Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Seeing Syria through the sniper's sights

.....................................................Chief Butcher: Maher Assad........................................

"Being told to kill peaceful civilians is the most brutal thing that ever happened to me," says defected former sniper.

Hugh Macleod and Annasofie Flamand

"In the dead of night in southern Syria, on a road near the town of Izra', a truck driver is flagged down by a group of men.

It's May 25 and the men, clearly agitated, explain why they need a lift urgently: The group of 21 are soldiers defecting from the army's Division 47 after a month deployed in Deraa, the cradle of the Syrian uprising.

This is the story of how one of those men, a sniper, took the decision to flee the bloodshed and the orders to kill protesters he said came to him directly from President Bashar al-Assad's brother Maher.

"Being told by officers to kill peaceful and unarmed civilians is the most brutal thing that ever happened to me," said the defected former sniper, a member of the special forces of the army's Division 47, which he said was deployed from Damascus to Izra', 30km north-east of Deraa, on April 25.

Al Jazeera spoke twice to the soldier by phone from his exile in neighbouring Turkey and has corroborated his testimony with that gathered by Insan, a leading Syrian human rights organisation and Avaaz, the global rights organisation.

At the request of the soldier, Al Jazeera agreed not to reveal his name, military ID, hometown and other personal details, though the organisation has seen them, as it has the names of the sniper's commanding officers.

"The decision to desert the army was a life and death decision for me," he said. "It was impossible for me to continue watching people dropping dead in front of my eyes every day - even if they were not killed by me."...."

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