Syrian authorities arrested 10 people working in a cemetery in the Damascus countryside on charges of violating human corpses, the pro-Assad Al-Watan newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The paper quoted a director of Awqaf (Islamic endowments) in the Damascus countryside, Kheder Shahrour, as saying that “10 workers in the Najha cemetery have been sent to prison on various charges, including digging up graves and burying without certification, as well as selling corpses.”
The newspaper noted that members of the provincial council had called for a cancelation of fees or for associations to contribute to burial services, to which Shahrour responded: “The cost of burial is not more than 2,500 Syrian pounds.”
Syrian rights organizations say that regime forces have buried prisoners who die from torture in the Najha cemetery, pointing to the mass burials of hundreds of prisoners without their families seeing the bodies, hiding the effects of torture on the body. Regime forces often state that a prisoner’s cause of death is due to “heart attack.”
The report by the Violations Documentation Center said that “hundreds of prisoners who were in Branch 215 have been buried in two relatively adjacent areas in Najha in the Damascus countryside, as the regime forces have dug two parallel trenches in the Martyrs Cemetery in this area.”
The center said in its report that its team contacted a number of activists on the ground, including residents near Najha and the area of Al-Jadaliya and Sayeda Zeinab, adding: “Their testimonies overlap, which mostly confirm that they observed many suspicious operations in the Martyrs Cemetery in Najha and the Al-Jadaliya Cemetery near the Al-Huseiniya area … where ‘large refrigerators’ have been observed carrying dozens of corpses which have been buried in mass graves in the Al-Jadaliya cemetery.”
The Najha cemetery is among the most prominent low-cost cemeteries in Syria, where the price of burial is up to 2,500 Syrian pounds. The prices of burial in other cemeteries usually begin at 600,000 pounds.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.