This is What Ethnic Conflict Looks Like

The New York Times posts the horrific account of a mass atrocity which took place in the Tartus province of Syria this month. The province as a whole is an Alawite stronghold, but the village of Baniyas is largely Sunni. The village had not seen much conflict in the two years until May 4th.

That’s when the systematic murder of families took place.

Government troops and supporting militias went house to house, killing entire families and smashing men’s heads with concrete blocks.

Antigovernment activists provided lists of 322 victims they said had been identified. Videos showed at least a dozen dead children. Hundreds more people are reported missing.

“How can we reach a point of national forgiveness?” said Ahmad Abu al-Khair, a well-known blogger from Bayda. He said that the attacks had begun there, and that 800 of about 6,000 residents were missing.

Multiple video images that residents said they had recorded in Bayda and Ras al-Nabeh — of small children lying where they died, some embracing one another or their parents — were so searing that even some government supporters rejected Syrian television’s official version of events, that the army had “crushed a number of terrorists.”…

Men in partial or full military dress went door to door, separating men — and boys 10 and older — from women and younger children.

Residents said some gunmen were from the National Defense Forces, the new framework for pro-government militias, mainly Alawites in the Baniyas area. They bludgeoned and shot men, shot or stabbed families to death and burned houses and bodies….

One video said to be from Bayda showed eight dead children on a bed. Two toddlers cuddled face to face; a baby rested on a dead woman’s shoulder.

Here is a horrid photo, purportedly from Baniyas, of several dead children.

Civilians — babies —  are being killed for no other reason than their ethnic affiliation.  This is what sectarian conflict looks like. What’s worse, the logic of the Syria civil war suggests that these kinds of atrocities will  come more frequently. As the war grinds to a stalemate, we can expect ethnicities to be purged from the provinces in which they are in the minority. Alawates will be driven from Sunni held territory; and Sunnis purged from Alawite territory.

This is ethnic cleansing. And it is well underway in Syria today.