Syria’s Stalin and His Gulag

By now Focal Points readers are no doubt aware of the report that Human Rights Watch issued titled Torture Archipelago: Arbitrary Arrests, Torture, and Enforced Disappearances in Syria’s Underground Prisons since March 2011. From the summary:

Since the beginning of anti-government protests in March 2011, Syrian authorities have subjected tens of thousands of people to arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment, and torture using an extensive network of detention facilities, an archipelago of torture centers, scattered throughout Syria.

Based on more than 200 interviews with former detainees, including women and children, and defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies, this report focuses on 27 of these detention facilities.

On the other hand, the reader may not be aware of Syria’s chemical weapons program and suspected biological weapons program. At the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Charles Blair wrote in March:

Syria likely has one of the largest and most sophisticated chemical weapon programs in the world. Moreover, Syria may also possess an offensive biological weapons capability that Libya did not.

To wit:

Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile is thought to be massive. One of only eight nations that is not a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention — an arms control agreement that outlaws the production, possession, and use of chemical weapons — Syria has a chemical arsenal that includes several hundred tons of blistering agents along with likely large stockpiles of deadly nerve agents, including VX, the most toxic of all chemical weapons

Between that and their gulag-like archipelago, one can’t help but suspect that Syria takes too much of its cue from the former Soviet Union, with President Bashar al-Assad serving as Syria’s Stalin.