(CNSNews.com) – A man wearing a hooded windbreaker and sunglasses testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday about the deaths of more than 10,000 Syrians at the hands of the Bashar al-Assad regime.
And the former “criminal photographer” for the Syrian military brought thousands of grim images of the dead with him when he defected and came to the United States.
“My work ethic, my morals, my religion did not allow me to be quiet about these horrendous crimes that I see,” the man said through an interpreter.
The photographs – blown up and placed on easels – show skeletal corpses bearing signs of torture strewn across the floor of a military hospital parking garage. One man had a cross tattooed on his upper arm. Other corpses were contorting into forms that eerily resembled death by crucifixion.
“I had the job of taking pictures of any death that had happened within the military establishment in Syria before the revolution and after the beginning of the revolution,” the man said.
“And the bodies of those incarcerated were being sent to the military hospitals of the regime,” the man said. “And we would be called to go there and take photographs of it, depending on the demand.”
The man said not only was he responsible for downloading and archiving his photos on “state computers,” but he also had access to photographs taken by others.
“I have seen horrendous pictures and bodies that had tremendous amounts of torture like deep wounds and burns and strangulation,” the man said. “And bodies that had their eyes gauged out as well as bodies that were severely beaten.
“Horrible beatings that ended up of breaking of bones and horrible bruises on their face and body,” the man said. “And bodies that were emaciated and very skinny.
“People starved to death and their bodies looked like skeletons,” the man said. “I’ve never in my life seen pictures or bodies that were subjected to such criminality except when I saw the pictures of the Nazi regime.”
He said he saw photos of dead children, the elderly and even some who had been his friends or neighbors.
The man said he began to feel some responsibility for the deaths and decided to defect.
He concluded his remarks by saying he brought a message to Congress from the Syrian people about the “genocidal massacre” that was taking place in his country at the hands of Assad.
“He destroyed the country, and he killed his own people with no mercy,” the man said.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee, opened the hearing – which was, for security purposes, unlike most hearings where video cameras and audio recordings are allowed – saying there was a reason that some of the photographs were displayed at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., before being brought to the Hill.
Royce said the images showed “horrendous violence carried out on an industrial scale.”
Ranking member Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) expressed the urgency echoed by most committee members that the United States must do something to end the brutal war between the Assad regime, Muslim extremists going under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Syrian nationalists.
“This is happening right now in Syria as we speak,” Engel said, pointing to the graphic images on display in the hearing room.
As to finding a solution to the crisis in Syria, experts who testified suggested everything from training Syrians who have fled the country to regain control of the country through military action, to setting up an international tribunal where Assad could face indictment and trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced an additional $378 million in humanitarian aid to Syria.
“Nearly 11 million Syrians today are struggling to survive one of the worst humanitarian crises in living memory,” Kerry said in a press release distributed by the State Department.
“The brutally indefensible and illegitimate Assad regime continues to pursue its appalling ‘starve or surrender’ tactics against the Syrian people,” Kerry said.
“The regime is asphyxiating half a million Syrians in Aleppo by obstructing deliveries of food, water, and medicine, and dropping dozens of barrel bombs a day on the city and surrounding suburbs,” Kerry said. “Syrians all over the country are being butchered at the hands of a ruthless tyrant.”
“The world must act quickly and decisively to get life-saving assistance to the innocent civilians who are bearing the brunt of this barbaric war,” Kerry said. “That’s why the United States is providing nearly $378 million in additional aid to help those battered by conflict.”