Masked gunmen dragged Syria's best-known political cartoonist from his car before dawn Thursday, beat him severely and broke both his hands as a warning to stop drawing just days after he compared Syria's president to Moammar Gadhafi, a relative and activists said. Hospitalized with serious injuries, 60-year-old Ali Ferzat has become the most famous victim of the repression of Syria's five-month uprising. The attack on him was a stark reminder that no Syrian is immune to the crackdown.I say that they're Assad's goons/loyalists, but the article doesn't make that connection even though it's the logical conclusion. This kind of violence isn't going to happen unless it's sanctioned by Assad to get the point across to the opposition.
"This is just a warning," the gunmen told Ferzat, according to a relative who asked that her name not be used for fear of reprisals. "We will break your hands so that you'll stop drawing."
It should come as no surprise at all that Assad and his followers would engage in this kind of violence. Intimidation and violence are how they stay in power.
Assad's goons continue attacking opposition groups, regardless of what Assad has been saying publicly.
Also Thursday, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch released a new report on Syria called "Setting the Record Straight.'' The report challenges the Syrian regime's accounts of the current state of the crackdown.Assad keeps claiming that obscure terror groups are responsible, but defecting Syrian troops tell a different tale, including reports that soldiers that refuse to follow orders to crack down on protesters are shot.
The organization sought to debunk the impression that the Syrian authorities have ended the military crackdown since Aug. 17, when Assad pledged to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon that "military and policing operations had stopped.”
The report claimed that at least 49 people have been killed in operations across Syria since that phone call.
"That same day, and in the days that followed, Syrian forces attacked peaceful protesters in Homs, Latakia, towns in the governorate of Daraa, and suburbs of Damascus," said the report. "On August 19 alone, 31 protesters were killed by Syrian security forces, including 3 children, according to local activists."
In other words, it is plausible that many of those soldiers that Assad claims were killed by insurgents were actually killed by loyalists instead to cull security forces of troops that might refuse orders to crack down on protesters.