Human rights organization the Syrian British Consortium on Aug. 25 published the findings of its investigation into the massacre of civilians by the Syrian government and allied forces in the town of Daraya a decade ago. The investigation found that in August 2012, government forces killed at least 700 people, including women and children, through indiscriminate shelling and mass executions.
Daraya, a town just southwest of Damascus, was one of the most prominent centers of the Syrian uprising against Bashar al-Assad in 2011 and was widely recognized as the frontline of nonviolent resistance in the country. The town regularly held mass protests against the regime, and by 2012 government control in Daraya had significantly diminished. These protests came to their peak during Ramadan, July 20 to Aug. 18, 2012.
On Aug. 19, the Syrian government and allied militia forces began a wanton campaign of destruction in Daraya. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), then estimated at no more than 800 strong, attempted to resist government forces of at least 10,000 troops, but were quickly overwhelmed. After surrounding the city, regime troops established military checkpoints restricting all movement in or out before cutting off all power and mobile communications.
Between Aug. 20 and 24, regime forces indiscriminately shelled civilians trapped within residential areas, and intentionally targeted hospitals as well other key infrastructure points with rocket, missile and mortar fire, as well as direct attacks from helicopters and warplanes. Infantry forces, comprised of Syrian Air Force Intelligence and the infamous Fourth Division and Assad’s Republican Guard, entered the town on Aug. 24, accompanied by Hezbollah and Iranian militia units. They set up additional checkpoints inside the town and positioned snipers on buildings with orders to indiscriminately shoot on sight.
These units then attacked residential neighborhoods with tanks and heavy artillery, before beginning a door-to-door search. They systematically raided homes, conducting “violent searches, intimidating residents, looting personal belongings, detaining men and older adolescent boys and committing mass extrajudicial executions of men, women and children across Daraya.” The investigation estimates that at least 700 people were killed in Daraya during this time, and the vast majority of those killed were clearly non-combatants. So far, 514 of those killed have been identified by name, including “at least 36 women and 63 children.”
In February 2013, a UN Commission of Inquiry found “reasonable grounds to believe that Government forces perpetrated the war crime of murder against hors de combat fighters and civilians taking no active part in hostilities, including women and children” during the August 2012 attack on Daraya. However, the UN has never conducted a detailed investigation, and no one has ever been charged with any crimes in connection to the massacre.
From Jurist, Aug. 26. Used with permission.
See also our feature The Fall of Daraya: From Roses to Evacuation by Leila Al Shami
Photo: Daraya, 2011 via Leila’s Blog