If you are a Holocaust survivor, or the relative of a Holocaust survivor, you may not want to read any further.
The U.S. State Department in Washington DC informed reporters in a special, detailed briefing Monday that the Syrian regime has built a crematorium outside the capital city of Damascus.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones said the bodies of thousands of executed prisoners from the country’s savage civil war are now being systematically incinerated in a crematorium. Up to this point, the government of President Bashar al-Assad had been burying remains in mass graves.
“Credible sources have believed that many of the bodies have been disposed in mass graves,” Jones told reporters. “We now believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium in the Sednaya prison complex which could dispose of detainees’ remains with little evidence.”
Jones, who recently returned from the talks in Astana, showed the reporters a number of newly-declassified images of what he said was a crematorium.
“The continued brutality of the Assad regime, including its use of chemical weapons, presents a clear threat to regional stability and security, as well as to the national security interests of the United States and our allies,” Jones said.
According to the United Nations and many human rights organizations, the Syrian civil war since 2012 has claimed more than 400,000 lives, including many civilians, he added.
“In addition to air strikes, the regime continues to systematically abduct and torture civilian detainees, often beating, electrocuting and raping these victims,” he noted. A former regime photo documentarian working by the name ‘Caesar’ has shared more than 10,000 photos of Assad’s victims with the international community.
“According to numerous NGOs, the regime has abducted and detained between 65,000 and 117,000 people between 2011 and 2015. The regime has also authorized the extra-judicial killings of thousands of detainees using mass hangings at the Sednaya Military Prison.”
One of the largest and most secure prison complexes in the country, Senaya is a 45 minute drive outside of Damascus. According to Jones, there are many such facilities in the country. But Sednaya holds as many as 70 prisoners in cells that are designed for a 5-person capacity. Multiple sources report the regime is killing as many as 50 detainees per day at Sednaya alone.
“Credible sources have believed that many of the bodies have been disposed in mass graves,” Jones said.
“We now believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium in the Sednaya Prison Complex which could dispose of detainees’ remains with little evidence. Beginning in 2013, the Syrian regime modified a building within the Sednaya complex to support what we believe is a crematorium. Although the regime’s many atrocities are well documented, we believe that the building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place in Sednaya Prison.”
Jones added, however, that the United States does not believe that Russia or Iran was involved in the building or use of the crematorium. Moreover, the U.S. is hoping that Russia will become part of the solution to getting Syria to dismantle the crematorium.
“[Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov and the Russian government have indicated to us that they are interested in finding a solution on Syria,” Jones said in reply to a question from a reporter.
“There is no solution on Syria without a political process, and certainly an end to these atrocities, so we hope that we will now be able to work with the Russians in a constructive way to put pressure on the regime to end these atrocities, that the Russian government will take responsibility for their partner, the Syrian regime, to end these atrocities.”