Monday, March 4, 2013

Hello, My Name is Hamza al-Khateeb

Hamza al-Khateeb
I was wasting time in Facebook yesterday when I stumbled upon a group entitled, “We Are All Hamza Alkhateeb.” Since I had never heard of this person, I checked it out and learned that 1) Hamza was a 13-year-old boy who was tortured and murdered by the Syrian regime in Daraa in the spring of 2011, 2) his name has become a rallying cry for opponents of the Syrian government, and 3) the group’s photo album contains a number of graphic and disturbing images depicting the suffering of civilians – especially children – caught up in the Syrian uprising that began on my birthday, March 15, in 2011.

I asked Anita what she knew about this part of the so-called “Cradle of Civilization” and she replied, “Only what I’ve heard on NPR which is that the Syrian government is getting weapons from Russia and fighting rebels and protesters in the streets and slaughtering innocent civilians. It’s been going on for a long time.”

I’ve got to listen to NPR more often because all I knew was that civil war had broken out. I knew nothing about the Houla massacre during which 108 people were killed, including 34 women and 49 children. I wasn’t aware that people were being “summarily executed” or that the United Nations Human Rights Council formally condemned the Syrian government or that the Free Syrian Army, the main opposition group, is comprised of defectors from the regular Syrian Army who want to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and end five decades of Ba’ath Party rule.

I also didn’t know that the state of human rights in Syria has long been the subject of harsh criticism from internal and external sources, or that President Obama signed an executive order in May of 2011 imposing sanctions on the al-Assad government in the hope that it would “end its use of violence against its people and begin transitioning to a democratic system that protects the rights of the Syrian people."

If the grim statistics provided by the Facebook group administrators are correct, 4,349 children, 3,567 women and 7,014 rebel soldiers have been “martyred” since March of 2011. An estimated one million people have been arrested, more than 60,000 are missing and over ten million are homeless and displaced.

I'm not going to repost the photos of the mutilated corpses of kids wrapped in burial shrouds, their family members beside themselves in obvious, overpowering grief. I don’t want to be accused of disseminating unsubstantiated propaganda or turning people off with sanctimonious overkill. I just thought I’d share what I’ve recently learned with readers who may think the biggest news is that legless Olympian Oscar Pistorius shot his pretty girlfriend, Kellie Pickler’s going to be on “Dancing with the Stars” or a satirical website named after a vegetable called nine-year-old actress Quvenzhané Wallis a c-word. The parents of at least 4,349 little girls and boys in Syria – including Hamza al-Khateeb – beg to differ.

Click here to read “Children suffer horrific injuries as Syrian forces target civilians,” February 6, 2013.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Patrick, for caring enough to write about it.