Untold Story of Siege of 2 Small Shia Villages in Syria by ISIS

Untold Story of Siege of 2 Small Shia Villages in Syria by ISIS
Wed Feb 24, 2016 17:06:29

This is the untold story of the three-and-a-half-year siege of two small Shia Muslim villages in northern Syria. Although their recapture by the Syrian army.

The world paid no heed to the suffering of these people, their 1,000 “martyrs”, at least half of them civilians, and the 100 children who died of shellfire and starvation.

Nubl and Zahra should be an 18-minute drive off the motorway north-east of Aleppo but the war’s front lines in the sharp-winded north of Syria have cut so deeply into the landscape that to avoid the men of the Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, you have to drive for two hours along fields and broken country roads and through villages.

 Syrian flags now hang from telegraph poles outside the damaged village mosques, a powerful symbol of an alliance that brought these people’s years of pain to an end. Among them were at least 100 Sunni Muslim families – perhaps 500 souls – who, way back in 2012 chose to take refuge with their Shia countrymen rather than live under the rules of the extrimists.

The police commander, Rakan Wanous, kept meticulous records of the siege and deaths in Nubl and Zahra and recorded, with obviously bitter memories, the threatening phone calls he took from the Nusra forces surrounding his two villages.

Wanous was also officially in charge of many other towns that had fallen to Nusra. Yes, he said bleakly, the calls came from the neighbouring Sunni village of Mayer. “Once, they told me they were going to come and slaughter us – and slaughter me – and I told them: ‘Well, let’s wait until you get here and see.’ On another occasion, they threatened to shower us with chemical weapons.”

Wanous was deeply upset in recalling this. Had some of the calls came from people he knew personally? I asked. “Yes”, he said. “The ones who threatened me often were from my own police force. They came from my own policemen – of course, they had my mobile number. Some calls came from sons of my own friends.” Of Wanous’s 15‑man police force, five stayed loyal to him. The other 10 defected to Nusra.

From the start, Nubl and Zahra were defended by their own pro-regime militiamen, a force perhaps 5,000-strong who were armed with rifles, rocket launchers and a few mortars. Up to 25,000 of the original 100,000 civilian inhabitants managed to flee to Turkey in the early days of the fighting. The rest were trapped in their homes and in the narrow, shell-blasted streets. “We reached a period after a year when we were in despair,” one of the local civil administrators, Ali Balwi, said. “We never expected this to end. Many of the civilians died because their wounds could not be cared for. We ran out of petrol early on. They cut off all electricity.”

The villages’ sole link with the outside world was the mobile phone system that operated throughout the siege so that civilians and militiamen could keep in touch with families and friends in Aleppo. Mohamed Nassif, a 61-year old civil servant, recalled how he had, in desperation, called the UN in New York to plead for help and humanitarian aid for the villages. “I spoke to someone – he was a Palestinian lawyer – at the UN Human Rights office in New York and I asked if there was any way the UN could lift this siege and help us. I asked for humanitarian aid. But they did nothing. I did not hear back from them.”

When the siege began, Wanous said, the Syrian government resupplied the villagers with food, bread, flour and medicine. The helicopters also dropped ammunition, Independent reported.


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