A former military photographer known as Caesar was conscripted by the Assad regime to photograph individuals who died or were killed while detained in military and intelligence branches. Between March 2011 and August 2013, Caesar collected over 55,000 photos of women, elderly, and children murdered by the Assad regime portraying more than 11,000 victims of the regime’s brutality. 

For two years, Caesar used a police computer in Damascus to copy thousands of photographs of detainees who were tortured to death in Bashar al-Assad’s jails. His orders were to photograph the bodies in order to document prisoners’ deaths. He then secretly made copies and transferred them onto USB keys so that he could smuggle them out of his office, hidden in his shoes or his belt, and pass them to a friend who could get them out of the country.

“Before the uprising, the regime tortured prisoners to get information; now they were torturing to kill,” Caesar said in an interview with the Guardian. 

The bodies he photographed had deep cuts, some had their eyes gouged out, their teeth were broken, and some had traces of lashes. Some had infected wounds, and some were covered with fresh blood. At one point, the bodies were sent to a larger military hospital close to the presidential palace, called the Mezzeh Military hospital. 

As the number of dead bodies increased, especially after 2012, corpses were no longer stored in refrigerated morgues. Regime officers would pile the bodies outdoors in the military garage. The bodies didn’t keep well in the sunshine and heat, especially when they’d been lying around for a few days.

In Caesar’s photos, every body is marked with three identification numbers: the military branch number, the detainee number, and the death number given by the forensic doctor.