Al-Assad appoints war criminal as new governor of As-Suwayda

Major General Akram Ali Mohammed during his service as the First Deputy to the Director of the General Intelligence Agency, Hussam Louqa - 2019 (Zaman Alwsl)

Major General Akram Ali Mohammed during his service as the First Deputy to the Director of the General Intelligence Agency, Hussam Louqa - 2019 (Zaman Alwsl)

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The President of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, issued on Sunday, May 12, two decrees appointing new governors to four Syrian provinces, among them the governor of As-Suwayda, Major General Akram Ali Mohammed, known for his record of human rights violations over the past years.

The appointment of the new governor for As-Suwayda was by virtue of Decree “102”, which stipulated the termination of the service of the former governor, Bassam Mamdouh Barsik, and the appointment of Akram Ali Mohammed in his place.

Local al-Khabar Television website reported that the new governor of As-Suwayda was born in the town of Hadeeda in western Homs countryside in 1962.

The site added that Major General Akram Ali Mohammed holds a degree in law from 1985, and attended several courses in senior leadership and management at the Security Sciences Institute, and ascended through various military positions, until he became a retired officer.

Meanwhile, the Pro Justice organization specializing in disseminating information about war criminals in Syria, spoke about the violations record of the new governor of As-Suwayda.

Akram Ali Mohammed is one of the prominent officers of the General Intelligence Directorate, also known as the State Security Department, and in 2009 was appointed head of the State Security Branch in Aleppo at the rank of brigadier.

Suppressing demonstrations in Aleppo

With the start of the Syrian revolution in March 2011, Akram Ali Mohammed was tasked with suppressing the demonstrations, where he arrested and killed protesters, and his elements carried out killings under torture early in the spread of demonstrations in Aleppo, where Brigadier Ali Mohammed cooperated with Major General Adib Salameh, head of the Air Force Intelligence Branch in the northern region, alongside a number of officers from various security branches.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a testimony of a detainee who spoke about the horrors of the torture carried out by the State Security branch in Aleppo under the leadership of Akram Ali Mohammed.

The former detainee, Suleiman, who was a student at the University of Aleppo and was arrested with dozens in front of a mosque in August 2011, said that the State Security elements stripped all the detainees of their clothes and began beating them with punches, batons, and kicks.

Suleiman added in his testimony for Human Rights Watch, “Next to me was an eight-year-old child, they arrested him with us at the mosque, and he was also subjected to beating and torture, and I did not know his fate later”.

He said, “The investigator accused me of being connected to terrorists, which I denied. Then another element entered the room and began to beat me with a whip, and a third person joined him, and they lifted my feet up and started beating me on the soles. They beat me several times violently before transferring me to the Air Force Intelligence branch.”

This testimony represents a simple model of the brutal practices carried out by the State Security branch in Aleppo under the leadership of Akram Ali Mohammed, the new governor of As-Suwayda, and there are many other documented cases of similar instances that occurred in this branch.

Continued record in Damascus and Tartus

After the opposition factions took control of most of the city of Aleppo, Brigadier Akram Ali Mohammed was transferred from Aleppo to Damascus in January 2013, where he took over as the head of Branch 255 of the General Intelligence Directorate, succeeding Brigadier Ghassan Khalil.

Branch 255 specializes in general information and is responsible for monitoring the activity of media and the internet and overseeing the work of the Syrian Electronic Army.

In 2016, he was appointed head of the State Security branch in Tartus, and was promoted at the beginning of 2019 to the rank of major general, then appointed as the first deputy to the head of the General Intelligence Agency, Hussam Louqa, who is considered one of the most powerful security figures in the As-Suwayda file, and continued in this position until he was referred to retirement.

Messages to the people of As-Suwayda

The appointment of Major General Akram Ali Mohammed as the new governor of As-Suwayda was considered by activists as threatening messages from Bashar al-Assad to the residents who have continued to protest for about nine months.

Rayan Marouf, a journalist with the Suwayda 24 network, mentioned through his Facebook account, that the last retired security officer appointed as governor of As-Suwayda was General Amer al-Ashi, who ended his appointment in May 2020, and after him, the position of governor was held by three officials from a civilian background: Humam Dibiyat, Numayr Makhlouf, and the last, the engineer Bassam Barsik.

Commenting on the appointment of the new governor of As-Suwayda, the political researcher Jamal al-Shoufi, who resides in As-Suwayda, said, “The appointment of an officer from an intelligence background as governor of As-Suwayda may indicate that there is some security plan against As-Suwayda being prepared by the regime, and what strengthens this hypothesis is his sending military reinforcements towards As-Suwayda in recent days, which may aim to carry out individual assassinations or bombings or execute a military operation, or perhaps fall within broader regional arrangements.”

Al-Shoufi added, in an interview with Enab Baladi, that the changes being made by the regime, whether at the level of intelligence agencies or the administrative system at the level of the governors, aim to send messages to Arab countries that it is ready to receive any changes they request in exchange for its rehabilitation in the Arab League, especially with the upcoming Arab summit in Bahrain.

Al-Shoufi pointed out that despite appointing an intelligence officer as governor of As-Suwayda, or al-Assad sending military reinforcements towards it, we should not overestimate the matter, lest we arouse people’s fears and disrupt the social, political, and familial reality in As-Suwayda, but at the same time, this does not mean underestimating the significance of these indicators, rather, the residents should stay cautious and watchful for what the regime might do later.

Last week, the Syrian regime sent military reinforcements towards the province of As-Suwayda, including a convoy of troop carriers, tanks, armored vehicles, and dozens of heavy vehicles, amid fears of a security escalation against the civilian movement demanding its downfall, further heightening these concerns with the appointment of a retired intelligence officer as governor of As-Suwayda.

 

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