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Monday, June 29, 2015

Syria: Shinya Massacre of Soldiers, July 2014

June 29, 2015

This post covers one last alleged regime-backed sectarian Homs massacre for the SNHR file (see review). This, one of the eight I had missed before but have addressed now, is listed in their June report (PDF) 22nd, in Ash-Shniya village, on 23 July, 2014. Those killed were 20 soldiers (exactly?) of the Syrian Arab Army - apparently Sunni ones - who were "trying to flee Qabou vilage to Homs suburbs -- Al-Houla city [sic]." government forces and "local militias from Ash-Shinya village," who captured the recruits, "slaughtered them and defamed their bodies in brutal ways." Some of their severed  heads were "tossed" in "Al-Assi village," the report adds.

Location:  al-Qabo on Wikimpaia, SW of Taldou, al-Houla - an Alawite village blamedfor the May, 2012 "Houla Massacre" (second in prominence to Fullah - see map) Al-Shinia is a smaller village next to it, just to the north. There doesn't seem to be an Assi village, and river of that name is 20 kilometers east. What this means is unclear. All locations are alleged, as are other details. These crimes may have happened backwards, a day earlier, and across the country, for all we really know. There are some interesting parallels with Daesh advance, early on the 24th - summarily executing dozens of captured soldiers, beheading some and displaying their severed heads - Al-Arabiya report, July 26 - but that was in Raqqah, eastern Syria. The similarities are most likely coincidence, and these are two distinct events.

VDC lists 20 non-civilian martyrs (presumably rebel fighters) nationwide on July 23, with no sign of matches to the SNHR's narrative; one of these died in Jordan from prior wounds, and the rest all over. As it has been in several of the SNHR reports, it's the next day  where we see the VDC matches - but only a few of them. 3 with "defect" in the notes, Martyrdom location Homs: Qabo  Cause of Death Field Execution,Rank Soldier - Notes Slaughtered with knives by Shabbiha forces while trying to defec.
- Khaled al-Sabbagh   from: Damascus  Jobar 
- Oqba Hammo   from: Damascus Suburbs  Douma 
- Adham al-Khodor from:Damascus Suburbs  Dumair 

VDC all non-civilian martyrs that day = 24 from different areas - most killed by shooting. This includes one more match: Gayth al-Omari from Erbeen, Damascus suburbs - Martyrdom location Homs: Qabo
Cause of Death Other  Rank defected soldier Notes "Martyred slaughtered with knives when he tried to split"  (same note used in August in another area, also specifiying "Shabiha.").

So that's four "(almost) defected" soldiers listed, not 20. All these four are from the Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta, where rebel forces were increasingly chased out. Maybe these are the only 4 listed in connection with that (only their Ghouta-based defection case managers reported their share?) Maybe there only were the four. These 4+ soldiers wound up stationed together in an Alawite village north of Homs, it's implied - or tried to pass too near in their escape from somewhere else nearby. Whenever, they decided together they should defect to the rebel side, but were killed there instead, perhaps with others, by the local militias in that ring of problematic Alawite villages .

Those few military members - almost exclusively Sunni Muslims - who successfully defect to the rebel side are listed as soon as possible by their new affiliation - most commonly the vague "FSA." Those who had just defected but didn't get the training, etc. - or worse yet, those who tried but failed to defect at all - by the VDC notes are quite likely just soldiers who rebels murdered. They use the supposed defection to suggest "it clearly wasn't us."

The implied narrative, in each of hundreds of cases by now; is their own commanders or allies executed the rebellious recruits before they could do anything to prove their intentions to defect. They meant to join rebels, who are usually on an offensive nearby. The bosses then leave the bodies behind, and rebels are  soon in that very spot, finding the bodies and knowing the story, often before the unlucky soldiers are done bleeding.

Clearly, that often-repeated story is open to question, in general and in this case. The Ghouta origins here could suggest a few different things, true or not.


  1. There doesn't seem to be an Assi village, and river of that name is 20 kilometers east

    September 24 (app.) section: Al-Assi River Massacre: An unclear number of bodies are found in the river -

  2. Clearly I knew that. :) Just leared the al-Assi is also just a local name for the same Orontes river to the north, or the stretch near Homs and Hama anyway. "The Orontes or Asi is a river of Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. It was anciently the chief river of the Levant, also called Draco, Typhon and Axius.," the latter a Helenized (Greek) form of the name Assi, or the name that spawned it.


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