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Death in Syria has become so normalized that 100 people being killed in a day no longer warrants any international media attention. But there are some images that are so brutal, so gruesome, so inhumane, that they shock us all, no matter how normalized we may be. Well, most of us, anyway.

The discovery of tens of corpses near the Qouaiq River in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood in Aleppo is one of those images. This image will certainly be one of the images that remain in our historical conscience, long after the Syrian revolution is over.

Bustan Al-Qasr is a neighborhood in Aleppo that is famous for its enthusiastic, critical protests (which I have written about before here). Yesterday, the residents of Bustan al-Qasr were doing this:

And today, they are doing this:

A few of the dead have been identified. Their names are:

Mohammad Dahala

Mohammad Mounir Rabhaoui

Anas Jamal

Yousef Oudba

Yousef Jalilati

Mohammad Dakki

Mohsen Ali Abd El-Qader

Ammar Sankri

Mahmoud Ramadan

Mohammad Kousa

Mohannad Hamndoush

Mohammad Kaj

Mohammad Qattan

Mohammad Kassah

Abdo Mouqresh Ibn Yahya

Mohammad Abd el-Rahman Badawi

Mohammad Yahya Najjaz

The corpses pulled out of the Qouaiq river by Bustan al-Qasr activists.

The corpses pulled out of the Qouaiq river by Bustan al-Qasr activists.

 

The rest of the 80 bodies have not yet been identified. Pictures of the unidentified martyrs have been posted online. Once seen up close, it is evident that those who were killed had undergone a lot of torture and brutal treatment before they died. Some have parts of their head missing. Others’ faces are so decomposed that they are hardly recognizable. The images recall images of corpses from the Houla Massacre, and images of corpses in general after they undergo torture by Assad’s Shabiha.

There is no shortage of crimes being committed in Syria today. Many of the armed rebels have made mistakes. Some have committed crimes against local residents. Others have looted and robbed. But despite all that, despite all their misgivings, there is only one party that is capable of such sadistic and heinous brutality and inhumanity. It is not the Free Syrian Army. It is not Jabhat al-Nusra. It is the Shabiha of Bashar al-Assad

The protesters of Hama graffiti’d in 2011: “Here, humanity stumbled.” That is not to say that other humans outside of Syria have failed Syria. That is not to say that other humans should have pressured their governments for a “humanitarian” intervention. What it means is that, in Syria, the concept of humanity was defeated. When the Shabiha step on Syrians’ faces to the point of deformity with their iron boots, they are stepping on much more than a human face. They are stepping on the concept of humanity altogether.

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Today, it is with great sadness that we learned about the death of Yusef al-Jader, whose nom-de-guerre was Abu Furat. Liwaa al-Tawhid announced that he was martyred today after leading a successful operation to liberate the Infantry School In Aleppo. Abu Furat was from Jarablus, a city on the border with Turkey in the suburbs of Aleppo.  He was a great fighter, but also a man of great principle.

In this video, Abu Furat is speaking right after the liberation of the Infantry School. In a dialogue with the cameraman, he says the following:

Cameraman: Tell us what you are feeling now Abu Furat.

Abu Furat: Honestly, I am bothered.

Cameraman: Why?

Abu Furat: I am bothered because these tanks [that we destroyed] are our tanks. The ammo is our ammo. Those fighters are our brothers. I swear to God, every time I see a person that is killed, from our side or from their side, I get sad. Because if that bastard [Bashar] had resigned, Syria would have been the best country in the world. But you clung to your throne you bastard, why? You started killing people when we were telling you we were peaceful, and you were saying it was all armed gangs. And us officers were sitting on our beds watching, when you were calling people terrorists. Honestly, we are not terrorists. You are the one who wants us to become terrorists.

Perhaps it is for this reason that he appears ecstatic in this video when he announces that over 70 soldiers from the Infantry School in Aleppo defected a few days before he was killed. Seeing soldiers have to be killed to defend Bashar’s throne would bother him, and defections meant many lives would be spared, which perhaps gave him some solace.

In this video from two days ago, Abu Furat sends a message to Bashar about sectarianism:

“We want to send a message to the regime, Bashar al-Assad. This man is our brother. This man is a Alawite. I lived in Lattakia for 22 years. Why did you plunge your own sect in a battle for you and try to make them hate Sunnis? Why? Don’t you think about how we are going to live together? Well, despite you, we are going to live together. I know Alawites are a generous and nice people. Many of them are poor too. And you use these people to achieve your own malicious goals. And these are the children of villages. Bread probably takes a year to finally make its way to their villages. They are poor, they don’t have food, they don’t have bread, if one of them gets sick, they will die because they can’t afford medicine.

But I want to ask from you my Alawite brothers–and you know me, I have sat among you and  drank matté with you before–be careful: We are not your enemies, we are your brothers, we are participants in the nation, and we lived together. And Saleh al-Ali [anti-colonial Syrian Alawi leader during French colonialism] refused to work under the French flag, and refused to separate into a Alawi state, just like his sons and grandsons will also refuse such a thing. The plans have been exposed, and our Alawite brothers will come back to us, for we are the same.”

Knowing that extraordinary characters like Abu Furat are fighting on the frontlines and leading battles in Syria gives great hope for the future of Syria, in terms of the victory against Assad, and also in terms of the prospects for a post-Assad Syria.

Rest in power ya shahid Abu Furat.