Warning

Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Killing a Fireman in Syria

Killing a Fireman in Syria
September 26, 2016
slight edits Sept. 27

I've had an incident on file for some years that comes to mind recently, as Syria's emergency workers are getting some long-deserved attention as the "real civil defense," in a multi-part article by Vanessa Beeley at 21st Century Wire (the rather amazing part 1 is available here).

This possibly related scene is captured in a terrible video called "GRAPHIC Assad´s Syrian army soldiers beating a handcuffed man to death," published on Youtube October 15, 2012. Other copies have gone missing, so in case they all do, I have a saved copy of this, and present the most important screen grabs here.

This shows a bound man, beaten and bleeding, with a wrapped head, in the custody of men in camouflage fatigues and varied footwear. One grabs the man by his feet and drags him some distance face-down, then into the bed of a pickup truck (Toyota). The poor victim is mostly motionless but alive. One apparent soldier kicks him hard in the face, and he's last seen hanging over the tailgate, breathing hard or sobbing.

This depraved and inhumane sequence is just one of hundreds upon hundreds of alleged regime crime videos, self-documented for fun, that opposition "activists" managed to own. We presume there are thousands more theyhaven't got copies of right? Or, hopefully, this is most of them, and they get so many because of their direct links to the responsible gunmen. Sometimes the videos are described as "leaked," sometime taken from the cell phone of a soldier or Shabih killed or taken captive. Usually it's not even explained how - they just got it and it's total proof. They go on Youtube and shock some into supporting anti-government forces, and may send other useful signals to other people. Some are pulled for being too graphic and "disgusting."

As usual in such productions, the prominently displayed callous behavior suggests the perpetrators are trying to make themselves look bad. Or, since people don't usually do that, maybe they're trying to make someone else look bad. Since they're in Syrian army uniforms, they would be trying to make the army look bad. Note the disciplined salute at 0:07 as the "captain" of this operation walks up. Clearly approved at the highest levels this was!

Video comments from the cited posting include these:
- If these are Assad's soldiers, then why is one of them wearing the black and white Al-Qaeda band on his wrist.  See it at .32
- i'm realy happy when assads infidel dogs are killed by FSA fighters.. every fucking alawi shia pig must die like pigs
- Its assad army. If its FSA we would have heard takbeer (Allahu Akbar) there's no takbeer and of course its assad army

I don't know of any white-and-black wristband connected to Al-Qaeda activity, just some kind of watch, supposedly. But it could be. The brief view of one "soldier's" left wrist is shown here for reference. All considered, maybe these Islamist defectors remembered not to takbeer, but forgot to lose all the wristbands, in their effort to make their uniforms seem not stolen.

They Killed a Fireman!
The first oddity is the victim's removed footwear - strange boots with loops at the top, looking like dark rubber, pull-over units, like firefighters use. It's not the stylized yellow units shown in Beeley's piece, but worth noting. His pants are not inconsistent, and his bald-headed haircut seems likely (to me, anyway) for a firefighter. Even the shovel we see could be a fire fighter's - it's with him and his boots. As the victim is dragged off, leaving a blood smear, someone picks it up to bring it with them. Do they plan to bury this fireman with his own shovel? 

As he's dragged face-down, we see a parked fire engine. There's a smaller red truck sits near a larger red truck with double wheels in the back, and tanks beneath. The ground is wet all around it (but dry everywhere else). Briefly we also see the end of this vehicle, with a ladder up one side. Clearly, these "soldiers" have themselves a fire truck. I can't make out any identifying numbers to help identify this. But I'd love to hear the other side of what happened to that crew.

Now, ask - why would regular army units need to call in a fire at some remote-seeming area and have responders sent to ambush them? They could kill firefighters other ways, arrest them right at the station and take them to a secret prison, etc. They wouldn't do this to steal a fire engine either, having powers to get one officially if they wanted to. Uniforms and weapons considered, this is best explained by defectors working outside the state system, calling in a fire (as we'll see, they'd dial 113) and preparing an ambush there instead.

The whole crew must be somewhere, perhaps being held for ransom. It's likely the rest were Sunnis and this one was found to be Alawi, and sentenced to death over it.

Record Match?
Different posting clues suggest the scene happened before October 15, 2012, perhaps in Baniyas province (A pulled posting was included here as Assad’s forces torture a man in Banyas, Tartous) - I checked the VDC database: no clear matches on people from Tartous province. A few possible matches, none linking to this video or specifying fireman.  There are eight unidentified men executed 10-11, from Reihaneih ( الريحانية ) Tartous (I cannot locate such a place, at least not anywhere near Baniyas - not sure of all province boundaries).  Some other unidentified men had been shot there earlier as well.

But Baniyas/Tartous could be a false lead - they might specify a secure area where the regime can be safely blamed, while really the incident was in, say, Aleppo. It could be hopeless, but just in case they listed his occupation, I checked all killed with "fire" in that field. Two possible fits:

Ja'far al-Qadri from Damascus suburbs, area killed not mentioned (might be the same). Killed by shooting 2012-10-09 "By regime forces gunfire," of course.

Moawyah Abdullah Hoshan - a fireman from Kafr Zita Hama, killed by shooting 2012-09-23 in Aleppo. Notes: "He was martyred by regime forces' gunfire due his duties." Called to a fire and killed by men in uniform - that could be this scene. I'll add his name Muawiyah is one Alawites would be unlikely to use (Wikipedia). Also, that might be why the killers chose it as a replacement name. We don't know if any of that record is accurate.

So there's no reasonably clear match, but either might be it, and the Aleppo entry especially is compelling.

Real Civil Defense and Notes from the Takeover
Now we return to Vanessa Beeley's big and rich article The REAL Syria Civil Defence Expose Nato’s ‘White Helmets’ as Terrorist-Linked Imposters...
For the REAL Syria Civil Defence you call 113 inside Syria.  There is no public number for the White Helmets.  Why not? Why does this multi-million dollar US & NATO state-funded first repsonder ‘NGO,’ with state of the art equipment supplied by the US and the EU via Turkey, have no central number for civilians to call when the “bombs fall”?
Good question. I guess the "Free Syrian Army" calls for you when it's needed? The non-Syrian civil defense folks would say half-jokingly they just run towards explosion sounds, without fear. And that's the most serious they'd get. 

"Civil Defense" in the White Helmets promoted sense, seems to outsiders like mostly building collapse rescue work, and seems a little more involved than the tasks done by what we call  "firemen." But the real civil defense seems to be primarily the fire department, more or less. According to a chart of worldwide emergency numbers available online, in Syria the police are reached at 112, ambulance at 110  and fire is 113 .  (This also notes for unclear reason "Syrian operators, however, are not likely to speak English.")

Like anywhere, they probably handle all kinds of other emergencies. Perhaps also "civil defense" is another level up from regular fire - like the police can call in the army if needed. Either way, this probably is the closest equivalent to the lauded "White Helmets," and therefore the real Syrian civil defense. Civilly, they work with the sovereign government, not with a cluster of interventionist forces backing the Sunni-extremist-identifying replacement for "liberated" areas, that also does things like execution cleanup, running with babies, and saying "barrel bombs" almost as often as "Allahu Akbar."

Beeley spoke with some of the real real civil defense workers in Aleppo, whose helmets tend to be yellow, not white. One dubbed ‘Khaled’ (for safety) told her "what happened when the terrorists (western media still call them “opposition” or “moderate rebels”) started to invade East Aleppo in 2012."
“They came in and they drove us out of our homes and they came to the Syria Civil Defence yard and they killed some of my comrades, they kidnapped others.  They wanted to force me to work with them.  I escaped at night.  I was forced to leave my teenage sons behind. They burned my house to the ground and they put my name on all the terrorist checkpoints so if I go back, they will kill me.”

Khaled went on to explain how those men who later became the White Helmets were among this first wave of terrorists:

“They are terrorists, not rescuers.  They stole our ambulances and three of our fire engines. They don’t do any rescue work.  They drive round with guns in the back of their car like any other terrorist.  Some are from East Aleppo, some are from Syria but not from Aleppo and some are even coming in from abroad.”
I hear the three trucks were stolen in from one captured station, so the engine seen above - intercepted and possibly kept by those "soldiers" - won't be one of them. But there were probably more than those three seized. That is, if this is Aleppo. The same thing surely happened in other cities as well.

The time frame is right - summer and fall is when the rebel takeover there really kicked off. The infamous al-Nusra soldier execution scene (right) was in early September.

This shocked many people, because it was clearly the anti-government forces being criminals here. Up to that point, it seemed, only the regime's forces were yanking people - including soldiers, police, and firemen - into the shadows and murdering them on what would wind up as opposition propaganda videos.

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