Houla:Alleged witnesses for a government/Shabiha attack

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At this site, there are two groups of witnesses to the Houla massacre; those listed here are generally considered the correct ones and the only ones that matter. They blame the Syrian government artillery and troops, and allied "Shabiha" militia members, for the May 25 attack and eventual massacre of a reported 108 people. 'Any number of the following alleged witnesses could be the same as another – some obvious matches have already been compressed. Different name transliterations are given, but those very similar (like Abdul Razak and Abdel-Razzaq) are clearly, in context, the same family name.

Alex Thomson's visit to Houla

Alex Thomson reporting for Channel 4 with UN observers in the background[1]

While most if not all other testimonies of this narrative were obtained by indirect means like telephone or Skype, this first set is first-hand.

Two journalist teams, Alex Thomson for British Channel 4[2] and Catalina Gomez for Colombian El Tiempo[3] visited Taldou together with the UN observers on Sunday, the 27th. They were unable to enter the city center and stopped on main street, where they were told by the army that the massacre was the work of terrorists.

Alex Thomson's team returned on Wednesday the 30th, again with UN observers, and this time made it to what he claimed to be the center of the city (in reality "Revolution Square" on the northern edge of Taldou) where he was "pulled physically from house to house by people desperate to get their story to the outside world"[4]

Channel 4 video reports show him with the UN observers and residents[1] on Wednesday and with the army while shooting is still going on on Sunday.[5]

File:Thomson witness Houla.png
Thomson interviews this man on Revolution Square in Taldou

In a piece run below a Daily Mail article he says that "I was the only journalist to venture into Houla in the days after the atrocity, and saw not only the devastation wrought by the massacre, but also the impact of the shelling which kills and maims civilians daily. What I saw during my time in the town left me in little doubt of the ambiguities of the situation." [6]

Thomson has since tried to investigate another massacre and is convinced that the Free Syrian Army sent him and his team deliberately into a trap to get killed by the Syrian Arab Army, because "Dead journos are bad for Damascus.".[2]

During his visit of the 30th, the first person Thomson cited seems to have functioned as his guide and tells the textbook story of this narrative:

Guide

"Another man suddenly approaches, educated with good English. He has gone through the emotions to reach cold, measured anger. Over the next three hours I will deliberately ask him the same question to see if his story alters in any detail. It does not. He is willing to be interviewed and identified on camera. But to protect him we do not do this. Channel 4 News knows his name and full identity. He describes in detail the world has not heard before what happened on Friday. He matters because over the next five hours we spend in Houla, scores of people will corroborate his story in various details. He describes how there was intense shelling of the ground for several hours. After that the Shabiya – armed militia – entered the town from the southern to south western direction. He says there were around 100 of them dressed in military uniforms. They approached Dam Road which connects the large reservoir to the Houla villages. He says – and all agree – these men were Shia and Alawite who had come from specific Shia/Alawite villages to the south and west of Houla. He names several villages and later we are taken to a rooftop where we can see those villages from the overwhelmingly Sunni town of Houla. Two names come up time and again – Kabu and Felleh. They are so close, not more than two or three mile as the most. He goes on describing how the killers had written Shia slogans on their foreheads as they went house to house searching out and slaughtering Sunni families. He says to us: “They have slaughtered us, they have killed us. When this is all over we will be victorious. And we will go there. And we will find them out and we will slaughter them and we will kill them. We will kill their men, women and children as they killed our men, women and children.” Time again we are told there are many bodies still to be recovered."[4]

Younis, 25

25-year-old Younis, lying in a room with two gunshot wounds in his torso. He’s telling us, weakly, how he was trying to help an 11-year-old boy on Friday when he was injured. The boy was shot dead.[4]

Aya, 15

"A 15-year-old girl lies on another bed not 10 yards away describing how she witnessed the Shabiya militia crouching behind a window as she tried to flee. She too was shot." [4] In another article[7] the name Aya is given, although according to the video from his visit (at 3:40), this is the same alleged victim described below as Noura, apparently a member of the Abdul Razaq family. [8] For tallying purposes, they should be considered the same.

Abdul Hamad, elderly man

Knows not only that his daughter was killed but that her throat was hacked with a knife, it seems, wielded by men who live just a few miles distant.[4]

Abdul Bari, 30

Describes how he came by blast wounds during the protest after prayers on Friday.[4]

Al-Sayed Family

Ali Al-Sayed, 11 (stated)

Ali as seen on his famous interview video
Main article: Ali Al-Sayed

Given as 11 years old, Ali appears closer to eight. He claims to be the only survivor from his household, headed by his father, named either Ali, Shaoqi, or Aref. Speaking to Martin Chulov of the Guardian, Ali said the attackers “spoke with an Allawite accent," and “said they were from Foulah. They were Shabiha. And they were proud of it." [9] "A bald man with a beard shot [my mother] with a machine gun from the neck down. Then they killed my sister, Rasha, with the same gun. She was five years old. Then they shot my brother Nader in the head and in the back. I saw his soul leave his body in front of me." ... [10]

His strong personal conviction that the Syrian people needed foreign intervention is a point he's stated clearly and not contradicted. In the video (3:09-3:38[11]),

"I demand that the international community stop the killing in Syria & in Houla … We’re being killed in our homes. The international community is sitting, just talking and not doing anything. The people must fight for us, do what they say, and protect us.”

This witness deserves a dedicated page; see Ali Al-Sayed, which covers his testimony in more and inconsistent detail - he repeatedly changes the names and numbers of his family members, reports different orders of attack, different stolen items (a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine?), and implicates his mysterious uncle in the killings.

Maryam Sayid

Maryam recounts how she survived the attack on her family

According to DER SPIEGEL who interviewed Maryam in mid-July[12], she and her family lived a few houses down the street from Ali's family. No age is given but Maryam looks like about 17 years old.

Her father Muawiya was a police officer who retired after 30 years in the position of colonel. Her brother Ahmed was a soldier in the Army. She says they treated him not well because he was from Houla which made him suspicious. The Army sent him home with a broken leg.

The whole family was home when at around 4:30 pm a group of soldiers passed their house coming from the waterworks in the south and banged on the door. While she says they were not afraid of the army because of her father's and brother's job, they did not open the door.

She says: "And if they were terrorists, how could they get here through the two checkpoints? What we were afraid of were the shells that had been raining down nearby for hours. It was still light outside, and our house is the last one on the street, so we were afraid to run away.

At about 6 p.m., we heard a tank on the street and men on a car who were chanting: 'Shabiha forever! With our blood and our souls, we sacrifice ourselves for you, oh Bashar!' We had never heard that before."

At about 11 p.m., they heard voices through loudspeakers ordering them to turn off all the lights. Then people banged on the front door and demanded to see the women to rape them first before they would kill everybody. While her father opened the door and tried to stall them, explaining that he was a retired police officer and not with the rebels, the family fled through the backdoor across the field, leaving injured brother Ahmed, who was killed together with his father, and Maryam's mother, who hid in the garden and survived.

Maryam says the killers did not care if the family was with the government or not, they just wanted to commit a massacre.

In a short audio snippet cited by NPR apparently from an interview with the UN observers immediately after the event, Maryam's statement is translated as: "Why would we flee and hide with anti-government rebels, she says, if we were with the government? She describes the killers as Alawite thugs wearing all black and chanting sectarian slogans. ... This was a sectarian killing, Maryam says. They killed us because we are Sunni."[13]

Hana Harmut Sayyid

Hana smiling slightly after seeing something off-camera

"Maryam’s mother," and the wife of police officer Mauwiya Al-Sayyid, Hana spoke with German paper Der Spiegel, featured among their seven witness interviews published July 23. (details forthcoming) [12] She related leaving the house after the rest of those who fled, just before or as the Shabiha and soldiers entered. Left behind were Muawiya, injured son Ahmed who was also an military member, and eight-year-old Sara, who everyone forgot and was still sleeping. Hana says she hid in the flower garden "behind the house," and overheard the whole massacre inside. "I heard everything from my hiding place under the flowers." The attackers ignored Muawiya's pleas to respect his military service and spare his children. They beat and insulted him, and finally killed him, along with Ahmed and Sara.

Some strange features of Hana's account are worthy of note. She was seen looking at someone off screen early in the interview, and whatever she saw made her smile briefly, before her face again went serious. She sounds possibly out-of-character referring to left-behind daughter Sara. "The daughter was sleeping and woke up when she heard voices. She began to cry. She screamed “mama, mama, mama!” She said "the daughter," not "my daughter." The soldiers came in the front of the house facing the road, after driving up on the road. Hana and the others left the back way. When they left, and "got into a car and drove away," she saw them somehow and "they looked happy. They said, “let’s go guys, the job is done!” It's only after that she says "I left the garden and went into the house." [12]

Rasha al-Sayed Ali, 29

Rasha, whose family home is in the south of Taldou, told the UK Guardian: "We looked outside and saw the army checking houses in the neighbourhood. They were near the water plant and one of the tanks started firing on our neighbourhood. They were trying to give cover to soldiers who were starting to break into the houses. There was knocking on our door and my father answered." But it was Rasha who showed the soldiers her father's ID card proving he was a retired soldier. They didn't seem to care, pushed Rasha and four other women into a corner as beat her father. "Then they brought my father into the room and shot him in front of us," she said. "I saw my father's brains spill from his head." [9]

Rasha said the attackers were "security men and Shabiha," and one of them fired his gun into the ceiling, she said, and shouted: "We took revenge for you, Imam Ali," the original Imam of the Shia faith.

She recalled them then wondering out loud what to do with the children. "Shoot them before the elders," it was decided. Sayed Ali was shot in the chest. "I fell to the floor. After a while, I looked around to see that all my brothers and my mother were sinking in blood. I started to crawl and could hear the cry of my cousin who was only one month old. The baby's mother was dead. Four of my sisters and my pregnant sister-in-law were killed. So was our neighbour. My brother's baby was two months old and sleeping upstairs. They shot her too." [9]

Abdel Razaq Family

Some of the following are placed within this family by citing around 50 family members killed (perhaps in the same house). Only the Adbel Razaq family is reported as suffering that scale of loss, with 62 total killed, in numerous households, leaving it unlikely that so many could be in one. It's said that the family occupied nine houses near each other next to the city's dam. [14][15]

Hassan/Abu Firas Abdel-Razzaq

Main article: Hassan Abdel-Razzaq

Hassan Abdel-Razzaq spoke in some detail to the UK Daily Mail about his slain family - a wife and five children. Speaking via Skype, and channeled to them by activists in Houla and London, Hassan is an activist himself. He says he was arrested twice in connection with protesting the regime, but never for terrorism. He says he hid nearby while his family was killed that day by the Shabiha. He discovered their bodies shortly afterwards and was transformed, carefully photographing them himself at the mosque to following day so the world would see, for example, his10-year old's palsied brain spilling out of his split skull. [16]

There is also an Abu Firas Abdulrazak, who must be the same man, having the same apparent family, just using a slightly different name. He spoke to Martin Fletcher of the Times in enough detail to establish the link. [17] And the, strangely, there is another Abu Firas Abdul Razaq heading one of the attacked households who, according to alleged witness (Major Jihad Raslan) was "slaughtered" alongside his family. See the main article for explanation.

Rasha Abdul Razaq

Rasha (right) and her mother

BBC's report listed Rasha Abdul Razaq and gave her account, abbreviated here:

"We were in the house, they went in, the Shabiha and security, they went in with Kalashnikovs and automatic rifles. We asked them what was going on ...They took us to a room, and hit my father on the head with the back of a rifle and shot him straight in the chin. ... We were about 15 people. Then they opened fire. After they shot us they started to step on us, and one of the men asked the other to check whether we were all dead. Then they went outside and started shooting in the air.
"We were eight siblings, including myself, and my sister-in-law and her son - she was also six months pregnant. With us as well were my father, my uncle's wife and her daughter, as well as our neighbour and her three kids (see "Fatima"). My aunt and her two daughters - one of them was only injured and she's here with me - she is one month old, the other one died. We were all in the house. I survived with my mother and the one-month-old girl and my sister. They shot at us but we survived." [18]

Khaled Yacoub Oweis for Reuters seems to be describing the same array of people, unnamed:

"They entered our homes ... men wearing fatigues herding us like sheep in the room and started spraying bullets at us," said an apparently injured woman in a video released by activists. "My father died and my brother, my mother's only son. Seven sisters were killed," the woman said, lying next to another injured woman and near a baby with a chest wound. [19]

Rasha May also be the "Unidentified girl interviewed by UN obervers" in [13] Original video of the scene Reuters described seems fairly elusive, but copies of it exist. [20] This shows, as the other sources describe a younger woman or girl (Rasha), an older woman (her mother), and an infant (two months, bandaged chest). Rasha, presumably, does most of the speaking, in a pleading, emphatic manner, describing how the Shabiha attacked their massive family. The caption in the screen grab here (Spanish subs) translates "the Interior Affairs Minister accuses armed groups of the massacre," but she knows that's not true. Under care of the accused armed groups, all three are getting medical treatment consisting of, at least, a tube draining their (excess?) blood into large plastic cans on the floor. All three of them, as with "Noura," need the procedure, and the cameraman makes special note of all three blood cans slowly filling up. The baby's tube runs from her chest. Rasha's runs from the left wrist, with bandages suggesting her injury is to the right hand. It's hard to be sure, but her can appears to be over half full.

Abdul Razaq, Rasha’s Mother

Seen slumped in bed next to Rasha in the video. [20], and apparently described by Oweis in the video of them, quoted as saying "they came to us from (the nearby villages of) Fela and Sharklia. They are Alawite pigs. They attacked us and said 'die you pigs' and left." [19] Rasha's unnamed mother spoke more to BBC reporters by phone/Skype. There she said:

"He [an attacker] said: 'We are from the mountain there, from Fulla,' so I said: 'We are neighbours then, we don't have any terrorists here,' and he said: 'You are the terrorists'. They thought I was dead. It was thanks to God that I survived. He was shooting my kids and yelling. Please get me and my daughter some protection - we are staying now in different people's houses. We are worried they will liquidate us." [18]

Abdul Razak, Rasha's Infant Niece

Baby AbdulRazaq on May 26, UNSMIS video

Clearly not a witness with an account, but a survivor, paired with Rasha and her mother, it seems. The baby is allegedly Rasha's niece, and was injured in the chest. [18][19] Seen in the video, she's got blood draining from her tiny bandaged chest, blood-soaked on the side. She seems a little weak but alert and calm - a very strong child. The rebel filming the infant asks the world is she is a terrorist (1:22), as the government there had supposedly implied. Chances are she is not. [20] This same infant with same injuries can apparently be seen in a UNSMIS monitor video of May 26 (2:30 mark, see inset). [21] She's being carried by a man through the crowd outside the mosque, as a female attendant carries the blood can attached already, along with an infusion bag. The latter seems to be unneeded the following day.

Abdul Razaq, Rasha's Sister

Not seen anywhere or named, but mentioned in the BBC report as a fourth survivor from the family of about fifteen. "I survived with my mother and the one-month-old girl and my sister. They shot at us but we survived." [18]

Abdel Razzak, elderly woman

Spoken to by Human Rights Watch, apparently by phone/skype. They heard "At around 6:30 p.m., just as the shelling intensified on parts of Houla, armed gunmen wearing military uniforms attacked homes situated on the outskirts of town on the road leading to the Houla dam, three survivors of the attacks told Human Rights Watch." [22] She said:

I was in the house with my three grandsons, three granddaughters, sister-in-law, daughter, daughter in-law and cousin. [On May 25] around 6:30 p.m., before sunset, we heard gunshots. I was in a room by myself when I heard the sound of a man. He was shouting and yelling at my family. I hid behind the door. I saw another man standing outside by the entrance door and another one inside the house. They were wearing military clothes. I couldn’t see their faces. I thought they wanted to search the house. They walked in the house; I didn’t hear them break in because we never lock the doors. After three minutes, I heard all my family members screaming and yelling. The children, all aged between 10 and 14, were crying. I went down on the floor and tried to crawl so I could see what was happening. As I approached the door, I heard several gunshots. I was so terrified I couldn’t stand on my legs. I heard the soldiers leaving. I looked outside the room and saw all of my family members shot. They were shot in their bodies and their head. I was terrified to approach to see if they were alive. I kept crawling until I reached the back door. I went outside, and I ran away. I was in shock so I don’t know what happened later.

Abel Razzak, boy, 10

Spoken to by Human Rights Watch as well, he said:

I was at home with my mother, my cousins, and my aunt. Suddenly I heard gunshots. It was the first time I heard so many gunshots. My mother grabbed me and took me to a barn to hide. I heard men screaming and shouting. I heard people crying especially women. I looked outside the window. I was peeking sometimes but I was afraid they would see me. Men wearing [uniforms] like army soldiers, green with other colors [camouflage] and white shoes, entered our house. They went outside after a couple of minutes. Then across the street I saw my friend Shafiq, 13 years old, outside standing alone. An armed man in military uniform grabbed him and put him at the corner of a house. He took his own weapon and shot him in the head. His mother and big sister – I think she was 14 years old – went outside and started shouting and crying. The same man shot at both of them more than once. Then the armed men left and the FSA soldiers came. [22]

Abdel Razzak, boy’s mother

The boy's mother gave about the same story: "At around 6:30 – 7:00 p.m., we started hearing the sound of gunshots. They were very close to us. We ran and hid in the barn. After the armed men left, and I heard the sound of their cars driving away, my sister and I went outside. I saw Shafiq [the 13-year-old friend of her son] on the ground dead. I saw three families: three women, two of them with children. All of them were shot. Some were shot in the head and others had multiple shots in the body. One of the children survived. She is 14 years old. She was shot twice in the leg. I also saw my cousin who was shot in the chest. A 13-year-old boy who was paralyzed was shot three times in his chest as well." [22]

Noura, 15

Noura reveals the Alawite heresy

Injured, apparently shot in the chest, a girl named Noura is shown in an amateur video. [23] Covered in a blanket, a tube in her left side seems to carry away (excess?) blood, and a drip of clear fluid runs into her left arm. She speaks in a small, weak voice, saying in part: "The Army, and Assad's Shabiha" were responsible (per the English subtitles). "First they shot the other family. Then they shot our family. Afterward they went looking for money and gold and took it. ... I pretended I was dead so they wouldn't shoot me again." She says "about 50" of her relatives were killed, apparently but not necessarily the one she crawled over "one by one" in her own house. (0:59-1:10) "All of them ... our family, my siblings, my uncle's family, all of them" were killed, "except me." As noted later (2:32) her mother wasn't killed. "My Mom ran away." Perhaps that was sometime prior to the massacre, for some unrelated reason. Perhaps she escaped the killing and ran away, or was killed trying and she doesn't know. The attackers wore army uniforms, Noura said. ""Come on, let's go shoot them." that's how they spoke. And filthy words." They finished off survivors, except her, and stole their jewelry. "As they were leaving, they found this Qur'an (in her father's pocket). They grabbed it and started stepping on it. (interviewer cites a passage) They stepped all over that Qur'an."[23] She seems about the right age to be the 15-year-old girl Alex Thomson was shown. In fact, she's shown in his video report from May 27, at 3:40 - same face, same injury, different room and clothes, different name: "Aya." [8]

Displaced Woman

As seen in a Youtube video with English subtitles, several women and dozens of children are crowded together in one room, around 50 people. At least three women offer details or accounts, all conscientiously veiled but for the eyes, seeming extra conservative for Syrians. Their homes and crops and livestock were destroyed; they've been displaced. The third woman to speak specifies she's from the Abdul Razaq family (1:56) "I lost more than 100 people from my family only, all my relatives. ... Our family name is Abdul Razak. ... Of the family of Abdul Razak only, 85 people died, all cousins. These gangs of Shabiha have slaughtered them. They were wearing camouflage clothes and sneakers. We were attacked by the Shabbiha (thugs) of al-Qabu neighboring village. We hid in the cow sheds to survive."

Others

Mohammed Faur Abdul Rassak

Mohammed Faur Abdul Rassak, Der Spiegel, July 2012

"Resident of Houla," spoke with German paper Der Spiegel, featured among their seven witness interviews published July 23. He is not, apparently, any direct relation to the targeted Abdel Razaq households. But his accounts is rather helpful in establishing how the Alawite killers accessed the site and massacred over 60 members of that family. [12]

My name is Mohammed Faur Abdul Rassaq and I come from Houla. It wasn’t easy to get to this region because there was a massive amount of weapons fire from the military base at the water works. Tanks and heavy artillery were also used.
I was located on high ground and could see what was happening in the village of Fullah. There were many men there, more than 400. I also saw more than 10 vehicles. Then four or five more vehicles came. The passengers had machine guns and they were dressed in both military and civilian clothing. They were at the site where the massacre would be carried out.

This part is confusing and likely confused. Fullah/Foulah is 5 km away to the southwest. He specifies the massacre site, on Saad road, so he must have meant Taldou, his own town. There is some pretty high ground around the south of Taldou, so having such a good view shouldn't be ruled out, even as he expands his view to the north of the massacre site:

At the same time, another group came from the army checkpoint at Muassasat al-Miyah. The group comprised around 30 people. They entered into the street where the massacre took place. I could see them through the trees, but not very clearly. They met up where the street begins. The vehicles also gathered there. The army came to the site and kept the street entrance under surveillance. I tried to get closer to observe the events more closely. But a man in a military uniform caught me as I was doing so. He ran towards me, but I was able to flee and return to the village.

"Fatima"

Houla survivor Fatima.png

A video interview posted May 29 shows a woman laying on a couch, intravenous drip in her right hand, but no obvious injury. According to the English captioning, she reports the army was firing on the city in the afternoon, so she took the kids to a neighbor’s house (apparently of the Abdel Razaq family). Her husband had just left to check on their cattle (sheep), and she sent her uncle to retrieve him. Her uncle "called us and told us that the soldiers are surrounding my husband and shooting the cattle. Then some of the neighborhood young guys went to help my husbandfrom the soldiers. But my uncle never came back.” She stayed hidden as the shooting continued, saw soldiers break intio her vacant house, cursing, enter other homes, shooting and leaving. She called one house, and the occupants were alive. The soldiers were just "looking for things." She describes the plunderers as “Assad’s army soldiers, and they were Alawites, and I saw their faces.”

“After a while, they came to us and started stabbing us and kicking our faces and bodies. They kicked my young kids and put us inside a room, then he fired at us directly using AK47. Then another was finishing those who are not dead. Then he killed everyone in the house. There were around 40 to 50 kids and women inside the house. Then I pretended I was dead and crawled out of my neighbor’s house to my house.” She says she was shot, apparently in the abdomen (“a burning rod inside my stomach”) and her children all killed (three boys aged 6, 4, and 18 months, and a 5-year-old girl). She received calls from a distant cousin and a neighbor, and told all the story: “everyone is killed around me.”

Her husband turned up later and asked “what happened to you, Fatima?” (Meaning 'baby's nurse,' this isn't necessarily her name) He had been off leaving his cattle in a a nearby town, he explained, and reported back they had found more bodies there, including kids kidnapped from Houla. Hearing this, she remembered the soldiers “were cursing a lot at us, calling us animals. I remembered one soldier saying to another “let’s take this kid with us. … I think they took my son. Please, if he is alive, I want him back. My son is only 4 years old. It really burns my heart. Please God, take revenge for me.” [24]

Anonymous, survivor

- "I only survived because one of them shot another by mistake, and he yelled: 'I need help, Fakher was shot'. That kept them busy while we ran away, bullets were flying around us, from the army and the shabiha." (accompanied by others) [18]

Anonymous, survivor

"They took my brothers outside ... I saw bodies, I couldn't recognise my kids from my brothers. It was indescribable. I have three children, I lost three children. I am shaking, I'm shaking as I'm speaking to you." [18]

Um Mohammed, survivor

Spoken to by the BBC. "Um" means "mother of," so this is an anonymous female. (details forthcoming)[18]

Um Abdullah, survivor

Spoken to by the BBC. "Um" means "mother of," so this is an anonymous female. (details forthcoming) [18]

Anonymous, witness

"One resident of Taldou told Human Rights Watch" the following: "At around 2:30 p.m., the army located on the outskirts of town started shelling the neighborhood. Initially, they used tanks, but after couple of hours they started using mortars. The shelling was coming from the direction of the Air Force military college located at the entrance of Houla. Around 7:00 p.m., the shelling intensified and whole buildings were shaking. The army started firing some sort of rockets that would shake an entire area." [22]

Further Arabic Language Video Interviews

Later in the research, we started looking at Arabic language interviews of alleged survivors/witnesses, as found on Youtube. There are quite a few of these, only some yet listed. For the time being, we cannot discern just what they are saying.

Unnamed Boy in yellow
Houla Boy survivor smiles.png

Obviously, most likely, a member of one of the above families, but unspecified, this boy was late to be added to the list. A video dated and posted May 26 explained in the title "الحولة طفل يروي قصته مع المجزرة " ("Hula child tells his story with the massacre") as description: "المكتب الاعلامي في الحولة" (Houla Information Office). [25] We cannot tell yet what the boy, aged about 12, is saying. He may not claim to be another miracle survivor, but must apparently be some kind of alleged witness. He sounds rather normal and non-shattered, seems uninjured, and is surrounded by a resting toddler and other, somewhat inquisitive children. One of these, an older girl to his right, is also eager to talk. But she also starts smiling, and only by some effort manages to not laugh, as the horror of the previous day is allegedly re-lived next to her (see inset). It's contagious; even the boy cracks a slight smile, but not even the hint of a giggle (0:12-0:16). The camera pans out right there, then back on the boy alone, face straightened, and the girl is no longer consulted. He tells what he saw... Another posting with subtitles helps "Al-Holeh, 26 May 2012 - a child relates his story":

The army entered homes and started destroying homes. My mother told us to hid in the animals' paddocks for a half hour. [this is where the girl starts giggling]. When we came out, we saw blood everywhere. ... I saw the neighbors slaughtered, old and young. ... a little boy about this size, I saw him slaughtered. Q: Were any of your friends killed? A: Yes, Ayham and Shafiqand Yasser and Yasmeen and Maha. Q: What would you like to say to Bashar? A: I want to tell him to go away and leave us in peace.

More seriously, the girl answers the same question: "go away and get your forces away from us."

A Family
Houla girl smiles.png

It's not entirely clear here who survived and/or witnessed what. They're in at least two videos: Hula family massacre survivor tells her tragedy: A very impressive clip tragedy worth looking at it - Hula family survivor recounts tragedy. In the first video, older man starts out speaking, surrounded by six veiled women, one young man, and at least four children. As he gestures for perhaps cutting of bodies, his voice starts cracking with emotion, and his presumed wife starts joining him (1:00) in recounting and even sobbing. A girl in the front (not apparently the same one seen smiling above) can’t stop smiling and laughing at it, sometimes covering her face, sometimes not bothering. At 1 :25 she seems to get confirmation that the other girl to her right finds it kind of funny too, but her self-control is better.

Unnamed Girl in pink

1 6 Al Hoole Homs أوغاريت الحولة حمص , طفلة نجت من المجزرة تروي قصتها امام Ugarit News video, June 1: A little girl in pink, no notable injuries, shyly tells her story, without laughing or even smiling. Her nervious mother smiles with tenderness while holding a soda can with a string or wires stretching out of it (meaning unclear), and a man behind her displays a baby for the camera. The man in the striped shirt apparently interviewing here looks like one of the prominent "Free Houla" activists (ID forthcoming).

Bereaved Mother

a woman who lost girl speech because witnesses Hula massacre

Displaced Woman

As seen in a Youtube video with English subtitles, several women and dozens of children are crowded together in one room, around 50 people. The unnamed boy in yellow (see above) is present. At least three women offer details or accounts, all conscientiously veiled but for the eyes, seeming extra conservative for Syrians. Their homes and crops and livestock were destroyed; they've been displaced. The first one to speak, with an unusual conical headdress, offers a semi-detailed account:

They have raided our home ; one of them stood outside the house, and the other entered in. They first stopped and asked us who was at home. I answered my daughter and the wide of my son, and told them that there were no men inside. There were only children and women. One of the remained outside and the other came in and pushed them to the corner and started firing on them. I survived because I remained standing behind the door. Had he seen me, he would have killed me too.

Killed : Children of my daughter (4),children of my son (3), as well as my cousins (3).

FSA and activists

Mahmoud Al Houli

Al-Houli means 'the one from Houla,' and he may or may not be. He's clearly an "activist," and spoke to CNN; "Al Houli was clear who he held responsible for the tragedy in Houla," and he said "he was at a protest rally in the town on Friday when The military started shooting at the demonstration." [26] Further, he said:

"After that, thugs from the regime came from the surrounding towns, to make a big massacre. While the men were at the demonstration, they attacked the women and children with knives and machine guns."
He said he believed the men who carried out the attack were trying to incite a sectarian conflict in the region.
We are human beings, not animals ... I would like to call for the international community and the U.N. to save our souls....[26]

Rebel Al Houli deplored the situation in rebel-held Al-Houla:

"The situation here is very bad, very, very bad. There is a severe shortage of medical supplies in the local hospitals. Lots of people were injured, but there is a shortage of supplies to treat them with ... no food or medical supplies can come in. The electricity has been cut off. Things are desperate. [...] "[Bashar Al-Assad] needs to leave Syria and get out of the country -- that's the best solution. If he leaves, we can go back to normal life." [...] As he spoke to CNN, a voice boomed from a loudspeaker nearby. "Another person has died," he explained. "They are making the announcement at the mosque." [26]

Defector Major Jihad Raslan

File:Jihad Raslan 1.png
Major Raslan as seen for Der Spiegel, July 2012
Main article: Major Jihad Raslan

"A lot of them were bald and many had beards," he said. "Many wore white sports shoes and army pants. They were shouting: 'Shabiha forever, for your eyes, Assad.' It was very obvious who they were. We used to be told that armed groups killed people and the Free Syria Army burned down houses," he said. "They lied to us. Now I saw what they did with my own eyes." [27]

Raslan also spoke with German paper Der Spiegel, featured among their seven witness interviews published July 23, detailing the houses he was able to inspect within minutes of the killings on Saad Road. The inset image is from that interview (details at the above link, full transcript on the discussion page there). [12]

Akrama Bakour, FSA

A Free Syrian Army fighter given as Akrama Bakour spoke to reporters from the BBC by phone, apparently, after the massacres. It should be noted there is normally no Arabic name Akrama. It is used in place names, but with men it's Akram, meaning generous. In case it matters, the extra syllable is likely the remainder of a dropped middle name.

Anyway, this other Bakour told the BBC:

There were two massacres. The first happened on the Sadd road and started at around 2:30pm on Friday afternoon. The second massacre happened around 11pm, on the road at the main entrance of Taldou, facing the military security point. On the Fulla-Taldou road - 500m to 700m from Fulla village - this village is supportive of the regime - a van, two pickup trucks and a group of motorcycles came from that village. They entered the neighbourhood, and met a shepherd at the entrance. His name is Mahmoud al-Kurdi, and he was with his daughter-in-law and his four grandsons. They shot them, killing them all except the daughter-in-law. She was shot in the thigh and belly area but she is still alive. They ... entered the house of Samir Abdul Razaq ... The next house they entered was the house of Qutayba Abdul Razaq ... The third house belongs to Nidal Abdul Razaq. [18]

He then goes into detail Abdul Razaq sub-families killed at the three houses, some detailed information.

Malik Baqur, FSA

Malik Baqur, Der Spiegel, July 2012

"A military lieutenant and deserter," Malik Baqur spoke with German paper Der Spiegel, featured among their seven witness interviews published, in English, July 23. [12] Lieutenant Baqur says he helped inspect the massacre sites of the Abdul Razaq family, and witnessed the killers leaving in the direction of Foulah. However, his account is confused, with two different versions to Spiegel, between the text summary and the actual video interview, and an unclear timeline.

In text, Malik was "in his cousin's house on Sadd Street when he heard that armed men were coming down from Fullah to Taldou." He remained inside. "Until six o'clock, there was so much shelling that I was afraid to go outside. At about 5:30 p.m., I saw 40 men in uniforms and civilian clothing going up to Fullah," or departing after the massacre. But in his video interview, he says he is "with the Free Syrian Army" perhaps even then, and and "we demonstrated on May 25, after Friday prayers" until the shooting started. Then they sent the noncombatants home for safety while "I stayed with my colleagues at the demonstration site" in the north of town. He then heard, from unspecified "troops" on Saad Street, about the invaders from the Alawite villages of Foullah and Alkabo, and the Shia village Algur. So he walked down Saad Street, stopping 300 meters away from the massacre area, at 6:30. There he watched the killers depart almost all the way back to Foulah.

After this, Malik says he helped his acquaintance Jihad Raslan inspect the homes of those killed. Therefore, see Major Jihad Raslan#Malik Baqur and the Southwest for a little more detail.

Mohammed Tayyib Baqur, FSA

Mohammed Tayyib Baqur, Der Spiegel, July 2012

In their interview series published July 23, 2012, Der Spiegel reports the curious story of yet another Mr. Baqur:[12]

Colonel Mohammed Tayyib Baqur, who served in the Syrian army for two-thirds of his life and deserted a few weeks ago, worked most recently in the political division of the Defense Ministry. He now reports that, on May 28, he received a call from Jamil Hassan, the head of Syrian Air Forces intelligence and one of the leading members of the regime: "He told me to come in on June 2. He pointed out that I was from Houla, and that an international conspiracy against Syria was underway. For that reason, he wanted me to find a few people, as poor as possible, from Houla or the surrounding area. I was to bring them to Damascus so that they could circulate the regime's version of the massacre. He said that the people from Houla would be paid, and so would I. Then he called his office manager and told him to give me 25,000 Syrian pounds." This is the equivalent of slightly more than €300 or roughly $385. After 35 years in the army, says Baqur, he realized that the time had come to change sides. "I didn't want to be part of it anymore, so I brought my family to safety and fled."

Maysara al-Hilawi, activist

"Those who tried to escape were machinegunned and the bodies of nine men and six women who ran away were found today among the farmlands. There are more bodies of victims near roadblocks which we cannot reach." He said 63 people from a single extended family of Sunnis called Abdelrazzaq were killed in their houses. "The shabbiha came back at 2.30 in the morning and killed more than 15 people from the al-Sayyed family in their houses. A baby, Ali Adel al-Sayyed, miraculously survived," Hilawi said, referring to another family of Sunnis. [19]

Hamza Omar, activist

Spoken to by BBC over the phone lines (details forthcoming) [18]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Exclusive eyewitness account from the Syrian town of Houla, Alex Thomson, Channel 4, uploaded May 30, 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 Piecing together the bloody truth in Houla, Alex Thomson, Channel4, published May 27, 2012
  3. Así quedó el sitio de la masacre de 108 civiles en Siria, Catalina Gomez, El Tiempo, published May 27, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Testimony obtained in Houla by Alex Thomson, The searing grief of Houla's survivors, Channel4, published May 30, 2012
  5. what really happened in syria,houla.flv, uploaded by Afsaneh Pakroo, May 28, 2012
  6. "As the world dithers over Syria, shocking evidence of an entire family massacred by Assad thugs: Father finds his wife and five children among the victims of the Houla atrocity" By Nabila Ramdani and Ian Gallagher. The Daily Mail, June 9, 2012.
  7. Answers in Houla are hard to come by, Alex Thomson, Channel 4, published May 31, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 Exclusive eyewitness account from the Syrian town of HoulaPublished on May 30, 2012 by Channel4News, 3:40 mark
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 The Houla massacre: reconstructing the events of 25 May, Martin Chulov for The Guardian, published June 1,2012
  10. Houla massacre survivor tells how his family were slaughtered, Martin Chulov for The Guardian, published May 28,2012
  11. Video-Interview with Ali Al-Sayed published 28 May, with English subtitles here and here, Al Jazeera English Report here
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 Christoph Reuter and Abd al-Kadher Adhun for DER SPIEGEL, "Searching for the Truth Behind the Houla Massacre", published July 23, 2012, video interviews
  13. 13.0 13.1 NPR audio feature by Kelly McEvers, Beirut "Sectarian Syrian Group Blamed In Houla Massacre", published June 5, 2012
  14. "As the world dithers over Syria, shocking evidence of an entire family massacred by Assad thugs: Father finds his wife and five children among the victims of the Houla atrocity" By Nabila Ramdani and Ian Gallagher. The Daily Mail, June 9, 2012.
  15. "Syria: UN Inquiry Should Investigate Houla Killings" Human Rights Watch, May 27, 2012.
  16. "As the world dithers over Syria, shocking evidence of an entire family massacred by Assad thugs: Father finds his wife and five children among the victims of the Houla atrocity" By Nabila Ramdani and Ian Gallagher. The Daily Mail, June 9, 2012.
  17. "Syria: The Tipping Point" Martin Fletcher reports on a war crime in Syria. The Times, May 30, 2012.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 18.8 18.9 Testimonies obtained by telephone interviews by several branches of the BBC, published May 28
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Summary of witness statements from several sources, Reuters, published May 30
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 حمص الحولة 27-5 الناجون من مجزرة الحولة يرون القصة كاملةPublished on May 27, 2012 by soriafree1 (no subtitles) SUPERVIVIENTES de la matanza de Al Hula (HOMS) relatan lo sucedido - Siria - SUBTTITULADO Published on May 27, 2012 by Sirialibre (Spanish subtitles) EU SYRIE-Témoignage de survivants du massacre de Houla - sous-titres français Published on May 31, 2012 by SirieLibre2012 (French subtitles) and
  21. Houla Syria-Houla Killing.movPublished by UNSMIS, May 27, 2012
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 Interviews with "survivors and local opposition activists" by Human Rights Watch, Syria: UN Inquiry Should Investigate Houla Killings, published May 28, 2012. Method of interviews not specified, most likely by phone/skype.
  23. 23.0 23.1 [Girl Survives Al-Houla Massacre By Playing DeadPublished on May 29, 2012 by Syrian4all World (English subtitles)
  24. Youtube video Houla Massacare survivor tells her story (English Caption), published on May 29, 2012 by jadaan22
  25. الحولة طفل يروي قصته مع المجزرة 26-5-2012Published on May 26, 2012 by alhoula samer
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Phone interview with CNN, published May 29, 2012
  27. I saw massacre of children, says defecting Syrian air force officer, Martin Chulov for The Guardian, published June 2,2012