Syrian Kurdish Journalists Predict Assad’s Fall, Recount Regime’s Atrocities

17/12/2012 RUDAW By HEVIDAR AHMAD – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will soon fall and those found to be involved in crimes like murder and kidnapping during the country’s 20-month civil war will stand trial in a court of law, Kurdish Syrian journalists predicted at a news conference.

“The end is near for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” said Media Mahmood, a Syrian Kurdish journalist at the news conference in Duhok. “Those who committed capital crimes such as killing and kidnapping will soon be tried in a court of law,” she added. The 20-month civil war between Assad’s regime and opposition forces has killed some 40,000 people, according to rights groups.  The conflict has driven thousands from their homes, including Kurds fleeing into neighboring countries and the safety of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Hagba Ali, a Kurd and former doctor in the Syrian army, said he had witnessed many atrocities by Asad’s forces.

“The Syrian soldiers killed many civilians with stones and torture, besides bullets and tanks.” He said the army had received orders directly from Asad.

Ali said that soldiers were banned from access to phones, internet, radio, and television, and therefore were in the dark about what was happening around the country. “Every once in a while, I secretly managed to sneak into an ambulance and lock the doors to listen to BBC radio.” Ali said. For him, it was the only way to learn about the atrocities and destruction by the Asad regime.  “After hearing all this, I decided to desert from the army,” Ali said.   

He said he found his chance to escape when one day he was able to leave the army base with an ambulance to treat two Kurdish soldiers. He escaped to Damascus, then Aleppo. He is now a refugee in the Kurdistan Region and looking for a way to get to Sudan. Kurdish cities reportedly have not been badly hit by the violence of the war, but many residents have been forced to leave their homes and become refugees in the Kurdistan Region due to insecurity, instability and the lack of jobs.

“Kidnapping has been rising in the Kurdish cities,” said Maria Abbas, a teacher from Qamishlo. “The kidnapping groups demand $50,000 ransom per person,” she said. “The kidnappers are armed Kurds.” Vian Muhammad, a journalist from Qamishli, said that the war had affected social life as well. People rarely get married these days, because they cannot bear the psychological and financial burden, she said. “Before the revolution, getting married could cost up to $10,000.  Now, it only costs $3,000, but people still can’t get married.” According to United Nations’ statistics, the Kurds make up 14 percent of the Syrian population, but most have not been granted Syrian citizenship due to ethnic discrimination.