The Killing of Sari Saoud

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Georgina with Sari's body, and activists, just before meeting the ambulance, finally
Sari Saoud was a Syrian boy, aged 9/10, killed by an unknown sniper of disputed loyalty, in the city of Homs on November 26 2011. Opposition sources got their story out first, showing his dead body and claiming Sari was killed under fire from government security forces. However, the army reportedly had no presence in Homs at the time. Further, Sari's mother, Georgina Mtanious al-Jammal, contradicts their version, saying repeatedly that the un-checked regional terrorists pulled the trigger on her son. Further, she claims they briefly stole his body from her care, denying mother and son of aid or comfort in favor of making propaganda videos of his body.

In assessing this case, the following sources will or may be be examined. Directly Related Video (chronological)

  • (TV1) Table video (Sari dead on a table), Uploaded by Syrian2011Revolutio1 on Nov 26, 2011 [1]
  • (TV2) Same, but gorier close-ups: Uploaded by freeqouser on Nov 26, 2011 [2]
  • (CV) Compilation video (all relevant footage of Sari with some analysis and Arabic text): [3]
  • (SMV) Sari and mother: uploaded by syrianmediac November 26, 2011. [4]
  • (STV) November 26 Interview with Sari's mother, aunt, and others. Uploaded by SyriaTruthNetworkEN [5]
  • (FV) Funeral video. Uploaded by shaamnews6 on Nov 27, 2011 [6]
  • (SAV) Rebuttal rebel video, Sari and mother in a pickup truck: [7] Pulled during research: Alternate posting: [8]
  • (AJV) December 1 interview with his mother, posted February 22 2012, apparently filmed December 1 (no subtitles). [9]
  • (ESV) Another December interview with his mother. Best resolution and English subtitles: [10] Earlier version, lower res, no English, better date: [11]

Other

  • (AP) AP photo of Sari's mother, Georgina Mtanious al-Jammal, Dec. 1 [12]
  • (26A) Syrianrevolution.org daily update, Nov. 26 2011. [13]
  • (SY) Posting of the Syrian news video, Nov. 26 -
  • (BG) "True Story of Sari Saoud – Christian Boy Murdered in Syria." Posted on November 28, 2011 by Best Gore (warning: site includes offensive images not even related) [14]
  • (GPF) GP discussion forum, Nov. 26 [15]
  • (SKV) AFP video posted Nov. 26 on recent killing there (no mention of Sari): "Homs, a Syrian city plagued by sectarian killing" [16]
  • (26B) Nov. 26 reports and (graphic) videos of the day's dead. Sari is mentioned, middle name Ibrahim. [17]

Basics

The shooting happened near the family home, in the Al-Bayyada district of Homs. [5][7][10] By Google Maps, this is on the north side of the city, far from the main rebel stronghold district of Baba Amr in the southwest of Homs. (GM) But each district likely had its cells and Homs in general was under rebel control at points. The army had reportedly pulled back from all districts at this time. [5] [10][5]

The victim's name is usually given as Sari Saoud, but alternately as Sari Ibrahim Saoud (26B) And Sari Saoud Jamal. His age is alternately given by Syrian sources as "9 years old killed by the terroris in Homs" (SY), and by Al Jazeera as "ten years old ... killed by gunfire from Syrian security forces." [10] No one disputes he's from a family that's at least partly Christian. His mother's prominent crucifix necklace was an attractor for opposition cameramen ([4]), and she's made statements about shared values between Christians and Muslims, but not the terrorists. [5] [10]

The Opposition Account

The original Al Jazeera footage of Nov. 26 seems to be now-obscure, but it is contained in other Assad-loyalist videos for comparison with Georgina's story. For example, The posting of the November interview included it at the beginning (STV). The last December interview video also shows it (at 8:25), with English captions for what the announcer says: “Internet sites have broadcast videos showing a mother crying over her son who was ten years old. He was killed by gunfire from Syrian security forces early today in the Al-Bayyada quarter of Homs city." [10] According to two two located references, Al Jazeera included this explanation: "A Christian child (Sari Saoud) killed today in Bayada district in Homs by security to incite hatred in Syrian conflict." (BG) (GPF) Sari Saoud, age 9, is given as a martyr in Homs that day, among 20 killed before 1:00 PM, by an anti-government archiving site. (26A) Georgina is said to issue a vulgar curse at Bashar Al-Assad for killing her son. (analyzed below -under "the video record") (SAV)

His Mother's Account

Sari's mother, Georgina Mtanious al-Jammal, immediately contradicted the opposition version. She was apparently with him when he was shot, and seen again weeping over his body in different locations. As his mother, and is presumably a good witness. She is also an avowed Assad loyalist, and has spoken partly during government-sponsored media events. The possibility of political pressure cannot be ruled out. However, her many subsequent interviews are ressonably consistent, detailed, and seem heartfelt.

The November 26 interview, at the hospital, by an unclear Syrian TV news network, was the first chance Georgina had to publicly present her side of events. She specifies the armed gangs, with no religion, killed her boy, because the army was not there to protect them. (STV) She answers the questions while wailing and rocking back and forth, comforted by other women. One is Sari’s aunt, and his uncle is there too. All agree with the mother’s position and blame the terrorists who seem well-known to all for killing many others prior to this. They offer extremely strong, vocal support for Georgina and for the Syrian government. The English-language captioning relates the dialog so (in part, and slightly modified here):

Georgina Jamal: My son, they killed you were eating a biscuit from the store and they killed you. They don’t have a religion. They’re not Muslims or Christians. They’re murderers, terrorists. Interviewer: Who killed him? Georgina: It was bullets from inside the neighborhood. If the army was here my son wouldn’t have died. They took the army out of the neighborhood and the armed men started killing people the next day. ... Oh my son, you had a biscuit in your hand, not a gun… (STV)

In a December 1 account to an AP reporter, on "a government-organized tour for the media," she said the same thing. As reported, ""Georgina blamed "armed terrorists" for killing her son. Syria's opposition called a general strike Thursday over President Bashar Assad's deadly crackdown... " (AP) The December interview is called that for having her dressed similarly in black, holding Sari's picture, and wailing amid popping flashbulbs. Here she speaks, in Arabic, with no subtitles. (AJV)

The last interview listed, from prior to Dec. 23 ([11]), is the most informative and detailed. This relates Georgina's rather strange story of being separated from Sari as the opposition people took him to a safe house well before finally leading her there to be reunited. She gives many useful details, paralleling the video record below, and raising troubling questions, at least, about the opposition's handling of the situation. The following summary draws on the English sutitles added. [10]

Sari had just bought a package of biscuits from the store – she was holding his hand as he paid himself. About five minutes after leaving the shop, as he ate, heavy shooting broke out. She wrapped herself around Sari to protect him, as another woman next to her was shot and fell. “I looked at Sari and saw that my clothers were covered in blood.” She thought he was protected enough that she’d been hit and told him to run for safety as soon as the shooting stopped. “He was not answering. There was no voice, movement,or anything.” (1:49) “I looked at him, and his eyes were looking at the sky.” She pulled up his shirt and recalled “his heart was in my hand,” breaking down in tears. (2:06)

“I lost consciousness. I wanted to save my son, but I didn’t know what to do." She screamed out for help. A group of 10 or 12 people arrived to answer the call. Described as “men and youth," she doesn't specify them as seeming to be armed. "They took Sari. I told them please take me with him. ... They refused to take me with them – they took him and ran away.” She recalls running to get on the truck with Sari, but being unable to run fast enough, feeling "heavy" with Sari’s blood on her jacket and trousers. "I ran and fell for several minutes." She lost sight of the truck quickly, but followed the trail of blood for a time. [10]

A young man, presumably dropped off from the truck to run back and meet her, said “come with me. I will take you to your son.” (3:22) He took her hand and started marching. “He walked me to different alleys…. I fell several times. He would yank me up roughly.” After a half an hour “we reached the door of a house. He told me ‘here lies your son.’” She protested that this was clearly not a hospital, but he insisted there was one inside. "He played a trickon me and made me enter the house." She shouted for her son, and someone brough his body into the room, and laying him on the floor, explaining “Sari is not ok. He needs another hospital.” (4:17) This, she says, is where she fell on him, as captured so touchingly on rebel video.

The bereaved mother recalls feeling a strong sense this whole time that he might be alive and might be saved. It’s not likely, of course, but she says they cruelly refused her need to try. “Just let me out of here to save him … I told them he is still bleeding” "No way,” they responded. “you can’t go out. There is heavy shooting.” She recalls the chaos of the room: “I hear different voices, ‘video shoot what’s happening,’ ‘I have not shot the video yet,’ ‘okay, her.’ I can’t recognize what they are saying.” She cried and screamed so much, resisted them so much, as testified in the video they took, she says they finally caved. Someone came and suggested a truck be brought for the two of them. “Bring her a Suzuki,” the subtitles say, “and throw her in a certain place to rescue her son.”[10]

The opposition people soon put Georgina and Sari in the back of a pick-up trucks and “they started driving us to different places while Sari was bleeding.” After a bit of aimless-seeming driving around, “we reached an alley I don’t know. Sari and I were alone I saw people shooting video. They were telling him “film!” I don’t know. I was begging them while holding my child. I was afraid that they will take him from me. Different thoughts have jumped in my head. … he was shot and might be taken from me.” [10]

Just then a Red Cross ambulance arrived. “I felt relaxed that someone had come to help my son.” So this is what the last video shows,the end of their ordeal with the Syrian opposition that day. The ambulance took Sari and herself “to the national hospital.” It was apparently at the hospital that she gave her first television interview.

The Video Record

The video record runs parallel to Georgina's account, occuring in different locations, apparently over some time. The earliest footage we have seems to be at least three rebel-made videos made in one of their safe-houses. The famous one shows Georgina embracing Sari's lifeless body. In some short clips it looks like they're on the pavement, just after he had been shot down. But rather it's the floor of this room, clarified by walls, baseboard molding, and room reverberation in the audio. (SMV) After looking at Sari's wound and touching his body lovingly, his mother sits up abd starts pleading with the activists. The camera zooms in on her crucifix necklace, holding the close-up for 12 seconds.

Sari floor 1.jpg Sari Saoud floor 2.jpg


Sari Table.jpg
Another shows the boy's corpse, alone, shirtless but still in his pants, on a table in the same room, his left arm pulled up to show the large, strange wound in his armpit as rebel narrator explains in Arabic. [1] (see also compilation video, cv 1:42) At least one other view of the same scene was taken by another camera, with better resolution and gorier close-up of the injury, keeping it at the center of view the whole time, and zoomed in tight for about half of that. [2] In the first video, the host says (in Arabic) “look at this boy. It’s a gift from Bashar Al Assad to Burhan Ghalioun.” Ghalioun was the chairman of the opposition SNC, who the host felt “still doesn't want a military intervention," a position her urged to be re-considered [1] (translation from a contact of Caustic Logic).

It's not clear which of these two videos was made first, but by his mother's account, these latter videos were probably made first, before her arrival. Furthermore, the boy seems to be completely naked in the famous one (or to have his pants pulled down very low). This might partly explaining how she lays on him in a protective, full-body manner - to conceal his nudity.

Next is the two of them together in the back of a flatbed truck (Sari again wearing his pants) with opposition people, briefly before an ambulance arrives and takes them both away. Georgina said that she feared, at that time, that they would take Sari's body away from her again. [10] The man in blue on the left is apparently being rushed by someone to do something, which he stalls over, idicating Georgina as the complication. (SMV) This could be consistent with a plan to take off with the boy, which was hampered by his mother’s continued presence.

Sari Truck.jpg
This is the footage used for the opposition's rebuttal video, because of a curse said to occur at the 0:55 mark in that video, "kiss immak ya bashar" in arabic," translating an unusual slur against the genitalia of Bashar Assad's mother (with "up" specified). (SAV) That posting account, Souria2011archives, was deleted before a copy was saved to be sure of the spot indicated (It seemed so, but the channel is up/revived now - new video link - saved and verified as matching other postings.) At 0:49, there is a scream that sounds a bit like Georgina's style when animated, but strangely loud and spirited, considering the direction the microphone should be facing, and considering how completely drained she appeared just four seconds earlier. The sound could be the words cited, or another phrase of similar sound. A Syrian Arabic speaker could tell if anything else makes more sense. If "kiss immak ya bashar" is what is said, she's well off frame by this time, and any such curse could be uttered by another person off-camera or dubbed in later.

But on the strength of this curse, Souria2011archives confidently stated " Bashar Assad Killed this boy," but then:

"The next day the Regime forced this woman to go on the Dictator's State TV Station and Say a Big B*******t Story about how the protesters said they were going to take her son for medical attention but they merely drove around with him and took videos of him for Al Jazeera and then returned him dead to her later, with the implication that he died from lack of medical attention. This video puts the lie to this Regime created forced story as you can clearly see the boy dead in the back of the truck before anyone went anywhere and the mother was in the back of the old pickup truck before the official red crescent ambulance showed up." (SAV)

According to her story, not spelled out in great detail by Nov. 30, this is not true at all. The ambulance was only after they'd taken his body and filmed video at a spot without her consent, allowed her to be reunited with his body there (again, making video, that Al Jazeera would use), then finally driving them, in that other truck, on a slow journey before meeting the ambulance here.

The last video of what seems to be that day was taken at the hospital, where a news crew met Georgina after Sari was declared dead and she could let go of him. Al Jazeera had already published the opposition version they made using his body as a prop, and she was asked her opinion on this. Her response was none too positive.

Interviewer: Al Jazeera said the army killed him.
Georgina (flailing her head side-to-side now in extreme frustration): The army isn’t even here!! If the army was here my son wouldn’t have died! (STV)

The Nature of Sari's Fatal Injury

The only visible wound, if not the fatal one, is in Sari’s left armpit, leading into his chest. However, it looks too large for a bullet entry wound, almost suggesting some kind of flesh-carving torture that would not be unprecedented in Syrian atrocity videos. A significant chunk of tissue, perhaps three inches long, is missing here. He clearly bled profusely from this wound, but has since been cleaned up -while continuing to leak new blood in small amounts. Tendons were apparently severed. Whenever his body is moved, that left arms flops around as if only halfway connected.

Although his right armpit is never shown, all views suggest it too had bled at some point, a lesser amount (see second image, above). This might well be the bullet entry wound. Notably when they are in the back of the truck, just before the ambulance, both armpits are bandaged, the left one more heavily. He’s still bleeding, as Georgina reported; the heavy bandages are soaked. (SAV)

What likely happened is this:

  • Georgina was holding Sari’s left hand, perhaps leading him, as he ate his cookies.
  • It was probably as Sari raised his right arm to his mouth to take another bite that a sniper with good aim fired the fatal shot at his exposed right side.
  • The bullet entered on his upper right side, near the armpit, perhaps a bit to the back,
  • It traversed his entire chest, exiting on the left, a little to the front from the look of the exit wound, the deformed bullet tearing out some tissue at the end.
    • Do note that to travel almost straight across, armpit-to-armpit, on a ten-year-old child, the sniper must have been at a very low level, perhaps kneeling or even laying flat not far away.

Sari's mother is quite clear that what she thought was Sari’s heart was outside his body, in her hand, when she lifted up his shirt just after the shooting. Her story also has the rebels confirming - or perhaps repeating - this to her. When she protested that Sari might be alive an opposition activist said to her “can’t you see that his heart is outside his body?” (8:19) [10] The “heart” she felt could be part of that (aorta, left atrium), pushed ahead of the bullet. It could also be a piece of esophagus, of muscle, or, more likely, the missing armpit tissue on his left.

From his mother's description, Sari was presumably hit with the first shot or one of the first, before she even had a chance to shield him. He probably lost consciousness instantly and died quickly. Nonetheless, it’s distantly possible that, with surgical help, he could have survived. If for this reason alone, the alleged obstruction of that by these opposition activists should be considered a criminal act, and one hinting at even more grave crimes underlying it.

Further Thoughts and Questions

Further thoughts and questions to be addressed in time, here, or on the talk page, or wherever.

  • Possible reasons to separate the boy/his body from his mother and stall the reunion:
    • Perhaps they feared Georgina's presence would complicate their video with explanations blaming the government, and wanted to film that uninterrupted before taking the reunion video. The latter, in her presence, doesn't seem to contain much rebel explanation, just her usefully pained wailing.
  • Arguments for this being a regime crime
    • The killing of Sari served to rally the people against the terrorists.
    • It's possible that an infiltrator within the FSA did this as a false-flag operation to deal them a black eye
  • Arguments against those arguments:
    • The effect outside Syria, as usual, is to rally the world against the child-killing regime.
    • If this was an infiltrator's work, the opposition took quick advantage of it, and considering their numerous other videos of dead children, Chritians, Alawites, etc., primarily in Homs, they must have many such infiltrators.
  • Arguments against sufficient motive for either side:
  • One more killing among thousands, adds little one way or the other. It's a near-total waste. Yet someone did it.
  • Christian target, or accident?
    • The fiercest among the alleged false-flagging terrorists are hardcore Salafists. A Christian woman's child was killed. The relation is worth considering.
  • Some thought might be well-spent on the role of the mass media and social media interchange, operating within the nexus of war and "humanirian" intervention.
    • Sari's mother Georgina said, "Al Jazeera the armed people killed my son once. Al Jazeera kills me every day, a thousand times, as they show the picture of Sari, and I am over him crying. It was a great calamity. Can you imagine my hand, and his heart was outside his body, Al Jazeera is to be blamed, for Sari’s blood, just like the armed men. May God deal them what they deserve.” "Al Jazeera" here is perhaps best-read as shorthand for all those in the shock-video for regime-change industry; collectively, that took part in using her son's murder - by their own agents - to try again to get something like the NATO bombing of Libya started there.
    • “I was still suffering, trying to save my son. Why did they announce his death? They wanted the news to be like this. Even if he was alive, they would have killed him to prove the story they’ve broadcast”
  • etc...

Tagesschau "Error"

German news outlet Tagesschau published, on Dec. 2, 2011, a photo of Georgina grieving over Sari's photo from the Dec. 1 press conference shown in source (AP), in which she explained what happened to her son. Since pulled from their site, the Google cached version still (for the moment) preserves the original caption of the next day "Laut UNO wurden seit Beginn der Proteste 300 Kinder in Syrien getötet. Dieser Neunjährige starb Ende November, als die Assad-Truppen Homs angriffen," translating "According to the UN since the protests began 300 children have been killed in Syria. This nine-year-old died in late November, when Assad's forces attacked Homs." This has been criticized in articles like this one (in German).

Alleged confession

On Dec 15, 2012, SANA reported that a certain Mazen Majed al-Dabdoub, who was arrested in Homs on November 29, 2012, confessed to have been part of an armed gang involved in robbery, theft and murder and complicit in the killing of Sari.

Al-Dabdoub said he joined a group of ten terrorists led by Bassam Da'adish, who gave him an assault rifle and ammo. He confessed to taking part in the murder of child Sari Saoud, saying that he and his cohorts opened fire on the child near Ahmad Muti'ib al-Darwish school in in al-Sabil neighborhood then fled. Al-Dabdoub said that another terrorist group came after them and photographed the body of the child and sent the images to satellite channels to accuse the army of killing him, noting that there were no army or security forces in the neighborhood at the time.[12] [13]

References (partial)

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Killing Christian children in Homs in Syria by security forces and the army - Part 39" (includes gory close-ups) Uploaded by Syrian2011Revolutio1 on Nov 26, 2011 [1]
  2. 2.0 2.1 "حمص وادي العرب الشهيد الطفل من الاخوة المسيحيه ساري ساعود 26 11 ج1" Uploaded by freeqouser on Nov 26, 2011 [2]
  3. "كشف كذب نظام بشار حول الطفل ساري ساعود +18" Uploaded by syrbouazizi5 on Nov 28, 2011 [3]
  4. 4.0 4.1 "المركز الاعلامي السوري وادي العرب حمص الشهيد المسيحي الطفل ساري ساعود 26 11 2011 جـ2" [4]
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "Syrian Child Sari Saoud killed by Terrorists in Bayada, Homs 26-11-2011 English Subtitle" Uploaded by SyriaTruthNetworkEN on Dec 3, 2011 [5]
  6. "جنازة الطفل ساري ساعود قتل على يد الإرهابيين في حمص 2" Uploaded by shaamnews6 on Nov 27, 2011 [6]
  7. 7.0 7.1 ""Syria - Assad Kills Christian Kid - Mother Curses Dictator 11-26-11 Sari Al Saoud – Bayada"" Uploaded by Souria2011archives on Nov 30, 2011. [7]
  8. "Syria Assad Kills Christian Kid Mother Curses Dictator 11 26 11 Sari Al Saoud Bayada" Published on Apr 14, 2012 by OrontesRiverTube [8]
  9. "Sari Saoud's family telling Al Jadeed TV how he was killed" [9]
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 Published on Jun 11, 2012 by Edward Said. [10]
  11. 11.0 11.1 Uploaded by manwella1 on Dec 23, 2011 [11]
  12. Terrorist Confesses to Being Complicit in Crimes including Murder of Child Sari Saoud, SANA, Dec 15, 2012
  13. Syria: Murderer of Sari Saoud imprisoned Syria News, December 16, 2012