Assad's grave-robbing echoes Nazi-era abuses

Assad's grave-robbing echoes Nazi-era abuses
Comment: From wanton mass murder to gassing innocent children, to pulling gold from the teeth of the dead, we've seen these abuses before, writes CJ Werleman.
5 min read
01 Mar, 2018
The death toll in Eastern Ghouta has topped 600 in the last ten days [AFP]
The Assad regime has once again reminded the world just how savage, uncompromising and merciless it truly is. 

In the past week, it has unleashed an unrelenting aerial assault on Eastern Ghouta, accompanied by Russian warplanes that killed more than 600 civilians and injured thousands of others.

This is a regime that knows no moral bounds, and at the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, is every bit as detestable as Germany's Nazi Party of the 1930s.

Like the warmongering, secular-fascist governments of the previous century, it too spares no one who stands in its way, deploying chemical weapons on children, barrel bombs on hospitals and artillery fire on residential neighbourhoods.

Last week, the UN chief described the situation as "hell on earth" for civilians besieged by the Assad regime in the rebel-held suburb.

But exclusive photos obtained by The New Arab appear to shed new light on the barbarism inflicted upon Syrians who remain cornered in Assad regime-held territory.

The town of Harasta, located at the northeastern edge of Damascus, has switched hands between the Assad regime and opposition forces since the conflict began in 2011, but had been held by the regime for five consecutive years, until the rebels liberated the town in January.

Read more: Exclusive: Christian graves desecrated as Syrian troops loot corpses for gold

This week the head of the town's council, Husam al-Beiruni, explained how Assad's security forces dug up more than 300 Christian graves in search of valuables, such as jewellery and precious stones, while at the same time defacing, defiling and damaging the tombs and the remains of those buried inside.

Al-Beiruni, who has lived under both the occupation of Assad's forces and a constellation of various rebel groups, acknowledged that while he had seen "terrible damage" inflicted upon his country by a number of groups, he described this act as the kind of "particular barbarity" associated exclusively with the Assad regime.

 Christian graveyards and family tombs were looted [Qusay Noor] 

"However, this regime does not limit itself to the violation of graves," said Al-Beiruni. "They bombard us with rockets on a daily basis, not only in Harasta but in all liberated areas of Syria. We must report to the world, on behalf of the Syrian people, the kinds of deeds the regime perpetrates against us daily."

Prior to the outset of the war, approximately 35,000 Christians lived in Harasta, representing roughly 15 percent of the total population, but many fled when Assad turned his military on the pro-democracy, pro-revolution protesters in 2011.

Read more: Assad's not 'using a crematorium', he's executing a holocaust

Significantly, Harasta is not the first time Assad's forces have been accused of robbing graves. Last year, they robbed graves in Hama of their Turkish and Italian marble headstones.

While Assad's crimes against humanity are well-documented; disinformation campaigns, which are typically generated by respective Russian and Iran state media for the purposes of deflecting attention and criticism away from Assad-Russia-Iranian war crimes, have successfully divided the conflict's western onlookers.

The Christian right in the United States, led and cajoled by US President Trump, for instance, has put its support behind Assad, buying into the dictator's phony "war on terrorism" narrative at best, and at worst, expressing solidarity with a secular dictator who barrel bombs Muslims.

As Nicholas Kristof once noted, 'the Anne Frank of today is a Syrian girl'

One might expect the American Christian right to change its views towards Assad, given allegations his forces removed gold from the teeth of dead Christians, but we wait and see.

The point here is that Americans pride themselves on having helped defeat the Nazis in the Second World War. But everything about the Assad regime demonstrates its total disregard for human life, and mirrors the very worst of Hitler's jackboot thugs, from wanton mass murder to gassing innocent children, to pulling gold from the teeth of the dead.

 Harasta's local council discovered the damage caused by the regime's tomb raids [Qusay Noor]

It's no wonder then, that Assad's Syria has become a "safe haven" for Nazi activity, hosting European Nazi organisations in 2017, while also remembering it once provided sanctuary to the Austrian Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner.

While comparing anything to the Nazis is of course an "inherently tricky business", and while the scale of the tragedy of the Holocaust should never be minimised, the nature of the fallout from the Assad regime's brutal war is not too dissimilar to that of Hitler's Germany.

Read more: Why Nazis from Charlottesville to Europe love Bashar al-Assad

For instance, and as Nicholas Kristof once noted, "the Anne Frank of today is a Syrian girl", meaning Syrians continue to die because the West fears Syrian Muslim refugees the same way it feared European Jewish refugees in the 1930s and 1940s.

"The reasons for the opposition [to Jewish immigration in the 1930s] then were the same as they are for rejecting Syrians or Hondurans today: We can't afford it, we should look after Americans first, we can't accept everybody, they'll take American jobs, they're dangerous and different," notes Kristof.

At the risk of stretching the all-too-often overused Nazi metaphor further, the Assad regime also has built crematoriums to dispose of those it murders in its prisons. Presumably, of course, after its thugs have first stripped their Syrian victims of their personal belongings, including the gold fillings in their teeth.

CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.