Alyssa M, Franklin and Marshall College
Imagine: you are accused of opposing the government of your country. Next thing you know, you are thrown onto a delivery bus and transported to a military prison. As soon as the bus stops, guards sadistically beat you with metal rods. You are kept in the “red building” until you can be seen before a sham military court. In the meantime, you are thrown into a crowded cell where you are forced to sleep in a squatting position. Many of your fellow cellmates will not survive the night. Eventually a trial is held where you are seen for three minutes in a military field court in Qaboun. You deny the false charges brought against you to no avail, and are sentenced to death for crimes against your country. This is the case for over 13,000 citizens of Syria who were suspected of defying their government, thrown into the Saydnaya military prison, and ultimately killed by hanging after several years of beatings and torture.
On Monday, February 6th, 2017, new evidence connecting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the murders of thousands of Syrian citizens was brought to light by Amnesty International. President Assad ordered security forces in Syria to execute a “campaign of extermination” against anyone who disapproves of his reign. Amnesty International reiterated, “death sentences have to be approved by the grand mufti and by either the defence minister or the army’s chief of staff, who are deputised to act on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad.”
Just as the Nazi officials of Germany blindly followed Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution” order to exterminate Jewish citizens who were perceived to be a threat to their government, so, too, did the Syrian officials follow President Assad’s “policy of extermination” to eradicate whomever they believed opposed the Syrian government. This begs the question: how could Syrian officials justify and blatantly follow President Bashar al-Assad’s orders to murder thousands of their own citizens? To answer this question, one should reflect upon Hitler’s rise to power. Hitler obtained so many followers who were able to kill millions of innocent Jewish people by dehumanizing the Jewish citizens and demonizing them as the enemy of the German State.
In much the same way, President Assad adopted and enforced this “us versus them” mentality of the Syrian Government in which Syrian officials are taught to view anyone who protests against President Assad’s rule as an enemy. In addition, President Assad dehumanized these protesters, which allowed Syrian officials to justify these mass murders. In one instance, Samer, a Syrian Lawyer recounted, “They treated us like animals. They wanted people to be as inhuman as possible… I saw the blood, it was like a river… I never imagined humanity would reach such a low level… they would have had no problem killing us right there and then.” In essence, it was very easy for Syrian military officers to kill the Syrian prisoners once they denied the inmates their humanity.
In the end, I believe that President Assad’s “Campaign of extermination” order and ability to elicit the service of high Syrian government officials in the mass murders of thousands of Syrian citizens reflects his potential to become the next Adolf Hitler. In the 1940s, without the development of the advanced information technology that we have today, the world was not exposed to the true horrors of Adolf Hitler’s reign. However, in today’s society, we are unable to turn a blind eye to Assad’s atrocities. I believe that there is a global moral responsibility for the world to come together to remove President Assad before more destruction can be inflicted upon the citizens of Syria.
Source: “Harrowing Accounts of Torture, Inhuman Conditions and Mass Deaths in Syria’s Prisons.” Harrowing Accounts of Torture, Inhuman Conditions and Mass Deaths in Syria’s Prisons. Amnesty International, n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2017. <https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/08/harrowing-accounts-of-torture-inhuman-conditions-and-mass-deaths-in-syrias-prisons/>.
Source: Jawford. “Chilling Aerial Shots Show Hellhole Syrian Jail Where ‘13,000 Prisoners Were Hanged by Assad and Buried in Mass Graves’.” The Sun. The Sun, 07 Feb. 2017. Web. 07 Feb. 2017. <https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2804689/chilling-aerial-shots-show-hellhole-syrian-jail-where-13000-prisoners-were-hanged-by-assad-and-buried-in-mass-graves/>.
Source: “Syria Accused of Hanging 20–50 Anti-Assad Prisoners Every Week.” ABC News. N.p., 06 Feb. 2017. Web. 06 Feb. 2017. <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-07/syria-hanged-thousands-at-saydnaya-prison-amnesty-international/8246556>.
Source: “Syria Conflict: Thousands Hanged at Saydnaya Prison, Amnesty Says.” BBC News. BBC, 07 Feb. 2017. Web. 06 Feb. 2017. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38885901 >.
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