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Syrians supporting Assad turn into 'dead men walking'

Published time: November 12, 2012 11:18
Edited time: November 12, 2012 15:18

Mohammed Rafeh

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Mohammed Rafeh, 30, was a popular actor admired by millions across Syria and the Arab world, but his pro-Assad views made him a target for Syrian rebels. Rafeh was brutally shot and killed by rebels in what was apparently a retaliatory shooting.

The killing was revenge against Rafeh for his providing information to the Syrian government about protesters, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said. Anti-Assad militants have recently attacked and killed civilians who publicly support the country’s government.

What was initially described as a ‘conflict’ or ‘popular uprising’ is increasingly turning into wholesale collateral slaughter. Syrian citizens are believed to be the majority of the 30,000 dead from attacks by both government and rebel forces.

Rafeh’s father Ahmad told RT that his son was a patriot who was “in love with his country… He dedicated his whole life to helping people and treated everyone with respect.”

Rafeh was a famous actor throughout the Arab world, particularly for his role on the TV program ‘Bab al-Hara,’ which depicted life in Damascus in the 1930s under French colonial rule. Half-Syrian and half-Palestinian, Rafeh was an ardent supporter of the Assad regime and a vocal critic of Syrian rebel forces, which he described as terrorists.

RT aired a news broadcast in July featuring Rafeh, which reported on the downfall of Syria's once-flourishing soap opera industry. In it, he argued that entire industry was being boycotted by Arab TV satellite channels, mostly owned by wealthy Saudis and Qataris, whose governments are now overtly hostile towards Damascus.

“They want to fight everything good in Syria. They don’t want us to show our lives, how we take care of each other, how we love each other. They are fighting us actually,” Rafeh told RT.

Rafeh’s anti-rebel remarks to RT are believed to be the reason the rebels killed him.

He was kidnapped by Syrian rebels on Friday, November 2, in Damascus’ Barzeh neighborhood, which has recently seen vicious conflict between rebels and pro-government forces. The rebels executed Rafeh the same day, shooting him in the head, neck and shoulders.

On November 4, his body was returned to his family. A funeral was held the next day.

The rebel Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for killing Rafeh.

“My son became the first actor, man of art, to sacrifice his life on the altar of our motherland. I appeal to his murderers – what you did is not fair, he was not guilty. Why should those who love the motherland be executed?” Rafeh’s father told journalists at the funeral.

Many Syrians expressed shock at Rafeh’s death. “I lived in Syria for over 48 years and I have never witnessed such cruelty,” actor Bassam Ljutfi told RT. “I cannot describe my feelings. His murder was such a big mistake. It cannot go on like this. Those who did it cannot be true Syrians.”

“I saw his body in the hospital and I couldn’t believe that someone could have done that to him,” he said.

Rebel brutality on the rise

Rafeh’s murder was reportedly part of a rebel campaign initiated on social media, the goal of which was to punish pro-Assad public figures, AP reported.

A Facebook page titled ‘The blacklist of Syrian artists’ included a picture of Rafeh standing next to a wall with ‘Assad only’ spray-painted on it.

The caption under the picture read, “Mohammed Rafeh was a commander of a Shabiha group” – a pro-Assad military unit. The authenticity of this claim could not be verified. 

There is a list of sentenced to death Syrians published in the web by members of the Syrian opposition. The list bears names of actors, doctors, engineers and pilots – all of them risking their lives every day.

“What we have here is kind of militarily, terror-based blackmail policy – if you are cooperating with this government – you're, so to say, a dead man walking. That is of course some kind of international undeclared warfare, which no civilized nation can appeal to,” government and business consultant Christoph R. Horstel told RT.

Earlier in August, the UN released a report claiming that both Syrian government forces and rebels had committed war crimes in Syria, including torture.

Investigations into human rights abuses in Syria also revealed that rebel forces are becoming increasingly brutal in their tactics, AP reported. At this stage, “there may not be anybody with entirely clean hands,” Amnesty International head Suzanne Nossel said.

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