November 2, 2012

Syrian opposition execution of Iraqi Sadrist - not helpful


It is no secret that I support the Syrian opposition in their efforts to remove the regime of Bashar al-Asad. My involvement with Syria goes back almost four decades. I have always had a special place in my heart for the Syrian people - I have always found them to be open, warm and friendly. Syrian hospitality is legendary.

My feelings do not extend to the Syrian government. Bashar al-Asad and the Ba'th Party must be removed.

That said, there are limits to the opposition's methods that I will endorse and support. This is not one of them. So why am I publishing this article? I think it is important that we not enter into any relationship with the Syrian opposition groups without understanding who they are. This two-minute video demonstrates the level of hatred, sectarian in this case, that exists in the region, including Syria.

Since few of you speak Arabic, I will translate it, not word for word, but close enough for you to understand the nuances of the interrogation. The prisoner knows this is not going to end well. As he answers the questions (likely under duress), it becomes clear that his fate is all but sealed. Listen to it, whether you understand the words or not - note the calm, businesslike demeanor of the interrogator.

(I = interrogator; P = prisoner)

I: The Mujahidin (holy warrior) Brigade through the grace of God captured a shabih (thug, militiaman) - what is your name?

P: Muhammad Jasim al-Maliki

I: Where are you from?

P: Al-Basrah (Iraq)

I: Where do you live in Iraq?

P: Baghdad

I: Baghdad - where?

P: Sadr City

I: What sect are you?

P: Shi'a

I: What work did you do in Iraq?

P: Police and as an informant

I: For who?

P: For the Americans

I: And what are you doing in Syria?

P: Protecting the Shi'a and killing Sunnis

I: And you are in Sitt Zaynab*?

P: Yes

I: Killing Sunnis?

P: Yes

I: How many Sunnis have you killed?

P: 50

I: 50 exactly, or just around 50?

P: Around 50

I: OK, how long have you been in Syria?

P: About a year, a year and a half

I: Are there Iraqi or Iranian Shi'a here now in Syria?

P: Approximately 1500

I: And they are here now on the same mission as you?

P: Yes

I: And they are from the jaysh al-mahdi (Sadrist militia)?

P: Yes, the jaysh al-mahdi

I: And this is all true?

P: Yes

Another speaker then pronounces sentence by the Mujahidin Brigade in the name of God and executes the prisoner. I have removed much of the more graphic scenes.

In summary: This is the interrogation and later execution of an Iraqi Shi'a, Muhammad Jasim al-Maliki, originally from al-Basrah who moved to Sadr City in Baghdad and who worked as a police officer and informant for the Americans. He is a member of the jaysh al-mahdi (al-Sadr militia), and along with about 1500 other Iraqis and Iranians, has been in Syria for about a year and a half, in the Sitt Zaynab* area south of Damascus. He says his mission was to kill Sunnis, and he admits to killing about 50.

I abhor this type of behavior, but given the emotions and animosity between the Syrian people on one side, and the regime ruling and oppressing the country on the other, I can understand it.

This has to stop.
* The Sayidah Zaynab Mosque is a shrine located south of Syria that contains the grave of Zaynab, daughter of 'Ali and Fatimah and granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad. It is a site revered by Shi'a Muslims, and in my opinion, one of the most beautiful mosques in the world.