Screen grab of the victims of the Al Houla massacre, with their mouths taped shut.
After the corpses of 11 people were uncovered just outside of Syria’s flashpoint city Homs on Wednesday, our Observers alerted us to the incident and sent us a video of the victims' bodies. The men, who were identified as employees of a tissue factory in the central town of Al Houla, had been decapitated or shot in the head.
The discovery was made on the very day Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to withdraw his forces from cities across the country as part of an Arab League plan to end an eight-month long crackdown on anti-government protests.
The agreement also stipulated that Assad release a number of political prisoners and open dialogue with opposition figures. Despite these terms, clashes continued on Thursday, with reports of at least five people killed in Homs.


“I have no doubt the military is responsible for this massacre. The factory is situated less than 300 metres from a security checkpoint”

Sofiane Abul Walid is a Syrian activist based in Al Houla. He filmed one of the videos showing the victims’ bodies.
On Wednesday morning, we noticed that the soldiers in our village were moving about in an unusual way. But we didn’t discover the massacre until a little later when employees at the tissue factory began arriving for work. There were 11 corpses in total, one of which was identified as the director of the factory. All of their mouths had been taped shut and their hands were bound behind their backs. Eight of them had been shot at point-blank range. The other three men's throats had been slit. We even had to place their heads back on the necks of their bodies.
I have no doubt the military is responsible for this massacre. The factory is situated less than 300 metres from a security checkpoint, which means that it’s impossible to access it without being searched by soldiers. Even if the actual military didn’t do it, and it was carried out by the chabbihas [militant supporters of the regime], they at least allowed it to happen – it’s impossible that they didn’t notice or hear what was going on.
Funeral for victims of the massacre on Wednesday afternoon in Al Houla.
“We’ve decided that we’re going to defend ourselves against the regime, even if it means that we have to take up arms”
I think that the chabbiha army chose to attack this factory because it’s at least two kilometres outside the centre of Al Houla, and the distance meant they could be sure that they wouldn’t be disturbed. I’m also afraid that they hoped the slayings would help fuel religious divisions in the area. Al Houla is the only Sunni village in the Homs region – the other nine towns are all Alawite [President Bashar al-Assad is an Alawi Muslim, a branch of Shiite Islam, which makes up approximately 11 percent of Syria’s population, in contrast to the country’s majority Sunni population, with 74 percent]. The regime is playing with the blood of its people.
I feel like the regime’s barbarism knows no limits. We can’t just lie down and accept it. We’ve decided that we’re going defend ourselves against them, even if it means that we have to take up arms”.
This article was written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira.