Archive for the ‘Syria’ Category
In the eyes of the Syrian authorities Ferzat Jarban was a rodent who had to be exterminated. The 35-year-old florist had transformed himself into a citizen journalist, filming scenes that depicted the brutality of the regime and posting them on YouTube.
His footage included the bodies of men and women, and some particularly shocking images of a young boy who had been shot in the head.
Jarban was soon one of the most wanted men in his native al-Qusayr, a rural town of 30,000 people near the rebellious city of Homs in the west of the country. He went on the run from the intelligence services, never spending more than two nights in any one place.
Every month, however, he risked everything to see his wife, Khalidja, and their three children. He would savour half an hour with them before disappearing underground again.
It was during one of these fleeting visits, as he stepped out of his car and into his front yard, that the secret police pounced. Armed men in plain clothes bundled him into the back of a black police van.
Jarban’s cousin, who was looking after the family, rushed out of the house, shouting, and tried to pull him away. According to two witnesses interviewed by The Sunday Times, one of the officers drew his pistol and shot the cousin at point-blank range.
Twenty-four hours later Jarban’s body was dumped in a puddle in the town square, where his wife was taken to see him. The marks of torture testified to the cruelty of his final ordeal.
The men who carried his body from the square said police had gouged out one of his eyeballs with a knife and then forced it back through the empty socket into his brain.
Those who washed the body for burial found that he had a broken nose, a large, bloody flap of skin hanging from his neck and severe bruising to his arms, legs, back and chest.
A relative fought back tears as she described his tireless work for the revolution against President Bashar al-Assad.
“He rarely slept. He was at the forefront of every demonstration. He wasn’t scared of showing his face,” she said. “He photographed every protest, every murder, every destroyed building. His weapon was his camera. His memory will live on for ever.”
Jarban’s murder has made him a martyr in al-Qusayr, which thrives on cotton, fruit and vegetables from the surrounding fields in normal times but is now ringed by an estimated 2,000 soldiers from the Syrian army. His image is carried aloft by demonstrators at daily rallies in the square.
Local people say he is one of 96 civilians killed here since the start of the popular uprising last March.
They rely for their security on perhaps 200 rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), mostly former members of Assad’s forces who defected. The rebel army, which provides the town with a lifeline by keeping open a single route in and out, is well organised but lightly armed and vastly outnumbered.
Last week the Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy and I were smuggled into al-Qusayr along this route, giving us access to the men and women who have been defying Assad’s crackdown for 10 months. Read the rest of this entry »