Speaking under the name “Caesar” and wearing a tightly closed poncho in order to protect his and his family’s identity, a Syrian military defector addressed the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, calling for renewed action from the United States and the international community to stymie the continued violence in Syria. Communicating through a translator, “Caesar” recounted and displayed new photos from his collection of 55,000 images, documenting the torture, starvation, and death of over 11,000 civilians.
Having worked in Syria’s defense sector, Caesar had been tasked with meticulously documenting the systematic torture and killing of thousands of Syrians by the Assad regime before he planned his escape with the evidence of murders. Describing the actions of Assad’s government as “a genocidal massacre”, Caesar called on the international community to do something now in order to prevent the some 150,000 civilians still held in regime custody from meeting the same fate as those seen in his photos.
The publication of Caesar’s photos adds what nternational war crimes prosecutor David Crane refers to as “smoking gun evidence” against Assad’s regime, building the ever-growing base of evidence against the dictator. Frederic Hof, a former State Department senior official specializing in Syria, stated that the photos ought compel the U.S. government to quash any plans to work with the Assad regime, an idea considered in light of the growing threat of radical groups like ISIS.
With documentation of Assad’s abuses becoming clearer, the need for awareness and a concerted response only grows. As Chairman Ed Royce mentioned at the beginning of the briefing, news of Syria has largely slipped into the background with Gaza and Ukraine taking center stage in global headlines.
However, with over 160,000 dead in the conflict and with the Syrian civil war experiencing the most violent week of its more than 3 year duration, international attention is needed as much as ever. With Caesar’s testimony and the graphic evidence he laid out before U.S. Members of Congress and the media, for at least one day, the horrors in Syria were impossible to ignore.
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