Another man, presumably an inmate at the infamous Air Force
intelligence detention center in Damascus, recounted the treatment of a
14-year-old boy named Thamir al-Sharee. Thamir was taken to the Damascus
facility by security forces in April; when his body was released weeks
later, it showed signs of severe torture. His case is well-known in
Syria, perhaps because it was among the first of what has since become a
more regular occurrence. The man who saw Thamir at the facility
recalled, "The boy was lying on the floor and was completely blue. He
was bleeding profusely from his ear, eyes and nose. He was shouting and
calling for his mother and father for help. He fainted after being hit
with a rifle butt on the head." Since then, many schools have been
converted into detention centers.
On Monday night, a South African woman named Navanethem "Navi" Pillay gave a closed-door briefing
to the United Nations Security Council about the abuses in Syria.
Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has
access to the UN human rights body's ongoing investigations in Syria.
She has also emerged as one of the most prominent activists for victims
of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Her confidential briefing, a copy
of which was obtained by Foreign Policy's Colum Lynch, described more
recent abuses, which she called "intolerable." In Homs, where Shadia and
her family were attacked, the military has dug trenches around the
city, presumably to prevent people from escaping. Snipers posted
throughout the city seem to be shooting people on sight and at random.
On Sunday, snipers killed at least two children, one five years old and
one 18 months. Many residents are afraid to leave their homes, even for
food or water. Security forces are believed to now target ambulances,
doctors, and aid workers. Hospitals, like schools, have been converted
into prisons and torture facilities. One UN diplomat told Lynch the
report was "the most horrifying briefing that we've had in the Security
Council over the last two years."
The abuses in Syria are so
severe that it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of their scale.
Pillay's briefing revealed that the death toll now probably exceeds
5,000, or an average of about 20 people per day since the uprising began
in March. For comparison, roughly 4,400 Americans died in the Iraq war
over eight years; 1,853 have died so far in Afghanistan. The bloodiest
month of the Iraq war, November 2004, claimed 141 American lives, or
just under five per day. As of this writing, 35 Syrians have already
been reported killed today, just in four of the most affected towns.
effective measures in a collective and decisive manner must be taken to
protect Syrians," Pillay said. But Russia, with support from China, has
for months adamantly opposed -- and effectively blocked -- any UN
action against Syria, which would have to be approved by the Security
Council. Russia has long had a close relationship with the Syrian
regime, and at times with that of neighboring Syrian ally Iran. An
earlier resolution that would have merely condemned Syria but not taken
any direct action could not even pass the council. Now that Russia is
experiencing its own pro-democracy protests, although much smaller in
scope, it is probably even less likely to allow international action
against the Assad regime.
Meanwhile, more Syrians are starting to shoot back at the security forces that have long terrorized them. Armed groups are increasingly prevalent; some analysts believe that civil war is probably inevitable.
Shadia's three-year-old son survived the attack by security forces this
August. But with dozens killed daily, children increasingly targeted,
the odds of all-out war increasing, and world leaders unable or
unwilling to act, how much longer will he have?