Talk:Life in Liberated Qusayr

From A Closer Look On Syria
Jump to: navigation, search

When Syrian and allied forces re-claimed al-Qusayr (Quseir) in May, 3013 (see Talk:Quseir Campaign), it was widely portrayed as a victory for tyranny and the end of a long period of liberation under rebel control for the better part of two years. But of course, that's not how most of us would describe it, if we knew what happened there. As Paul Wood wrote for the Spectator, "Qusayr is a warning" (and also "Syria's war in miniature," suggesting the whole thing is a warning). The harsh details of life in rebel-held Qusayr show how the conflict "Western governments signed up to help" might become (or, rather, has been becoming) "a sectarian civil war." [1]

This page will compile some reports to share the details of that warning which, sadly, is just one among many. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:07, 16 October 2013 (UTC) and --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:33, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

How Qusayr was Liberated

(forthcoming)

Driving Out the Christians

St. Elias Church in June, 2013
Paul Wood, wrote for the Spectator in August 2013: Syria’s war in miniature: meeting the Christians driven out of Qusayr. This fascinating piece speaks with a few refugees in Lebanon. One is Ilyas who "was, he told me, the very last Christian to flee Qusayr." And another was "Samah, a mother of three who was one of the first to flee."
At first, [Sama] said, their Sunni neighbours tried to protect them. ‘But after a while, the Christians were left with a choice: fight alongside the rebels, or leave Qusayr. Masked gunmen came to our house and shouted for our men to come out. We could see our relatives, already captured, sitting in cars.’ [1]

"It started happening after foreign jihadis arrived," Ilyas said, ... It started with a Christian military family, the Hannas (see below), several of whom were killed, partly going down fighting. "Next, Ilyas said, Christians with no connection to the police or army started to disappear, bodies dumped in the street a couple of hours later." [1]

The head of the FSA’s military council in Qusayr, Abu Arab, was incoherent with rage when I asked why he had failed to protect the Christians. It wasn’t his fault, he said. The West had stood by while the jihadis got arms and funding and corrupted the revolution. ‘The revolution was abandoned by its friends in the West,’ he said. ‘We were left to descend into chaos.’ ... Abu Arab is also now a refugee in Lebanon with his family and most of his men. [1]
Well they sure didn't have the fight-to-the-last-man spirit, while we're on the subject of reasons they failed in their battle, aside from poor choices of who would do most of their fighting for them. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:07, 16 October 2013 (UTC)

The Hannas

Paul Wood traces the troubles to a January 2012 event he was also on had to partially witness. A Christian soldier - Corporal Joseph Hanna - apparently felt some threat around and set up a self-defense check point for his Christian neighborhood. From there, Islamists say, the paranoid old kook frequently shot at people for no reason. His arrest on those charges triggered counter-arrests of Sunnis by Hanna's brothers, and that spurred mass abduction of Christians. Here Ilyas the Christian rebel mediated so everyone was released but Hanna had to leave. Later, Wood reports, "six men from Hanna’s extended family were killed. [1]

More of the Hannas: I checked the name in the opposition Center for Violations of Documentation (CDV) trying Hannah, Hanah, Hana, anyone with that name, nationwide, under "regime forces fatalities" (aka "other statistics") in all 2012. Not a single return. "Martyrs" list, "Hanna " for all 2012 yields two possible hits Hanna Iskandenavi (Scandinavian?), boy, age 10, killed by "random shelling" in "Qosair: Dumeineh Sharqeye" on 2012-05-17. Attia Hanna Ibrahim, male, age 40, killed in "Asheera neighborhood" Jan. 16, shot "by Shabiha in shooting on the automatic bakery in Asheera neighborhood (Asheera bakery massacre)" Searching "Hana " (space) adds nothing. It seems this is one of the things they didn't document ... --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:58, 16 October 2013 (UTC) and edited --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:16, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

Expelled in June or in March?

"It started happening after foreign jihadis arrived," Ilyas said, but it was a local Syrian who "form[ed an Islamist brigade (its ranks filled with foreign fighters) and last summer, he commandeered the mosque’s loudspeaker to announce that all Christians should leave. " Ilyas kept a lower and lower religious profile during the year as more and then all of his co-religionists fled. Finally the wrong people learned and came armed to his home. "They told me: “You’re a Christian – you’re not welcome here.” Some had probably lobbied for his death, and his ability to walk away and tell the tale is a sign that the forces of evil and chaos didn't win entirely, even in that dark place. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:07, 16 October 2013 (UTC)

Ilyas cites December, 2012, as his last month. The rest were gone by then. It was apparently June 9 when the Vatican first announced from its sources in Qusayr that all Christians had been expelled; it was coming from the mosques around town. On the 10th, this L.A. Times blog post were passing on the alarming reports. A few friendly-faced Arab commentors pointed to a rebel denial once but no longer on Facebook. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:29, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

But one counter-argument might be that such an order was hardly needed by then. Other reports point to the real exodus happening earlier; Frank Crimi "the forced Christian exodus from Homs has been ongoing since the beginning of February when armed Islamists murdered more than 200 Christians, “including entire families with young children.” The expulsion was reportedly at 90% by the end of March, as Crimi wrote this. [2] The bulk of people left in a single day, after a decisive clash sometime in March, said one local man related to the Hannas who barely survived the clashes. Fadul Abu Yohanna Kasouhah told Christian Solidarity International how he lost two cousins and an uncle and had to flee, but had since helped in the successful fight to take the city back. The day isn't given, but a memorial posted for a martyr shown here in a photo suggests March 8. [3]

Looking closer at that poster, practicing Arabic reading, three pictures, four martyrs listed - right side, the long word repeated 4x should be Shaheed (martyr) but isn't: (al-sh,(?),(?),then h? Some Christian corrolary of Shaheed? Or Shabeeh?) Top name, shortest part seems to be Hanna (H,(?),(a?), GTrans renders Hannah this way). The last (left) part of that name, repeated 3x below it has K,ah,(s?),(oow?),h,(?). Some confirmation for Mr. Kasouhah's story. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:58, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
No, not an h at the end, end of word h is cooler, that's not "Shabeeh" either. Looks more like Shuhada in Gtrans, singular variant I guess, also meaning martyr, I believe. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:20, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
In March 2012, many foreign jihadis came to Qusayr and surrounded Christian Street.  They were joined by a mob of local Sunnis.  Ten of us - me and my relatives - defended all of the Christians as they hid in their homes.  There were 30 government soldiers fighting together with us.  This was a battle for our homes.
There was non-stop shooting between 6 am and 9 am.  My cousin Kassan Hanna was shot in the head.  My uncle tried to retrieve his body, and he was shot dead.  We escaped down a back street and took shelter in an army checkpoint.  The attackers burned all the houses.  We heard them shouting, “We killed Hanna and his family.  All Christians must leave.”
The next day, all the Christians did leave Qusayr – 870 families.  Only two or three very old Christians stayed.  Most left with nothing.  No one helped us.  All the men in our family are construction workers.  We have no connections to the government or security forces. [3]

It was just on March 3 that a Reuters reporter heard that everything was fine between the true believers and the heretics, despite all the regime lies.

So far, residents say, Sunni-Christian ties have held steady, while Qusair's few hundred Alawites - members of Assad's Shi'ite-rooted sect - keep mostly to themselves.
But tension soared last month when Christians of the Hanna family, known as Assad loyalists, captured half a dozen Sunnis, apparently in reprisal for the killing of one of their own by rebels who suspected him of firing on protesters. Sunnis then abducted several Christians, prompting town elders to intervene.
Accounts vary, but Abbas insists it was a misunderstanding, compounded by rumors. Activists like him portray such problems as personal, not sectarian, and accuse the government of exploiting communal differences to split the opposition.
"If they were Sunni and working for the government, we'd kill them immediately, but because they are Christian, it's sensitive," a 26-year-old activist nicknamed Abu Saud said.
...
Abbas said he is confident that Christians and Muslims can co-exist. "Here in Qusair, we have been living together since the olden days," he said. "They (Christians) understand if the regime goes, we will stay and live as brothers."

One wonders, was there a rebel denial of an expulsion in March? Or even any reports about it to respond defensively to? --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:29, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

Front Page magazine in late March passed on a claim that:

the armed Islamists went door to door in the Christian neighborhoods of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan informing the homeowners that if they did not leave immediately they would be shot. Then pictures of their corpses would be taken and sent to al-Jazeera, along with the message that the Syrian government had killed them. [2]

Precedent for exactly this happening to Christians in nearby Homs: The Killing of Sari Saoud, November 2011.

More on Hanna and Kasouha

As noted, the Hanna name barely appears on the VDC martyr's database, but for an Attiyah Hana Ibrahim, killed in nearby Homs, with two Kasouha children, in the Ashira Bakery Massacre on January 16. Victims: local Christians. Likely largeted in conjunction with the January campaign of harassment against the Qusayr Hanna Christians (two sections above).

Considering the relation with a Christian Kasouha family (one section above), some appearances of that name, and absence of it, in the VDC database are of interest. As noted above, no Hannas, nor any Kasouhas, are listed dying in the decisive battle of March 8, after which the bulk of Qusayr's Christians fled. Neither the martyr's not regime fatalities list contains any hint of such a battle. But at the time of the January provocations, it is recorded a bit. [Khairallah Kasouheh Khairallah Kasouheh] Adult - Male, Single, Qosair. Killed January 25, 2012, by "Sniper shootings from Sharia School." Abdullah Murshid Kasouha, Adult - Male, Single, Qosair, on the other hand - died the day before. Notes: "He was shot by a sniper in the Municipality Center." Neither specifies the sniper is regime, but the being on the martyrs list suggests that implication. On July 9, another Christian, Mukhles George Kasoha, died in Qusair from "shelling." Two videos are provided, one posted at the LCC daily summary titled "An Attempt to Rescue the Martry Mokhles George Kasoha." --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:25, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

St. Elias Church

Qusayr (Agenzia Fides) - A band of radical militiamen broke into the Greek-catholic church of St. Elias in Qusayr this morning, near the town of Homs, desecrating it. The militiamen forced the door, rang the bells in mockery, laughed at the sacred symbols of the Christian faith with the sole purpose of carrying out a demonstrative act and making a mockery of the Christian community.

reported by SANA on the 16th that the church had been converted into a base for rebel operations. The image inset above is of the facade of it after the government re-conquest, but the damage probably precedes that. The interior was also ransacked, the tomb of whoever smashed open, anti-Christian messages scrawled all over, etc.

Reported Abuses of Christians

I'll just go with the bad versions, unverified, from sources some would question, but at least worth mentioning as what's been reported and should be considered quite possibly true. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:29, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

According to reports by Barnabas Aid, a relief agency assisting Syrian Christians, the forced Christian exodus from Homs has been ongoing since the beginning of February when armed Islamists murdered more than 200 Christians, “including entire families with young children.”
At that time a representative of Barnabas Aid pleaded, “Christians are being forced to flee the city to the safety of government-controlled areas. Muslim rebel fighters and their families are taking over their homes.”
Unfortunately, Islamist attacks against Syria’s Christian community, including kidnappings and murder, have occurred almost from the onset of the popular uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad which began in March 2011.
These murders, which have killed over 100 Christians, include the hanging of a 28-year-old man; a 40 year-old father of two shot dead; two young men killed while waiting in line at a bakery; and a 37-year-old father with a pregnant wife, his body cut into pieces and thrown in a river. [2]
Mariam was a 15-year-old Christian from Qusair ... While her family was able to escape, Mariam was taken and forced into an Islamic marriage.
 ... The commander of the battalion "Jabhat al-Nusra" in Qusair took Mariam, married and raped her. Then he repudiated her. The next day the young woman was forced to marry another Islamic militant. He also raped her and then repudiated her. The same trend was repeated for 15 days, and Mariam was raped by 15 different men. This psychologically destabilized her and made her insane. Mariam, became mentally unstable and was eventually killed. 
"These atrocities are not told by any International Commission" say to Fides two Greek-Catholic priests, Fr. Issam and Fr. Elias who have just returned to town. The two are collecting the cry's and complaints of many families. "Who will do something to protect civilians, the most vulnerable?"

Driving Out the Alawites

(forthcoming)

Assaulting Civil Society

Opposition video of the bombing
For one dramatic example, when the Watani National hospital in Qusayr became perceived as "being used by Assad's forces," despite the militarized rebel city's wishes, the Farouq brigade proudly blew it up entirely. This was on September 3, 2012, while it was apparently fully staffed and filled with patients. This is best covered in its section on the page for rebel attacks on hospitals (a little short on detail even there). It was no casual undertaking, but preceded by months of digging a long tunnel beneath the hospital, filling the chamber beneath with masses of explosive, and filming all of this plus the grand finale. The death toll isn't entirely clear, but the blast was immense, if absorbed by a lot of dirt. It might be that the death toll is the number inside minus zero. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:29, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Militarizing Quseir

Recruitment

Reports suggest the governance of the city after rebel takeover was almost an experiment in turning it and its people into a (holy?) war machine. Woods' Christian witnesses Shama and Ilyas both speak of aggressive recruitment, of the fight or leave variety. As for the third option, refusing that dichotomy, Fadul Kasouha told CSI "In late 2011, the Sunni townsmen came and told us to either join us in anti-regime demonstrations or leave the town. If we didn’t, we would be killed." [3] John Rosenthall wrote in July 2012 on media reports out of Germany:

While traveling in the region of Homs, Hackensberger heard similar stories about the conduct of the rebels. One - now former - resident of the city of Qusayr told him that not only were Christians like himself expelled from the town, but that anyone who refused to enroll their children in the Free Syrian Army had been shot. Hackensberger's source held foreign Islamists responsible for the atrocities. "I have seen them with my own eyes," he said, "Pakistanis, Libyans, Tunisians and also Lebanese. They call Osama bin Laden their sheikh."

Terrorizing the Area

Besides the sectarian extremist abuses used to cleanse the city, al-Qusay's new managers exported their vision into the surrounding area. The following is only a starter list, with only a few ntries. Probably there are many more mysterious incidents of brutality all over their turf.

  • May 25, 2012: The Shumariyeh Massacre was reportedly launched from Qusayr. Ten people from two families, including children, were killed in the Alawite village 11 km north of Qusayr on lake Homs, in apparent coordination with the attack on Taldou, a bit to the north, that led to the Houla massacre on the same day. Rebels admit attacking Shumeriyeh that day (from afar) and at some point they took it over, until the government re-conquest in May, 2013.
  • May 31, 2012: Just a week after Shumeriyeh, a bus carrying 13 state factory workers was stopped, by disputed parties (terrorists or regime) and the passengers were taken to (a military building, or some building) and brutally killed, mutilated, either for working for the government, or for wanting freedom, depending. This happened just south of Homs, around Buweida al-Sharqiya. There are the mainstream news reports mentioning it, citing state media, not specifying the mutilation, nor, I think, if this was all the passengers. That matters because of another story Hackensberger heard (prior to late July): A Sunni resident of Homs told Hackensberger that he had witnessed how an armed group stopped a bus: "The passengers were divided into two groups: on the one side, Sunnis; on the other, Alawis." According to Hackenberger's source, the insurgents then proceeded to decapitate the nine Alawi passengers. [4]

He may not have directly witnessed this, but rather heard about it, true or not. As for nine vs. 13 victims, another source says a video of the famous incident showed nine of the bodies in a building. So whether this is one incident or two, or one and some added parts, or what, is worth sorting out. It might deserve a page.

  • August 7, 2012: Arabi Souri reported "A Christian family from al Alyat village in Homs countryside, central of Syria received the most painful news a family can endure: 10 of its members were butchered during their work in the tourism resort near the Damascus – Homs main highway." This is the walled-in area right on the highway, about ten km due east of Qusayr. It's virtually surrounded by army bases per Wikimpaia. Rebels might use this in their denials of this atrocity, but it seems Qusayr's cleansers might have struck again.

Government controlled areas

Some eastern parts of the city and the main road to Homs always remained under government control. One fortress was on the roof of the Agricultural Bank building. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 18:35, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Syria’s war in miniature: meeting the Christians driven out of Qusayr Paul Wood, the Spectator, August 10, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ethnic Cleansing of Syrian ChristiansBy Frank Crimi, Front Page, March 29, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 The Religious Cleansing of Qusayr: An Eyewitness Account Fadul Abu Yohanna Kasouhah, Interviewed by Dr. John Eibner, June 2013. Christian Solidairty International: Situation in Syria
  4. German intelligence: al-Qaeda all over Syria By John Rosenthal, Asia Times, July 24, 2012