Jan 8, 2013

Syrian tailor: How I survived Assad regime firing squad

As shooting started, Mohammed Ali fainted. He awoke to find himself surrounded by dead bodies

A SYRIAN tailor shot five times by a firing squad organised by forces loyal to President Assad has told his remarkable story of survival.

Mohammed Ali told The Times that he was one of 21 men driven to waste ground near the city of Aleppo in north-western Syria last summer and gunned down by "thugs" opposed to the overthrow of the Assad regime. He was hit by five bullets, but survived apparently because he fainted before the shooting began and his captors thought he was dead.

"When I think about it there's no explanation except that Allah didn't want me to die," he said from Reyhanli, a Turkish town where he has been recovering from his ordeal.

On 22 August, Ali went home to Harithan, a Syrian town with rebel alliances. Visiting nearby Aleppo on an errand, he was arrested at a checkpoint by armed men loyal to President Assad who discovered he was from Harithan. He was held in a "small, windowless" basement room with at least 11 other men.

After three nights they were told they were being taken to another prison and driven away, blindfolded, in a van. Ali says he realised what was about to happen when the van stopped and the men – 21 in total – were told to kneel, shoulder-to-shoulder, in two lines. He began to pray, but fainted as the shooting began.

He awoke in darkness to find himself surrounded by 20 dead bodies, many of them shot through the head.

Ali fled the scene despite his wounds and eventually was "spirited" to a hospital in Turkey by the Free Syrian Army. He is still deaf in one ear, but has otherwise recovered from his ordeal.

Ali says he used to believe "state propaganda" that described the Free Syrian Army as "terrorists", but now says the Assad regime "disgusts me".

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