Tom Duggan Interviews Lilly Martin Sahiounie over August 2013 Balouta Massacre and kidnappings

Transcript by Rawan R. Mahmasa

Tom Duggan Interviews Lilly Martin Sahiounie

When did the massacre at Ballouta occur?

The massacre at Ballouta occurred in the early hours of August 3rd, 2013.

OK, who were the terrorists involved ?

The terrorists were the Free Syrian Army who were supported by the United States of America and NATO.  

Why did the target Ballouta ?

Ballouta was a small village. It had no military importance, it was targeted for sectarian purposes only because it was a minority sect who lived there exclusively.

So there was no military targets whatsoever?

No. No military targets, it had no army presence, it had no police presence, it had no government buildings, it was strictly just a farming village full of families, unarmed civilians, 220 unarmed civilians were killed that night. 

And what was the opposition’s reaction?

The opposition, the Syrian National Coalition located in Istanbul, Turkey, was headed at that time by their president, George Sabra, and he posted on his official page on the Internet that he was congratulating the victorious troops, his troops, the Free Syrian Army. And they were very, very happy about the massacre of civilians in Ballouta. And they said that it was the gateway to Latakia and the country would fall.

OK, so what was the reaction from the U.S.A?

The United States denied any involvement in the massacre of Ballouta, they said that the terrorists who had done that massacre had nothing to do with America or were not supported. But that’s not the fact they were the Free Syrian Army, which were under complete support of the United States of America and the NATO alliance.

So what about those who were kidnapped?

Yes, that night, besides the massacre, there were one hundred small children and several older females that were kidnapped. They were taken that night to Selma and kept in a basement after nine months of without sunlight being kept in a basement in Selma by the Free Syrian Army.

Forty four of the 100 were released.

The remainder, those that were not killed. They were released three and a half years later after spending three and a half years in captivity.

OK, where did the survivors go?

The ones that were released, the survivors who weren’t killed in the massacre, made their way down to Latakia, which is the closest town. Ballouta is near Selma, which was the Free Syrian Army headquarters. It is in the province of Latakia and it is also near Slunfah.

So the survivors made their way to Latakia and stayed in a empty school because it was summertime and school was out. They stayed there until their village was liberated and they returned home.

OK, did they, well, they return to Ballouta, how many returned?

Some returned to the ones that weren’t killed. Two hundred and twenty unarmed civilians were killed. The kidnapped children, of course, were not all returned but the remainder did return to their home. Now, this is a question I’m going to ask, it’s not on the list of questions that, we’ve just been to a village.

Is this a common, a common occurrence? Have you witnessed this in Latakia and other places, these occupations taking over massacres? Have you seen this?

There have been attacks and occupation and massacres. There was an occupation and massacre in Kassab on March 21, 2014, and also the Free Syrian Army was involved. The Syrian National Coalition president, Ahmad Jarba, congratulated his troops and actually visited Kassab while it was under three months of occupation and it was finally liberated on June the 15th 2014.

It’s fine, thank you very much.

You’re welcome. I’m Lilly Martin Sahouinie from Latakia.

Thank you, Lilly.

It’s a pleasure. That’s it.