The Story of Osama Hussein Salim

From a Human Rights Watch Report

Osama Hussein Salim, a Palestinian resident in Syria, was from Yarmouk Camp on the edge of Damascus. According to his brother Firas, he was married and had two young children. He worked as an accountant at Damascus University. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, a Palestinian armed group allied with the Syrian government, arrested him around 10 a.m. on February 24, 2013 from a checkpoint at the entrance to Yarmouk, while he was trying to enter the camp. A friend of the family saw Osama’s arrest and informed them what had happened.

The family heard through Palestinian contacts closely allied with the Syrian government that Osama had been transferred to the Branch 235 of Military Intelligence, known as Palestine Branch. The contacts asked them to pay 50,000 SYP (US$708) to secure his release. Though the family gathered the money to pay, the contacts kept putting off the meeting, and eventually told the family they could not help Hussein. Firas told Human Rights Watch:

I spent seven months asking about him. I was an employee at the Damascus University, I asked the doctors of the university. You know some of them are human, they still have a heart, and they did not take sides. I asked them, because they are well connected. I kept asking about him, but all I got were lies.

According to Firas, Osama was not an activist or involved in anti-government activity. “He had nothing to do with anything,” Firas told Human Rights Watch. He added that Firas had a liver disease before his arrest.

About seven months after Osama’s arrest, security officers stopped Firas at the gate of his university. “If you keep asking about your brothers, we will cut out your tongue,” they told him. That day, Firas fled Syria.

Though the family continued to seek news of Osama, they heard nothing, including from former detainees, until the Caesar photographs were published online. In the photographs taken from the Caesar files, Osama’s body has the words “Air Force Administrative Branch” written in marker on his abdomen. The photograph came from a folder dated February 2013, the same month as his arrest. The family recognized Osama by two tattoos on his left arm as well as his pants and top, in addition to his appearance.

Human Rights Watch shared four photographs of Osama’s body with Physicians for Human Rights. A team of forensic pathologists observed facial contusion as well as scratches and abrading on the face in the photographs, and evidence of “severe” blunt force trauma.

140 thoughts on “The Story of Osama Hussein Salim”

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