Remembering Those Syrian Detainees Tortured to Death by the Assad Regime

It’s difficult to understand not only what drives a man like Assad to commit such atrocities, but why states like the U.S., Russia, and Iran would prop up a regime such as his. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

It’s difficult to understand not only what drives a man like Assad to commit such atrocities, but why states like the U.S., Russia, and Iran would prop up a regime such as his. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

You may recall the Syrian military photographer who, from 2011 to 2013, documented Syrian detainees tortured to death by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Known as Caesar, he passed them, via flash drives, to a friend who smuggled them out of the country. He then went into hiding, but journalist Garance le Caisne finally tracked him down (presumably outside Syria) for the Guardian.

Revisiting the torture, which is ongoing, from someone who witnessed its results first-hand reveal the sheer cynicism of states like Russia and Iran — not to mention the United States! — seeking to prop up Assad’s regime in the face of assaults by rebel groups, most notably the Islamic State. Assad is making his bid to be enshrined in the pantheon of most heinous individuals to have ever walked the planet (in the process implicating all those who help him).

One passage in the article is emblematic of how unfazed Assad seems by his brutality. Le Caisne writes (emphasis added):

It was easier to photograph the bodies at Tishreen because they were sheltered from the sunlight, in the morgue or, when that was full up, in the corridors. At Mezzeh, they were dumped outdoors, on the ground, in one of the garages where the cars were serviced. The hospital is at the foot of the hill where the presidential guard is based. You can see the hill in some of the photos, in fact, with the hospital watchman’s hut and the trees that mark the edge of its grounds. The presidential palace is just behind and above it.

Assad wasn’t troubled enough by the effects of his handiwork to keep them out of his own neighborhood. It certainly bothered Caesar, who told le Caisne:

‘We thought our work would mobilise public opinion. But the politicians want to turn the page and negotiate with Bashar al-Assad.’