Report reveals horrific new details of 2012 Syrian massacre where hundreds were killed
A team of investigators from Syria has revealed new facts about one of the most notorious massacres of the Syrian conflict, ten years after it occurred.
Between 24 and 26 August 2012, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and their allied militias killed at least 700 people in the town of Darayya near Damascus.
After five days of indiscriminate shelling targeting homes, hospitals and other civilian facilities, forces from the Syrian regime’s Fourth Division, Republican Guard, Air Force Intelligence, accompanied by Hezbollah and Iranian militiamen rounded up men, women and children and summarily executed them.
It was one of the worst atrocities of the Syrian conflict up until that point, later being overshadowed by the 2013 Ghouta chemical massacre, which killed 1,400 people.
To coincide with the the anniversary of the massacre, the Syrian British Consortium (SBC), a UK-based advocacy group, released a report documenting details of the atrocities and names and statistics pertaining to the victims.
A total of 514 victims have been documented by name by the Syrian investigators. They include 36 women and 63 children. Many corpses, however, remain unidentified.
However, many other people remain completely unaccounted for. Regime forces detained hundreds of residents of the city following the massacre.
153 people were recorded by activists as detained and 86 missing according to the report, and they include children.
The true number of people detained and disappeared could be much higher.
The Syrian British Consortium’s lead investigator, Yasmine Nahlawi, pointed out that ten years after the massacre, there had been no efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice or seek redress for the victims.
“Brave witnesses that we spoke to recounted killings, bombardments, detention, and looting and shared vital photo and video evidence. Their determination to set the record straight is met with utter failure from global institutions to pursue justice and accountability for war crimes in Syria,” she said in a press release.
Horrific testimony and the search for justice
The SBC report contains harrowing testimony from survivors of the Darayya massacre.
Sulaiman Al-Abbar witnessed the aftermath of the execution of 80 people in the Al-Saqqa building in the town.
“The floor was covered in blood. People were laying on the floor, all either shot or slaughtered. I was in a state of shock. I started to gather the shoes of the dead. Shoes of women, children and men.”
The Assad regime is believed to be responsible for dozens of other massacres in the Syrian conflict, including ones in Houla, Banias, and Jdeidet Artouz in which hundreds of people were killed by soldiers and militiamen.
More than 500,000 people have been killed over the course of the conflict, which began in 2011 after the regime brutally suppressed peaceful protests.
While the regime remains in power, gaining the upper hand in the conflict after receiving assistance from Russia and Iran, the investigators who worked on the report expressed some hope that the victims would be able to receive justice.
Yafa Omar, an investigator who worked on the project told The New Arab, “This investigation shows Syrians have not given up on justice and seeking freedom, democracy, and basic human rights even if the world has given up on them.”
Haytham Al-Hamwi, the SBC’s chairman, told The New Arab, “We hope our report will be one of the main pieces of evidence which can be used in the long road to justice and accountability in Syria, and will be an obstacle to some countries which want to rehabilitate a regime which committed a savage massacre against an entire city.”