Dead Syrian boy - a child martyr, now symbol for protesters
Daraa: Murkier details of the monstrosity meted out to the protesters in Syria have added fuel to the fire already simmering in Syria. Revelations that, authorities had apparently tortured and murdered a 13-year-old boy last month near the protest flashpoint of Deraa have sparked off an intense outrage among people.
Hamza al Khateeb was a 13 years old boy from “Al Jeezah” or “Al Giza” village in Daraa province. His tragedy started when he marched with his family in a rally to break the siege of the city of Daraa. He was detained among hundreds of Syrian during the massacre of Siada.
After weeks of absence Hamza was returned to his family as a dead body on Saturday with scars testifying to the torture….bruises , burns to the feet, elbows, face and knees and his genitals removed. Family members said the wounds are consistent with those seen of victims of electric shock devices and cable whippings. The child’s eyes are also swollen and black, and both arms showed identical bullet wounds.
The reported torture of a Syrian boy shows the "total collapse" of Syrian authorities' willingness to listen to anti-government protesters, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday.
In some of her harshest comments about Syria's crackdown on the protests, Clinton suggested the Assad government's hold on power was weakening, while a US spokesman described the 13-year-old boy's reported treatment as "horrifying" and "appalling."
The New York Times reported on Monday that an online video showed a 13-year-old boy, arrested at a protest on April 29, who it said had been tortured, mutilated and killed before his body was returned to his family.
"I can only hope that this child did not die in vain but that the Syrian government will end the brutality and begin a transition to real democracy," Clinton told a news conference.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has sought to crush 10 weeks of protests against his 11-year reign with a military crackdown in which rights campaigners say 1,000 civilians have been killed and more than 10,000 people arrested.
Clinton said she was "very concerned" by reports about the 13-year-old boy, whom she identified as Hamza Ali al-Khateeb.
"I think what that symbolizes for many Syrians is the total collapse of any effort by the Syrian government to work with and listen to their own people," Clinton said, appearing with Colombia's visiting foreign minister.
"Every day that goes by the position of the government becomes less tenable and the demands of the Syrian people for change only grow stronger," Clinton said.
"President Assad has a choice, and every day that goes by the choice is made by default. He has not called an end to the violence against his own people, and he has not engaged seriously in any kind of reform efforts," she added.
Activists said at least five people were killed on Tuesday when tanks shelled the central town of Rastan and security forces stormed Hirak, a town in the southern Hauran Plain where the uprising first broke out in mid-March.
Syria blames the violence on armed groups, Islamists and foreign agitators, saying more than 120 police and soldiers have been killed in the unrest nationwide.
Syrian state television said Assad had issued a "general amnesty" for all members of political parties but the United States dismissed this, as it has other moves such as his lifting of a state of emergency, as talk without action.
"He has talked reform but we have seen very little in the way of action," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at his daily briefing. "He needs to take steps -- concrete steps, not rhetoric -- to address what is going on in the country."
With agency inputs
"The regime commits two types of torture, the systematic, which we see accompanying mass arrests, and the particularly gruesome to spread fear on an even larger scale," said Radwan Ziadeh, head of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "The Hamza case belongs to the latter."
Khatib was from Deraa, an agricultural city in the south near the border with Jordan, where the protests first erupted on March 18, calling for greater freedoms.
HRW published on Wednesday a report based on more than 50 interviews with victims and witnesses to abuse that show "systematic killings and torture by Syrian security forces in the city of Deraa," which it said strongly suggested they qualified as crimes against humanity.
"They need to stop -- and if they don't, it is the (U.N.) Security Council's responsibility to make sure that the people responsible face justice," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director.
Syrian authorities say that armed groups backed by Islamists and foreign powers are responsible for the violence and have killed civilians and security forces.
SYRIA DENIES BOY WAS TORTURED
Syrian state television aired on Tuesday night a program about Khatib in which Judge Samer Abbas said Khatib's death was due to "a number of bullet wounds without any indication of torture or beating on the body."
He said the body was handed to the family on May 21.
Coroner Akram al-Shaar verified the claims, saying, according to a transcript on the state news agency:
"There are no marks on the surface of the body that show violence, resistance or torture using the nails or scratching or bruises, or fractures, or joint-dislocation," Shaar said.
A man who identified himself as Khatib's father on Syrian television said he had met with Assad who "engulfed us with his kindness, graciousness and promised to fulfill the demands which we've called for with the people."
"The president considered Hamza his own son and was deeply affected," the man said, adding Assad had promised reforms would start from the next day.
Syrian authorities have banned most foreign media from operating in the country, making it difficult to verify official and witnesses' accounts.
Assad on Tuesday issued a general amnesty that covers "all members of political movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood," the latest in a series of reforms aimed at addressing protesters' grievances but which they were unlikely to find satisfactory in the face of a sustained crackdown.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the amnesty had come too late and called for a more fundamental change in policy to the protests.
Wissam Tarif of the Insan human rights group said Khatib's killing would spur more people to take to the streets.
"Hamza is a symbol now, definitely," he told Reuters.
"There are no red lines, the regime can be as brutal as it wants, it will kill and torture children. People are aware of that, but what can they do, go back home? The wall of fear cannot be built again. The protests are not reversible."