Detainees tortured in Syrian regime prisons slowly die and surrender their souls with their eyes half open. This is how Syrian teenager Ahmad al-Musalmani looked like according to a photo that documented his death and showed his thin tortured body lying on the ground with a number hanging above it. We didn’t know who Ahmad was when his photos first surfaced along with thousands of others nine months ago.
We now know his name. Photos of him prior to his arrest, torture and death in prison showed him appearing calm. When peaceful protests erupted in 2011, Ahmad’s family sent him to Lebanon out of fear that he would be detained by the regime which was detaining many young men. However, Ahmad returned a year later to Syria for the funeral of his mother who died while telling his uncle that she was leaving her son under his guardianship.
So Ahmad's mother died and Ahmad was detained on his way to attend her funeral. What was the charge against him?
Ahmad was dragged into detention because security forces who searched passengers on board the bus which was taking him to Daraa found out that he had an anti-Assad song on his phone. They thus arrested Ahmad and he disappeared. His family did not know what happened to him until the so-called “Caesar photos” (taken by Caesar, the Syrian military photographer who smuggled shocking evidence of torture out of Assad's dungeons) surfaced in 2014.
An invented devil
These photos shook the world's conscience a little but everyone went back to being preoccupied with an invented devil called ISIS; thus ignoring the root of the problem, the Assad regime. After thorough investigations, Human Rights Watch narrated the stories of those victims we've seen in the photos. This report was carried out through investigative work that included a journalistic, humanitarian and legal approach as the organization had to go through the difficult journey of identifying the victims, understanding their stories and figuring out how they ended up in Assad's dungeons.
These photos shook the world's conscience a little but everyone went back to being preoccupied with an invented devil called ISIS; thus ignoring the root of the problem, the Assad regimeDiana Moukalled
The Syrian regime has destroyed and continues to destroy the lives of thousands of Syrians. This significant HRW report brought back media attention to the violations of the Assad regime. The regime's brutality and violence are primarily responsible for the situation in Syria today. ISIS is merely a chapter in the Syrian regime's book of death. Facts do not lie, and the facts clearly reveal that the brutality of the Syrian regime is the major cause behind the death of more than 200,000 Syrians. In the interviews which HRW investigators conducted, they reiterated what the entire world knows but ignores, and it's that 96% of the civilians killed in Syria were killed by Assad regime forces.
The HRW report, which garnered global media attention, rectifies the discussion and reorganizes priorities. This is something we desperately need during this phase as the world lives through an era of ISIS hysteria, Islamophobia and fear of refugees. Eliminating real threats represented by ISIS and religious extremism will not happen, and rather, it's impossible without resolving the Syrian situation and coming up with a solution in which Bashar al-Assad is not part of the transnational phase, as it has been rumored that he may be part of it.
Photos depicting torture in Syrian regime prisons and stories like those of Ahmad are only fresh documentation of some of the torture Syrians have been put through since their revolution erupted five years ago.
Yes, it was a peaceful revolution; however the regime's brutality towards children, women, men and even animals is what turned Syria into what it is today. There's no doubt that we live in a harsh world and that we do not need evidence to know the origin of the problem; however, this is a moment when countries' interests and maliciousness intersect, and it's certainly a worrying unless we speak out and shift attention to the source of the problem.
The HRW report presents a new opportunity to give momentum to the discussions about the root of the global crisis we're living through. There's no solution without addressing the origin of the problem and thus the solution is to overthrow Bashar al-Assad and his criminal regime.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 21, 2015.
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.
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