Deir Ezzor: Removal of graves from al-Mashtal park brings back memories of 2013

Al-Mashtal park on al-Takaya Street in the city of Deir Ezzor - July 13, 2014 (Lens Gharb/Flickr)

Al-Mashtal park on al-Takaya Street in the city of Deir Ezzor - July 13, 2014 (Lens Gharb/Flickr)


The Health Affairs Department in Deir Ezzor City Council has relocated the remains in al-Mashtal park to special cemeteries affiliated with the council.

This step came upon the city council’s desire to rehabilitate the park, according to what was published by the council on its Facebook page, on Monday, March 4.

The council has called on all families, whose relatives have graves within the park, to transfer the remains, clarifying that the process would be carried out at the council’s expense.

In case the families do not carry out the process, the Health Department will transfer the remains without reverting to the families.

This is not the first time that the Deir Ezzor council has given a deadline to the families of the deceased to relocate their dead to the main cemetery on the Damascus road, as the council previously, in 2019, gave a six-month period to move the graves from all public gardens.

The president of the council, Raed Mandil, stated at that time that a number of families had removed the graves from the parks, but the work was still slow due to the families’ weak financial capabilities, adding that the council is working on relocating graves from all gardens in populated areas.

Al-Mashtal park

Most of the public parks in Deir Ezzor city turned into cemeteries after the Syrian regime forces launched a military campaign and the clashes with the former Free Syrian Army (FSA) intensified in 2011.

Fawaz al-Attiyah, an independent journalist from the village of al-Baghouz in eastern Deir Ezzor countryside, who was present in the city during the military campaign, told Enab Baladi that the “brutality of the shelling and the suffocating siege” imposed by the regime at that time made it difficult to access the only cemetery in Boursaid mountain in Deir Ezzor city, which forced them to bury their relatives in parks.

Al-Mashtal park, located on al-Takaya Street in the heart of Deir Ezzor city, which is one of the oldest parks in the city with an area of about 2000 square meters, turned into a cemetery containing more than 200 bodies, most of which belong to Free Syrian Army fighters, in addition to civilians, according to al-Attiyah.

There are graves in the park with their owners’ names, and others that are unidentified due to significant damage to some bodies that hampered the identification process.

“The garden of memories”

The park reminds Jassem, who refrained from giving his full name for security reasons, of his friend, the journalist Murhaf al-Mudahi, who was killed while performing his media work in the Khasarat neighborhood, as a result of shrapnel from a missile, on August 29, 2013.

Jassem, from the town of al-Sour, who was a fighter in the ranks of the Arab Ahwaz Brigade and currently lives in the village of al-Subha in Deir Ezzor countryside under Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control, said that Murhaf al-Mudahi had survived the Joura and al-Qusur massacre and conveyed what he witnessed of the field execution of his neighbors and friends.

The Joura and al-Qusur massacre, or “Black Tuesday,” as the people of Deir Ezzor call it, began on September 25, 2012, and lasted three days when groups from the regime’s Republican Guards, led by Colonel Ali Khazam and under the direct supervision of the head of the Military Security branch, Major General Jamea Jamea, stormed the Joura neighborhood which was free of any armed manifestations to begin arresting and tormenting civilians.

Marwan (who also refrained from giving his full name for security reasons), a former Free Syrian Army fighter from al-Subha village and living there, told Enab Baladi that six of his friends were buried in al-Mashtal park after being killed in clashes with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in al-Hasakah city.

“Before the powers of control over the city transitioned from the Islamic State back to the regime forces, al-Mashtal park was a breathing space for our troubles; we would visit our friends, tell them stories sometimes, and cry on their graves at other times,” Marwan said.

He added that the last wish of one of his friends buried in al-Mashtal park was “to visit his grave after the victory of the Syrian revolution, but where do we visit him today?”.



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