Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Syrian army defector says he was told to shoot unarmed protesters

During a month stationed in Deraa, neither Wasid nor any of his fellow conscripts saw a single armed demonstrator

Martin Chulov in Istanbul
guardian.co.uk, Monday 27 June 2011

"Wasid, a Syrian conscript, set off for the southern town of Deraa in late April filled with the zeal of a soldier going to war. "We were going to fight terrorists," he said. But less than a day after arriving there, he was planning to defect.

The Syrian regime has cast the uprising in Deraa as a conflict between a loyal military and a large and highly mobile group of heavily-armed foreign-backed insurgents, roaming the country attempting to ignite sectarian strife.

Over three hours in an Istanbul safehouse, Wasid, 20, described events in the southern town where the wave of dissent that has swept Syria first broke. His account starkly contradicts the official narrative.

"As soon as we got there, the officers told us not to shoot at the men carrying guns. They said they [the gunmen] were with us. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It had all been lies," he said.

In the month they were stationed there, neither Wasid nor any of his colleagues saw any demonstrators with weapons in Deraa or the nearby town of Izraa. And instead of confronting armed insurgents, the unit was ordered to shoot protesters. "It shocked me," he said. "We are soldiers and soldiers do not shoot at civilians.".....

He crossed the border in the Kurdish northeast of Syria and made his way by bus to Istanbul, where the UNHCR and rights group Avaaz are helping him. Wasid's testimony will be used in a referral to the international criminal court being prepared by another group, Insan. Four other defectors from Deraa have made their way to the Jordanian capital, Amman, in recent days and are also briefing investigators.

Defections have been regularly reported during the uprising, but on a small scale. Apart from the apparent mutiny of half a base in the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour (where Syrian officials claim soldiers were massacred by terrorists), none of the defections have been large enough to pose a threat to command and control of the army....."

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