Conflict & Justice

School boy bullies, or Syrian Special Forces?

They look like school boy bullies, grinning and trying to get in the picture as the person on the ground lies whimpering in pain while the lads gather round and taunt him as others beat the soles of his feet with a cane.

But they aren’t kids, they’re Syrian Special Forces soldiers, identifiable by the red armband on their uniform, caught on camera in a video leaked to activists and published on YouTube on Thursday.

The man, reported to be Louay Amer from Al Hula, a town near Homs, is heard whimpering in pain and obvious terror as the group of soldiers take turns beating and tormenting him.

“Take my picture with him! Take my picture with him!” demands one of the soldiers.

Al Ittihad newspaper reported Amer had been teaching Arabic in Saudi Arabia and it is believed he was home in Hula for a holiday with family. Activists say it is likely Amer was arrested by security forces because of his long beard and his wearing traditional Muslim robes. The Assad regime has repeatedly blamed Islamists for driving the popular uprising in Syria.

As the video zooms in on his terrified face, the soldiers tell Amer to repeat the chant of loyalty to President Assad: “With soul and blood I sacrifice to you Bashar.”

In a second video, also just released, the body of a man said to be Amer is seen being examined and shows severe bruising, consistent with having been tortured before death. A voice on the video said the body had been returned to family on August 13.

Activists often work for weeks to get such videos leaked from contacts in the security forces.