Unfortunately, it’s now rare to be shocked by something associated with the war that has ravaged Syria for the better part of six years. Joshua Berlinger’s recent report for CNN did just that, however. Berlinger writes that the Syrian government authorized the execution of some thirteen thousand detainees at the military-run Sadnaya prison, according to an investigation by Amnesty International. As the report details, as prisoners were “transferred” in the middle of the night, they would be taken out of their cells and hung upon reaching the prison grounds. Berlinger adds that the report makes it sound as though most are likely “unaware of their fate until they feel the noose around their neck.”
The majority of those executed were civilians accused, and then found guilty in a mock trial, of sedition against the government. As The Wall Street Journal‘s Raja Abdulrahim adds, however, in addition to citizens, relief workers and anyone else who offered aid to the rebels were also routinely hunted down and placed in prisons such as Sadnaya. When the government captured the rebel stronghold of Aleppo, for example, nearly fifteen hundred people were arrested in a month’s time.
As the deputy director for research at Amnesty’s Beirut office, Lynn Maalouf, told CNN, “The horrors depicted in this report reveal a hidden, monstrous campaign, authorized at the highest levels of the Syrian government, aimed at crushing any form of dissent within the Syrian population.” Nicolette Waldman, a researcher for Amnesty International, added that the noose is not the only cause of death among these Syrian prisoners. Rather, “They have been actually dying in massive numbers as a result of repeated torture in combination with the systematic deprivation of food, water, medicine, and medical care.”
Now Amnesty International is calling on the UN to put a stop to these atrocities, with Waldman laying a good bit of the responsibility at the feet of Russia, one of the few UN Nations that retains a strong relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government.
With so much attention focused on the rebellion and the fighting on the war’s various fronts, it’s easy to forget that the violence is not limited to the battlefield. As the report demonstrates, the Syrian government has used that fact to its advantage and thousands have paid with their lives as a result.
Will you take a moment to pray for those still alive in these camps, as well as for the family and friends they left behind? Will you also pray that Amnesty International’s report will provide the necessary motivation for the UN and its member nations to step in and halt such atrocities, thereby offering some measure of redemption for the lives already taken? And finally, will you pray that God would use stories like this to help us remember that Satan often does his best work when our attention is focused elsewhere.
We are often at our most vulnerable when engaged in truly good work, kingdom work, as it’s then that we tend to get tunnel vision on those parts of our lives that seem to be most urgent. Our inability to maintain constant vigilance over every facet of our existence is one of the primary reasons that God’s word places so much emphasis on maintaining a consistent, daily walk with him (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Luke 9:23). The Holy Spirit can monitor that which we cannot, but God being aware of those problems won’t do us much good unless he can make us aware of them as well. Are you listening today?