Syrian soldiers were ordered to shoot unarmed civilians, a military defector alleges, adding neither he nor his colleagues ever saw protesters with weapons.
Commanding officers told soldiers from the Syrian army’s 14 division, deployed during anti-government protests, “not to shoot at the men carrying guns. They said [the gunmen] were with us,” the defector told Britain’s The Guardian newspaper in a safe house in Istanbul, Turkey.
Instead, the soldiers were ordered to shoot at unarmed protesters, he said.
“I could not believe what I was hearing — to leave alone the people carrying guns. It shocked me. We are soldiers and soldiers do not shoot at civilians,” said the man, 20, who had been drafted and was identified in The Guardian’s story by the pseudonym of Wasid to protect his family from reprisals.
Wasid showed The Guardian his military ID and application for refugee status in Turkey.
He said he was deployed to Daraa, about 60 miles south of the capital, Damascus, the starting point of the anti-Assad regime Syrian uprisings, which started when 15 children from one family were arrested in early March for writing an anti-regime slogan on the wall of their school.
A few hundred protesters called for reforms and an end to corruption in front of a mosque March 15 after attempts to negotiate the children’s release were rejected by the local government.
Wasid said his military commanders told him and other soldiers before they went to Daraa they would face heavily armed, foreign-backed insurgents roaming the countryside trying to ignite sectarian strife.
“It had all been lies,” he said.
Wasid and 20 other soldiers managed to escape the army May 25, he said, explaining he ditched his military fatigues — and the sniper rifle he never used — and ran with the group to the nearby Damascus-Amman highway, where a van took them to Damascus.
There, they split up and Wasid managed to cross the border in Syria’s Kurdish northeast and made his way to Istanbul by bus, where the U.N. Refugee Agency and rights group Avaaz provided him with help, the newspaper said.
Wasid’s testimony will be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, the newspaper said.
Four other Daraa defectors made their way to Amman, Jordan, and briefed investigators there, the newspaper said.