Raid by Regime ForcesPublished on Jul 5, 2012 by proudlydoumani1. Description: "Activist inspects the aftermath of the attack launched by Al-Assad forces on Hamdan Hospital a few days ago, who left the floors filled with blood and the air filled with the stench of death. During the attack, Al-Assad forces killed patients, forced staff to evacuate the hospital and destroyed medical equipment."

Side-clues:

  • Hamdan hospital privately run, apparently suppressed: three doctors arrested April 2011. Al Jazeera
  • Location: Address clues specify Al Jalaa Street. No location pinned down yet.
  • Later killings there, September: "Unidentified bloated and decayed bodies found in Douma’s Hospital" Uruknet
  • Telegraph ,July 6: "The suburb of Douma has been laid to waste ... the regime’s security forces and shabiha death squads have raided makeshift hospitals on al-Jalaa Street."
  • SNHR, June 30: "It is worth mentioning that the regime’s forces and pro-regime shabeeha militias raided the two makeshift hospitals in al-Jalaa Street, so volunteer doctors and paramedics fled to save their lives leaving behind scores of wounded citizens including at least 8 critical situations. There are still some nurses available in makeshift hospitals. However, there are grave concerns that the regime’s forces may extra judicially execute the wounded following the example of Baba Amr when the regime’s army seized control of many makeshift hospitals back then." [3]
  • Field hospitals are used when the main hospitals remain free from rebel control. This main hospital was apparently struck by whomever on the 29th, although videos and acknowledgment seemingly didn't appear until the 1st of July.

Bodies Gathered June 28

Quite a number of bodies were brought to a place with mosque-like pillars and laid out, apparently the night of June 28. This deserves more study.

Claiborne's post was headed by a photo of a photo of dozens of bodies in civilian clothes, laid out at night. They bled here a fair amount, freshly dead, apparently transported there with the blankets they're laid on. The photo was later re-branded repeatedly as a scene from the Daraya massacre.

this video apparently shows the same scene. Men, women, and children seem to be present, freshly killed, brought by someone to a mosque where opposition cameras gather. (more notes forthcoming)

Reuters June 29: Shows bodies at the same scene, covered with white sheets, in daylight.

Syrians in the besieged city of Douma wrapped mangled and bloodied corpses in white burial shrouds early on Friday, according to video posted online, after 190 people were killed in one of the deadliest days of Syria's 16-month-old uprising. Activists said more than 50 of those killed on Thursday died in Douma.
Video published on YouTube showed rows of shrouded bodies lining what activists said was a street in Douma. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 41 people had died in the city, while other activists placed the toll at 59 or higher.

"Douma, the morning of June 29, 2012. This is the massacre committed against the people of Douma. God is our saviour. Two whole families are here (among the dead) ... God help us," said the man filming the scene. One man held up the limp body of a girl, her pink blouse drenched in blood. "This is another massacre of the massacres by Assad and his secret police," he said. "This is another massacre of the massacres by the international community, of all the great nations that have conspired against our people."

A Miracle Survivor

A video, "A Massacre' s Survivor Speaks Out," is dated June 28 (on-screen) but posted July 4. Laying in a bed from an unclear injury, the fighting-age young man covers his upper face with his arm to conceal his identity. His face is blank, grim, emotionless. He's asked questions by the man recording.

"The regime forces came to our home and made all of us go to the apartment downstairs while they were pushing and hitting us. They separated the women from the men. .. they started hitting the men.” (They were all speaking Arabic, all soldiers.) ”They were Al-Assad militias. They asked us if we had any weapons. We said we don’t have any, then they shot the first one.” (yes, because they said no weapons) "Then they started shooting at everybody.” (There were fourteen people, from the same family, herded like this.) "They killed ten. Two [survivors] were injured, and two were not." (He has no idea why they targeted his family.) "It was ten in the morning. At ten in the evening the Free Army came to rescue him. "So you were at their mercy..." "yes, they were outside shooting at homes." "Did anyone bleed to death?" "Yes. Two nephews" (gives names - these were 'youths,' not children.) The villains did nothing to the women. "they just threatened them." "okay, we hope you will get better soon." [5]

Government Version

Reuters reported:

The state news agency SANA, reporting on a ministerial tour of Douma, painted a totally different picture which made no mention of killing or death. It did say that essential services had been damaged and that many Douma citizens had fled to the countryside to escape "terrorism".

"Minister of Health Wael al-Halqi stressed that the Ministry and Damascus Countryside Health Directorate are working hard to rehabilitate Douma Hospital to resume provision of medical services to the people in Douma and its surroundings after its equipment was sabotaged by the armed terrorist groups," it said. [2]

Iranian Press TV, July 4:

"Syrian forces have retaken control of the Damascus suburb of Douma, inflicting heavy casualties on armed groups fighting against the government, Press TV has learnt.

According to Syrian authorities, a large number of gunmen have been killed and many others injured during the days-long military operation to clear the city of the rebels.

Many terrorists were also arrested and a number of others were forced to flee. Some reports suggest that most of the militants operating in Douma were from different Arab nations."

There seems to be little along the line of alternate explanations to the rebel narrative for all these murdere people.At least, there are few hints that make it through to these mainstream media mentions. The alleged presence of terrorists surely suggests what they suppose happened. (references needed)

References