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A Message to America from a Gravedigger in Syria

I am writing this letter to tell you my story. I have been witness to mass graves in Syria from 2011 to 2018 where men and women, children and elderly, were tortured, gassed, and bombed by the Assad regime, Iran, and Russia and then callously thrown into trenches, their fate unknown to loved ones. Their lives have been lost; they cannot be saved. And they demand accountability. But the reason I am sharing my story today, is to tell you that they are digging mass graves right now to bury more victims of Assad, Iran, and Russia, including potentially Americans and Europeans caught up in Assad’s machinery of death.

I am a civilian. Before the war, I was an administrative employee of the Damascus municipality. My job was to help families make final preparations for their loved ones’ passing. Each funeral was dignified with religious prayers and rituals, and all were properly laid to rest. Family members were given the opportunity to say goodbye, and the sanctity of every grave was respected.

In 2011, my office was visited by regime intelligence officials, and I was ordered to work for them. When the regime asks for something, you don’t say no.

I was not prepared for the horror of my duties. Every week, twice a week, three trailer trucks arrived, packed with 300 to 600 bodies of victims of torture, bombardment, and slaughter. Twice a week, three to four pickup trucks with 30 to 40 bodies of civilians that had been executed in Saydnaya Prison, arrived for disposal in the most inhumane way.

After seven years of bearing witness to these atrocities, thanks to God and the ineptitude of the regime, I was able to escape Syria and follow my family to Europe. There, it was not only my duty, but my honor to testify before the German national court in Koblenz, and seek some semblance of justice to hold war criminals accountable for the ongoing atrocities in Syria.

I have never been able to forget what I saw; the countless bodies I buried. It keeps me up at night, and I will never sleep soundly carrying this burden. No one should, because these massacres are still happening. As you sit here now, don’t just listen—hear me. Innocent civilians are being massacred by the Assad regime and buried in mass graves that are still being dug today.

When the international community turns a blind eye to crimes against humanity—genocidal massacres, the bombardment of hospitals and schools, enforced disappearances and detention—criminal regimes will continue to push the limits, unhindered. Russia, by its own admission, tested over 200 weapons on civilians in Syria. The international community looked the other way, and now, Russia is using those same weapons and tactics in Ukraine that it honed in its seven years waging war against the Syrian people. Where is the line? Chemical weapons against innocent civilians was not the line in Syria. The playbook of these tyrants is written, and I fear the worst for the Ukrainian people. We must finally learn from the past and not let this never again moment happen, yet again.

Normalization with the criminal Assad regime has to be prevented, and his machinery of death stopped. I bore witness to the crimes of Assad, Iran, and Russia in Syria, which it is my duty to share. It is your duty to live up to the values of the United States of America. Anyone doing business with Assad should not only be publicly rejected, but punished. We should be disgusted with anyone, tacitly or explicitly funding the genocide of the Syrian people.

I want to leave you with just one of the stories that keeps me up at night. One day, one of the trailer trucks dumped its contents of several hundred dead, mangled corpses into the trench in front of us. Unexpectedly, we saw a flicker of movement. There was a man near-death desperately using his last reserve of energy to signal to us that somehow, he was still alive. One of the civilian workers, crying, said that we had to do something. The intelligence officer supervising us ordered the bulldozer driver to run him over. The driver could not hesitate, or else he would have been next. He ran over the man in the trenches, killing him. As for the young man who had dared to shed tears over the victim of Assad’s regime, we never saw him again.  

I write this letter to appeal to you, not only as policymakers and journalists and government officials, but as human beings. Take heed of what is happening in Syria. Although hundreds of thousands have already been murdered, and millions displaced, the worst is still yet to come. It can be prevented but I beg of you—do not wait a second longer. Take action.

This letter was read before members of Congress on March 15, 2022 as part of an event to mark 11 years of deadly conflict in Syria.