A series of recent scandals plaguing Western-backed rebel forces in Syria have sparked a firestorm of controversy surrounding the entire foreign-backed “regime change” operation — at least in some of the international media, if not yet in Western halls of power. With news that opposition fighters fired on unarmed civilian protesters in Damascus last week, however, the global image of rebel forces just went from bad to worse.
Of course, increasingly serious human rights abuses perpetrated by anti-regime militants have been surfacing since open warfare first erupted in Syria more than two years ago. This year, though, has seen more than a few major scandals and ghastly crimes committed by rebels exposed in the world press — and they are fast becoming more frequent, more alarming, and far more barbaric.
Last month, for example, one of the top rebel groups in Syria, the al-Nusra front — which controls wide swaths of territory and oil facilities, and is also considered one of the most effective fighting forces — officially merged with al-Qaeda. In early May, opposition forces were accused by United Nations investigators of using chemical weapons against civilians and then blaming the crime on the regime.
Last week, meanwhile, a rebel brigade chief publicly defended eating a dead soldier’s body organs on film and promised to eat the hearts of his enemies. “I swear to God, soldiers of Bashar, you dogs — we will eat your heart and livers!” the cannibal commander says on video before taking a bite out of a dead pro-regime fighter's organ.
As if all of that were not enough, a British journalist with Sky News reported on May 15 that opposition forces fired on unarmed, pro-regime civilian protesters during a march in the capital city of Damascus. "Please tell the world the truth! We don't want the fighters here, we want the army to kill them!" demonstrators, some of whom were carrying portraits of the dictator, reportedly yelled during the protest.
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Photo of rebel forces in Syria: AP Images