Children among the names of dead captives released by the Assad regime

Throughout the summer months, the Assad regime has been releasing the names of Syrians who have died in its notorious prisons. The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) is aware of more than 646 of these notices, likely a fraction of the final total. Now, SNHR has been made aware that children are among the dead.

Wael Mohamed Ali Dakouri was just 12 years old when the regime arrested him on 25 November, 2013. Taken from his hometown in northern Damascus, his family learned on 12 July that he had died in detention.

It is not known why regime soldiers decided to imprison and kill a 12-year-old boy, nor what possible threat he could have posed to Assad. Killed before his 18th birthday, he likely spent his adolescence in terrible suffering.

Ali Omar Shamma, a boy from Salamiyah, western Syria, met a similar fate. Born in 1994, he was arrested by the regime at his home on 30 July, 2011. Less than two months later, a video of him appeared on Syrian state television in which he admitted involvement in terrorist activities, likely under duress. In May this year, his family learned he died in detention, they believe due to torture.

Joining Wael and Ali on the lists of the dead were Ahmad Al Sayyed Ahmad (born in 1997 and arrested in 2012); Ahmad Nabil Shmeiti, Anas Maher Sanbaan and Mohamed Haitham Hammoud (all born in 1996 and arrested in 2012); and Abdullah Ahmad Azzouz, Ahmad Mohamed Sawwan and Ousama Mohamed Saeed al Mekdad (all born in 1995 and arrested in 2012).

Their families, like all the families of Assad’s dead captives, do not know how the boys died nor what happened to them in the regime’s prisons. Seized as innocent children, Assad is responsible for them never knowing a free adulthood.

“The regime is believed to have detained or disappeared more than 82,000 Syrians since the 2011 revolution,” says Laila Kiki, Executive Director of The Syria Campaign. “Many of these people are now thought to be dead, falling victim to the regime’s horrific acts of torture or dying of starvation and neglect in its crowded, disease-ridden cells.”

Though the regime is now admitting to some of these deaths, it continues to arrest Syrians, with 419 people detained in July alone, including 36 children. Though analysts believe the certificates are an attempt by Assad to tie up loose ends and consolidate his power, these new arrests show he is still not willing to end his regime of terror.

The Families for Freedom, a female-led group of Syrian families demanding justice for the detained and disappeared, have called on international humanitarian organisations to help them hold the Assad regime to account. “Visits need to be made urgently to Assad’s prisons to check on the health of those inside and pressure needs to be put on the regime to say where the bodies are buried,” says Noura Ghazi, a founding member of the Families For Freedom. “The families have the right to get the bodies of their loved ones back.”

Among their core leadership group of the Families for Freedom, three of the 11 families have received death certificates: Amina Khoulani, for her three brothers; Bayan Shurbaji, for her two brothers; and Noura Ghazi who received proof for what she had long known—that her husband, Bassel Khartabil, a man responsible for helping bring the Internet to Syria, was dead.

“Shielded by prison walls, Assad’s guards have committed the most appalling human rights abuses and it is up to the international community to hold it to account and force it to admit what really happened to the deceased, and what it’s doing to the detained,” says Laila Kiki. “Thousands of peaceful activists deserve their freedom and the families deserve answers.”


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