“Bloodbath in Syria Ignored, Tribe Says”
The Washington Post, October 21, 2014, p.A1
“The cost of turning against the Islamic State was made brutally apparent in the streets of a dusty backwater town in eastern Syria in early August. Over a three-day period, vengeful fighters shelled, beheaded, crucified and shot hundreds of members of the Shaitat tribe after they dared to rise up against the extremists. By the time the killing stopped, 700 people were dead, activists and survivors say, making this the bloodiest single atrocity committed by the Islamic State in Syria since it declared its existence 18 months ago. The little-publicized story of this failed tribal revolt in Abu Hamam, in Syria’s eastern Deir al-Zour province, illuminates the challenges that will confront efforts to persuade those living under Islamic State rule — in Iraq as well as Syria — to join the fight against the jihadist group, something U.S. officials say is essential if the campaign against the militants is to succeed. The Abu Hamam area has now been abandoned, and many of the bodies remain uncollected, offering a chilling reminder to residents elsewhere of the fate that awaits those who dare rebel. Just as powerful a message for those living under the militants’ iron fist was the almost complete international silence on the bloodbath. News of the massacre coincided with President Obama’s decision to order airstrikes to turn back an Islamic State advance unfolding farther east in Iraq, toward the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, as well as humanitarian airdrops to help desperate Iraqi Yazidis trapped on a mountain by the onslaught. Many Syrians in the opposition are starting to complain about unequal treatment. … [E]ven now, Washington has directed little effort toward helping Sunni Arabs who want to fight the militants but lack the resources to do so, said Abu Salem, who was among the Shaitat tribesman and rebel commanders who gathered recently in an apartment in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli to recount the killings of their clansmen.”
Quickie Analysis: This is thought to be the worst single atrocity not just of those committed by the Islamic State but of the entire Syrian war.