On 25 July 2018, the so-called Islamic State (IS) launched a brutal offensive in the province of Sweida, southern Syria, involving multiple suicide bombings in the provincial capital (also called Sweida) and simultaneous raids in which militants stormed surrounding villages and slaughtered civilians. According to news reports, an estimated two hundred civilians lost their lives and hundreds of others were injured. The majority of the victims belonged to the Druze minority, the third-largest religious minority in Syria who are considered to be heretics by IS jihadists.
On the night of the massacre, IS fighters entered eight villages in eastern Sweida simultaneously at 4:30 AM. They knocked on people's doors and slaughtered whoever opened the door. The attack was coordinated, as suicide bombings took place inside the city of Sweida on the same night. Having heard the explosions, young Druze men from neighboring villages came to help people in Sweida. but it was too late. One such man who went to help the people of Sweida posted his testimony of what happened on his Facebook page. He tells of his shock when, after arriving in the city, he entered a house which had been attacked by IS. Bloodstains covered every corner. In one of the corridors, he saw an elderly woman who had her throat slit. Next to her lay an elderly man who had been shot. The man was still alive and managed to explain that there were more people left in the bathroom. When he went in, he noticed the most beautiful face he had ever seen. It was a face of a small boy, about 5 years old, hugging his mother and sister, whose corpses laid in a pool of blood. Terrorists had brutally killed them before his eyes.
As the news of the attacks spread, many people from other villages joined the relief-effort and confronted the IS fighters. They say they received no support from the Syrian army. The confrontation led to the retreat of the IS fighters, but they reportedly managed to kidnap more than 30 women and children as they fled. The day after the massacre, during the funerals of those who had been killed, religious officials banned the mayor and government forces from participating, protesting that their efforts to protect civilians were insufficient, and alleging their involvement in the massacre.
I was in my room in Kraków, Poland, when I heard this horrific news. It was a big shock. How could human beings kill one another like this, face to face, without feeling anything? It is unimaginable to me. We do not need to say and hear "sorry", we need to do something. It's time to wake up and take action.
For the last eight years of the war, the citizens of Sweida have tried to stay away from the conflict. We are not numbers, we are human beings, and we have the right to live in peace. Where were the Syrian authorities when their own people needed protection? Why does the world not react to these crimes? Why are they silent? We are in 21st century and we still continue to live with the brutality of murder and war. Is this what we want?
If we keep looking at what is happening now in Syria without any reaction, we will lose our humanity and this brutal game of war will touch not only Syria and the Middle East but will spread throughout the world. Death starts to matter only if it touches someone you know. Protect yourself by protecting others. We all have the right to live in peace. We, the Syrians and the Druze people, were and still are peaceful, but war and massacres are touching us despite that. Terrorists and murderers do not distinguish, they are willing to kill anybody who doesn't want to support them.
Stop the Killing.
First published 3 August at PENInternational.org