Hundreds of people believed to be from President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite community have been put in cages and paraded through besieged Damascus suburbs, apparently to deter Syrian and Russian aircraft from further bombing the city of Douma. Local activists said the most powerful rebel group in Douma, Army of Islam, has caged at least 400 men and women.
After the Douma bombings, which saw at least 40 people killed, a propaganda video was released under the hashtag "Cage of Protection", in which prisoners can be seen in cages. The bombings were carried out by Assad's forces on Friday (30 October). "The prisoners were captured army officers from President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect and their families," Baraa Abdulrahman, a media activist close to the Army of Islam, was quoted as saying by the New York Times.
"Human rights and humanitarian organisations will start calling on the opposition to release those officers," said Abdulrahman, while standing alongside one cage. "We didn't hear those organisations calling to save the people of Eastern Ghouta," he added.
Shaam news agency, which is operated by anti-government activists, said that at least 100 cages were set up on rooftops and on the streets of residential areas, while some of the cages mounted on the back of pick-up trucks were driven around Damascus suburbs. However, the Army of Islam has not claimed responsibility for the stunt.
"We wish that the Russian warplanes never shell civilians again," a woman who identified herself as Mervat Ali, said in the video. "We are experiencing fear here with the people," she said. Mervat said she is from Qardaha and has been held captive in Douma for the past two years. The video which was shared online, does not say how many caged hostages were deployed across the region.
In Friday's (30 October) government bombings at least 70 people were killed and 550 were left injured, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) that runs several clinics in Douma, said. MSF also said 15 were killed and 100 wounded when its hospital in Douma was hit the previous day. Back in August, according to Red Crescent, 550 people were killed during the bombing of Douma, which was carried out by Assad's forces that reportedly took the lives of 123 children.
Monday's (2 November) shelling saw the death of six people in Douma, local activist Abo Batal said. He also said no caged prisoners were killed in the shelling.