Today is Day 1,124 of the Syria conflict.
This morning, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights published a sickening report on torture in Syria. Within are descriptions of individuals in government detention centers being raped, beaten, and having their hair, teeth, and toenails ripped out. "Our findings confirm that torture is being routinely used in government detention facilities in Syria, and that torture is also used by some armed groups," said High Commissioner Navi Pillay, who is clearly already looking ahead to the coming prosecution battle: "In armed conflict, torture constitutes a war crime," Pillay said. "When it is used in a systematic or widespread manner, which is almost certainly the case in Syria, it also amounts to a crime against humanity." (Recall that last week, Vice profiled the brave individuals smuggling evidence of war crimes out of Syria for use in international prosecution efforts.)
Also this morning, news broke that Syrian government forces have retaken the Christian town of Maalula, adding to the recent string government victories in Qalamun.
Over the weekend, claims circulating on Friday of a new chemical weapons attack intensified. The attack occurred in the rebel-held village of Kfar Zeita. The Syrian government is blaming the attack on the extremist Nusa Front rebel group (an Al Qaeda affiliate). The Syrian National Coalition, a more moderate rebel body, called for an international investigation and also claimed that there had been a second chemical weapons attack that day in a Damascus suburb that went unreported by state media.
The 13th shipment of Syria's chemicals departed the port in Latakia today, probably bound for the US MV Cape Ray sitting in the Mediterranean. The Organization for the Porhibition of Chemical Weapons, according to the AP, says the Syrian government needs to step it up to meet the deadlines set by the international community. The whole stockpile is supposed to be destroyed by June 30.
Sunday, an image emerged that perfectly encapsulates the magnitude of the spillover problem with Syria. This photo below is of Iraqi security forces watching as a backhoe digs a trench to prevent people from crossing the border from Syria into Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.
(Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
The New York Times' Syria conflict coverage out of Jordan continues to be outstanding. You may recall the piece Friday reporting the "open secret" in Jordan that the US, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan run basically an arms-handout center in Amman for Syrian rebels. Over the weekend the same reporter, Ben Hubbard, had a piece on what can only be called jihadist culture among middle-aged men living in Zarqa, Jordan. Westerners hear a lot about jihad as an exclusively Muslim religious concept, but this piece shows that there can be a non-religious aspect, too, and universal one. It's the part, though Hubbard does not draw this comparison, that those quoting Tennyson's famous poem "Ulysses" for the glorious language of its closing tend to ignore: The poem is not just about the will to live and lust for adventure, but also, specifically, about the temptation for men with familiy responsibilities to slip away to a world outside the ordinary. "If I could go back and do it again, I would not come back," one middle-aged fighter tells Hubbard. "Those were the best three months of my life." The piece is worth a read.
Finally, Vanity Fair has published a piece following up on the kidnappings of journalists Austin Tice and Jim Foley in Syria. GlobalPost correspondent James Foley was kidnapped in northern Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012 and remains missing. In the interest of Foley’s safety, GlobalPost has not released details of the ongoing investigation to secure his freedom since a statement made in October 2013.
The conflict continues.