Well. This is just horrifying.
A video posted online by rebels on Tuesday, entitled “The storming and cleansing of Hatla” showed dozens of gunmen carrying black Islamist flags celebrating and firing guns in the streets of a small town as smoke curled above several buildings.
“We have raised the banner ‘There is no God but God’ above the houses of the apostate rejectionists, the Shi’ites, and the holy warriors are celebrating,” the voice of the cameraman says.
While the civil war in Syria started in response to dictator Al-Assad’s crackdowns on protesters, it has now turned into an all-out confessional warfare. It is more and more about religious affiliation every day.
Many of the fighters involved in the Hatla attack were said to be from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. Hardline Sunni groups often refer to Shi’ites as rejectionists because they deny the legitimacy of the Prophet Mohammad’s first successors.
“This is a Sunni area, it does not belong to other groups,” one fighter shouted in the video purportedly filmed in the town of Hatla in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor.
And here is some more of what the rebels said.
In amateur videos, the fighters — some wearing al-Qaida-style headbands — vented anti-Shiite slurs and fired in the air.
“The homes of the infidel Shiites were burned,” the voice behind the camera in one video shouted as smoke rose in the background from several houses.
In another video, the fighters pulled blankets off corpses to show them off, one with a wound to the head. A gunman talking to the camera gloated, saying, “This is your end, dogs.” The videos appeared genuine and conformed with other Associated Press reporting on the events depicted.
Of course, we get the usual claims that this is not about religious divisions-not at all:
Activist Karam Badran, who spoke to Reuters from Deir al-Zor, said only 20 people had been confirmed killed in Hatla but that another 20 had been taken hostage by the rebels.
He said the attackers’ main motive was not sectarian, but what he and the Observatory said were government attempts to recruit militiamen of all faiths in an area rebels had held for a year. Shi’ites had not previously been harmed there, he said.
But they are being harmed now, by assailants expressly citing religious motives. Because religion has been used by the rulers to divide the society and stay in power, which is by no means new.
And more political correctness from the State Department:
State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said the U.S. was “appalled by reports that rebels have killed 60 Shia in Hatla village.”
“The motivations and circumstances surrounding this massacre remain unclear, but the United States strongly condemns any and all attacks against civilians,” Psaki said.
Rejectionists? Infidels? Apostates? Really, it is that “unclear”, Ms Psaki?
While we hear all kind of justifications for these atrocities-from American “neocolonialism” and “militarism” to poverty and economic oppression, no one is willing to talk about the elephant in the room. Religious teachings do cause hatred of “out groups”, and this contributes to violence. Religion is not the only factor, but it does need to get its share of the blame.