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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Syria: Qalat al-Hosn Massacre, June 2012

June 23, 2015
(June 25 noting niece possible)

Ahlam - Professor Imad, or her niece, unsure -
filmed by rebels after her murder
The recent SNHR report I've been poring over (review - PDF)  includes a massacre - or two - called Qal't Al-Hesn, June 28, 2012, at the home of Dr. Ahlam Emad, a professor (of what, not clear yet). This, they heard, had 6 documented deaths, including 3 women. They issued a report at the time: The Slaughtering of Complete Family Including Children and Women – Massacre in Qala’a Al Husen Region. This says, in part:
"Due to the wide attack on Qala’a Al Husen in Homs western countryside by the government forces (army, security forces, local and foreign Shiites militias) and the Shabiha, that left 72 victims in 3 days were 2 ethnic cleansing massacres took place, the first was the slaughtering of the whole family of College Prof. Ahlam Ali Eman, ..." (second one covered below, June 29)

"... Government forces raided the houses on the sides (edges) of Qala’a Al Husen then robbed it ... The residents know Dr. Ahlam for her high morals and helping the residents - she stayed at her home with her family ...

Location: the city of Hosn, or Qalat (castle) al-Hosn, built around the historical "crusader castle" of the same name - site and town both also called Krak des Chevaliers. West of Homs city, in the foothills near the "valley of the Christians." Hosn itself is mid-sized, mixed but mainly Sunni, and spawns some rebel fighters who work the region. It's been government-held, but sometimes reported as under siege by them - the military control situation in June 2012 is important to understanding this case, but not clear to me at the moment (see below).

Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria (VDC) lists 13 Homs dead, 7 executed on this day.

6 Clear Massacre Victims, re-ordered - all from Homs: Krak des Chevaliers, killed 2012-06-28 by Field Execution.
* Ahlam Ali Imad Civilian Adult - Female College Professor, Was martyred with her family members. Mother's name: Fatima Bitar
* Ali Imad Civilian Adult - Male Father of the martyred Professor Ahlam Imad
* Fatima Bitar Civilian Adult - Female Homs Krak des Chevaliers 2012-06-28 Field Execution Mother of the Martyred Professor Ahlam Imad
*  Sulaiman Hasan Imad Civilian Adult - Male Nephew of martyred Professor Ahlam Imad
*  Ahlam Hasan Imad Civilian Adult - Female Niece of Martyred Professor Ahlam Imad
* Member of Family of Ahlam Imad Civilian Adult - Male Field Execution
*  Marhaban Kurdi Civilian Adult - Female The wife of the uncle of martyr Dr. Ahlam Imad

A likely victim:
* Sa'ad Khalid Bitar Civilian Adult - Male Shelling (see below, Bitar)

Others, possibly related:
* Ahmad Mohammad Haydar Non-Civilian Adult - Male Homs Krak des Chevaliers 2012-06-28 Shooting
* Ayham Mohammad Haydar Non-Civilian Adult - Male Homs Krak des Chevaliers 2012-06-28 Shooting  
* Mohammad Ahmer al-Qadeo Civilian Adult - Male Homs Krak des Chevaliers 2012-06-28 Shelling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlSULbssiHY young guy, slashed face, poss. fake relative smile-crying over his body  
* Khalid Ahmad Jane'er Civilian Adult - Male Homs Krak des Chevaliers 2012-06-28 Shooting  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHQKVCuCkTw seems to be with Haydar brothers in the morgue
*  Ali Talli Civilian Adult - Male Homs Krak des Chevaliers 2012-06-28 Shelling

A video, linked from the VDC entries above  Description auto-translated: "The legend of the regime of committing a massacre terrible in the castle of the fort منذالصباح early, had to sneak to the edge of the castle and the fort under the cover of artillery and kill all who found them in the same way as the massacre of Al-houla, Allahu Akbar" In this, 5 dead people are seen in and by a damaged home - a young man outside (Suleiman?), older man inside (Ali? - see right - throat does not appear cut, wound unsure), older woman (Fatima or Marhaban, walking stick nearby), unrecognizable (smashed head? Not even sure what part of the body that is), and apparently Ahlam, as seen above - or perhaps her adult niece - in bed clothes next to the bed, or partly de-clothed, bloodied face but no clear wounds, quite possibly raped.

Counter-Claims: So far, just a video title with no known supports. But little is known so far... (different, lower-res version of same video, with subtitles in Arabic) "Professor Ahlam Imad and all her family were slaughtered by FSA in city of Al-Hosn (Krak des Chevaliers) Homs-Syria."
Date; 28-June-2012 

Second Massacre:
The SNHR report says there were "2 ethnic cleansing massacres" in the three day span-including the 28th.  The Imam family massacre was first, then "the second occurred when the Shabiha and Security forces intercepted a bus carrying residents fleeing from the severe shelling on the area, and killed all the passengers of the bus including women and children." I'm not sure if I've found any confirmation, but likely: the VDC lists 7 martyrs from Krak des Chevaliers killed the 29th by "shelling," the usual terms for a bus attack blamed on the government, regardless of how executed the victims appear. These however have no bus mention, or any notes - 6 men, 1 woman - 2 named Sha'ar, 2 named Zoubi. Basel Yahia al-Hamid has 2 videos, both private now. None has any further explanation.

* What did She Teach? Sharia law? That's almost bound to piss off Islamists even worse. They don't like women teaching anything. Why did she "Stay at home" before her death instead of teaching, and this show "good morals" per SNHR's locals?

* Who Was in Control?  The military control situation of Qalat al-Hosn in June 2012 is important to understanding this case, but not clear to me at the moment. My best guess is government control, like most places this early on. If so, government-aligned attackers only killing on the edges of town makes less sense than if it were rebels attacking. Also, the robbing part seems a better fit for bandits looking to fund their operations than members of a state-supported militia.

* FSA Fighters? Two VDC-listed victims above are listed as FSA, non-civilian but from that town - which is mainly Sunni. Both are named Haydar. The only two local FSA fighters killed, with the same name? Not buying it - local defenders, or just killed at home for unknown reasons.

* Bitar Professor Imad's mother was named Fatima Bitar - a name shared by two other victims of the war, I just found, both also from this same town. A lot of Bitars here. As mentioned above, another one died at the same time as the June massacre: Sa'ad Khalid Bitar Civilian Adult - Male Shelling   - same name as Ahlam's mother, too young to be a brother of hers, maybe a son of her younger brother, a cousin to Ahlam. An uncle is mentioned - his wife was killed, and a nephew and niece were killed - though named Imad, not Bitar.) It says Sa'ad is "Brother of Martyr Waleed Bitar." I can't find a Walid Bitar, Betar, or Beetar in their database. Closest is Abdul Waheed Bitar, a victim of the Khalidiya Massacre in February. Some families have bad luck like that.

In fact, Bitars in or from Homs fared poorly in this few day span - VDC lists 6 killed on 3 different days, more than usual. Besides the two killed in Qalat al-Hosn on the 28th, there were two other incidents, one before and one after, that are more speculative but worth including here. Bitars who left Homs for some reason and went to Deir Ezzour, were killed there on June 27 and June 30.

On the 27th, a  woman, a man, and boy were killed by "shelling" in Deir Ezzor (martyrdom location), unexplained. Their province (usually meaning from) is Homs, no area specified.
* Seifelden al-Bitar Child - Male - mother's name Ayda al-Aqra - video (wrapped) video (wounds shown - hole in nech, hole in skull, looking like bullet exit wound? Appears around 9 years old)
* Abdulrahman Bitar Adult Male Mother's Name Ayda al-Aqra (older brother)
* Qamar Bitar Adult Female Mother's Name Ayda al-Aqra
* Also: Ayada al-Aqra'a noted as "eight month pregnant." So that's kind-of a 5th victim. Not clear if anyone else was killed in the same "shelling" with them.

Ayada married a Bitar, as did professor Imad's father ... were they related Bitars? Alawite Bitars? Were rebels coordinating hits on this scattered family in these few days? Or is this coincidence? (it is a common name and commonly Sunni, as well as Alawite sometimes)

Then, June 30, the last one in this run - Abeer al-Bitar, child female, from Homs: Baba Amr (southwest district of the city, rebel hotbed, a place non-Sunnis might have fled early on - maybe the origin of the others). Martyrdom location Deir Ezzor (like the others). video (rebels have her wrapped mostly, ready to bury - no visible wounds - might be suffocated - appears about age 7.)

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