11-year-old Ali Adil al-Sayyid explains how he survived as his family were killed by regime supporters in Houla
A number of accounts have emerged of the bloody events of Friday and Saturday, when regime shelling and attacks by its supporters killed more than 100 civilians in the town of Houla in Homs Province. We post a series of stories from Martin Chulov's article in The Guardian and from the report of Human Rights Watch:
"I Put Blood on My Face to Make Them Think I'm Dead"
An 11-year old boy has described how he smeared himself in the blood of his slain brother and played dead as loyalist gunmen burst into his home and killed six members of his family during the start of a massacre in Houla, central Syria....
the young survivor said government troops arrived in his district at around 3am on Saturday, several hours after shells started falling on Houla.
"They came in armoured vehicles and there were some tanks," said the boy. "They shot five bullets through the door of our house. They said they wanted Aref and Shawki, my father and my brother. They then asked about my uncle, Abu Haidar. They also knew his name."
Shivering with fear, the boy stood towards the back of the entrance to his family home as gunmen then shot dead every family member in front of him.
"My mum yelled at them," said the boy. "She asked: 'What do you want from my husband and son?' A bald man with a beard shot her with a machine gun from the neck down. Then they killed my sister, Rasha, with the same gun. She was five years old. Then they shot my brother Nader in the head and in the back. I saw his soul leave his body in front of me.
"They shot at me, but the bullet passed me and I wasn't hit. I was shaking so much I thought they would notice me. I put blood on my face to make them think I'm dead."
Apparently convinced their work was finished, the gunmen moved on to other areas of the house, from which they proceeded to loot the family's possessions, the boy said. "They stole three televisions and a computer," he said. "And then they got ready to leave."
On the way out of the house, the boy said the gunmen found the three men they had been looking for. They killed them all. "They shot my father and uncle. And then they found Aref, my oldest brother, near the door. They shot him dead too."...
The boy said he waited until the armoured personnel carriers had moved from his street, then ran to his uncle's house nearby, where he hid. He said the same militiamen knocked on the door minutes later, asking his uncle if he knew who lived in the house that they just rampaged through.
"They didn't know he was my relative and when they were talking to him they were describing six people dead in my house. They included me. They thought I was dead."
Throughout a 15-minute conversation, the boy remained calm and detached until he was pressed on how he knew the gunmen were pro-regime militia men, known as al-Shabiha....
"They got out of tanks and they had guns and knives," he repeated. "Some of them were wearing civilian clothes, some army clothes.
"Why are you asking me who they were? I know who they were. We all know it. They were the regime army and people who fight with them. That is true."
"I Saw Three Families. All of Them Were Shot."
According to survivors that Human Rights Watch interviewed and local activists, the Syrian army shelled the area on May 25, and armed men, dressed in military clothes, attacked homes on the outskirts of town and executed entire families....
All of the witnesses stated the armed men were pro-government, but they did not know whether they were members of the Syrian army or a pro-government militia, locally referred to as shabeeha....
Residents and survivors described to Human Rights Watch how the attack on Houla unfolded. At midday on May 25 protesters gathered in Taldou, Houla’s largest town. According to a witness, at around 2 p.m., soldiers from an army checkpoint opened fire to disperse nearby protesters but he did not know whether anyone was injured or killed at that moment. An opposition activist from Houla told Human Rights Watch that armed members of the opposition subsequently attacked the checkpoint from which the army had fired, and that the Syrian army responded by intensely shelling various neighborhoods in Houla.
One resident of Taldou told Human Rights Watch:
At around 2:30 p.m., the army located on the outskirts of town started shelling the neighborhood. Initially, they used tanks, but after couple of hours they started using mortars. The shelling was coming from the direction of the Air Force military college located at the entrance of Houla. Around 7:00 p.m., the shelling intensified and whole buildings were shaking. The army started firing some sort of rockets that would shake an entire area.
At around 6:30 p.m., just as the shelling intensified on parts of Houla, armed gunmen wearing military uniforms attacked homes situated on the outskirts of town on the road leading to the Houla dam, three survivors of the attacks told Human Rights Watch. Most of those killed belonged to the Abdel Razzak family. Local activists provided Human Rights Watch with a list of 62 dead members from the Abdel Razzak family. According to survivors, their family owns the land and farms next to the national water company and the water dam of Taldou, and lives in eight or nine houses next to each other, two families to a house.
An elderly woman from the Abdel Razzak family who survived the attack told Human Rights Watch:
I was in the house with my three grandsons, three granddaughters, sister-in-law, daughter, daughter in-law and cousin. [On May 25] around 6:30 p.m., before sunset, we heard gunshots. I was in a room by myself when I heard the sound of a man. He was shouting and yelling at my family. I hid behind the door. I saw another man standing outside by the entrance door and another one inside the house. They were wearing military clothes. I couldn’t see their faces. I thought they wanted to search the house. They walked in the house; I didn’t hear them break in because we never lock the doors. After three minutes, I heard all my family members screaming and yelling. The children, all aged between 10 and 14, were crying. I went down on the floor and tried to crawl so I could see what was happening. As I approached the door, I heard several gunshots. I was so terrified I couldn’t stand on my legs. I heard the soldiers leaving. I looked outside the room and saw all of my family members shot. They were shot in their bodies and their head. I was terrified to approach to see if they were alive. I kept crawling until I reached the back door. I went outside, and I ran away. I was in shock so I don’t know what happened later.
A 10-year-old boy from the Abdel Razzak family told Human Rights Watch that he saw men wearing military clothes shoot his 13-year-old friend:
I was at home with my mother, my cousins, and my aunt. Suddenly I heard gunshots. It was the first time I heard so many gunshots. My mother grabbed me and took me to a barn to hide. I heard men screaming and shouting. I heard people crying especially women. I looked outside the window. I was peeking sometimes but I was afraid they would see me. Men wearing [uniforms] like army soldiers, green with other colors [camouflage] and white shoes, entered our house. They went outside after a couple of minutes. Then across the street I saw my friend Shafiq, 13 years old, outside standing alone. An armed man in military uniform grabbed him and put him at the corner of a house. He took his own weapon and shot him in the head. His mother and big sister --- I think she was 14 years old --- went outside and started shouting and crying. The same man shot at both of them more than once. Then the armed men left and the FSA soldiers came.
The boy’s mother confirmed many of the details to Human Rights Watch:
At around 6:30 --- 7:00 p.m., we started hearing the sound of gunshots. They were very close to us. We ran and hid in the barn. After the armed men left, and I heard the sound of their cars driving away, my sister and I went outside. I saw Shafiq [the 13-year-old friend of her son] on the ground dead. I saw three families: three women, two of them with children. All of them were shot. Some were shot in the head and others had multiple shots in the body. One of the children survived. She is 14 years old. She was shot twice in the leg. I also saw my cousin who was shot in the chest. A 13-year-old boy who was paralyzed was shot three times in his chest as well.