A new video that has emerged from Syria that depicts the extent to which brutality and violence has emerged in the ongoing two-year civil war.
A shocking video was posted on Monday by pro-government YouTube channels showing a rebel fighter cutting out the heart of dead solider and taking a bite out of it.
As the Syrian civil war has stretched out, it has evolved beyond the simple idea of government versus rebels. The conflict has become mired in sectarian division rather than clearly identified sides, leading into a brutal sectarian conflict were the laws of war become a set of guidelines at best, and completely disregarded at worst.
[Note that some of the links in this story contain footage that is extremely disturbing.].
The video of the gruesome act was originally posted to the Brown Moses blog on Monday. Elliot Higgens, the Brown Moses behind the blog, discovered that the person in the video was a member of the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade by matching it up with other videos of the conflict. After consulting with Human Rights Watch, he confirmed the identify of the man as Abu Sakkar of Baba Amro, Homs, a nom de guerre of Khaled Al Hamad, a former senior figure in the Al Farouq Brigade. The video was fully translated by Human Rights Watch:
"I swear to God, soldiers of Bashar, you dogs – we will eat your heart and livers! God is Great! Oh my heroes of Baba Amr, you slaughter the Alawites and take their hearts out to eat them."
The Syrian opposition condemned his actions and said he would be put on trial. Tariq al Sayed, a man who told CNN that he knows Al Hamad said, "This was an isolated incident. (His) actions do not represent the FSA. His actions only represent himself. This is not just a normal person who sits home. He has had two brothers killed. His mom and dad were detained, and the rest of his family displaced."
The primary rule regarding the treatment of the dead in wartime is Article 16 of the Geneva Conventions. It states that the dead should be protected from "ill-treatment." But the intensity of the fighting along the inability to report any violation has made it impossible to report or enforce and of the laws of war in the conflict. Brutal civil wars and sectarian conflicts have often made enforcing these laws impossible. Even the U.S. military has not been immune to violations, with outrage erupting over several Marines urinating on the bodies of Taliban insurgents in 2012.
Another clear example is the sectarian struggle that resulted in post-war Iraq after Saddam fell and the U.S. occupation force was unable to keep order. Tens of thousands died in what essentially became ethnic cleanings for many neighborhoods as inhabitants either were forced to flee or suffer the wraith of sectarian militias.
The conflict in Syria has taken on an increasingly sectarian tone as primarily Shia Muslim Alawites, the sect that Bashar al-Assad belongs to, band together in fear of sectarian violence from the rebels. Meanwhile the rebels, who are primarily Sunni Muslim, have taken to increasing using jihadist rhetoric as the conflict has dragged on and Islamist groups have grown in importance.
While the Free Syrian Army is still the go-to rebel group for many Western interviews,as well as the public face of the rebels, other groups are eclipsing it in fighting ability and importance. Jabhat al-Nusra, a well funded and armed Islamist militia with Al-Qaida ties has been gathering strength causing the tone of the conflict to become increasingly Islamist. Al-Nusra has been gathering strength from foreign funding and an influx of foreign fighters, who seeks to wage jihad on Assad’s forces. During the Iraq civil war, foreign fighters were often the most brutal, having little regard for the native population due to lack of ties.
As the U.S. and Britain try to set up peace talks in early June many have been saying that the situation has become hopeless for any chance at quick peace. It seems that the sectarian violence in Syria will persist for the foreseeable future. And with that violence will come further war crimes.