June 2nd, 2011
02:00 PM ET

Slain Syrian boy once wanted to be a cop - before the crackdown

(CNN) - Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, the Syrian boy whose killing has enraged, mobilized and emboldened the country's opposition movement, once harbored dreams of being a police officer.

But the 13-year-old changed his ambitions when the government crackdown went into full swing.

"When he saw police officers kill the people in the revolution, he would say, 'The police kill the people and I don't want to be like them. I do not know what I will be but the police kill people and torture them,'" according to one of his relatives, who escaped to Kuwait amid the regime's suppression of protesters.

The relative asked not to be named out of fear for the safety of his family in Daraa, the southwestern city where the anti-regime demonstrations started in mid-March.

Family members say Hamza got separated from his father in the chaos during demonstrations around Daraa on April 29, when protesters marched on the city to break the Syrian military siege and force the delivery of important supplies, such as medicine and milk for babies.

A few weeks ago, the family received the boy's body. A video that showed up on YouTube displays an appalling and mutilated corpse; much of the video is too graphic to broadcast. The face is bloated and purple and his body is covered in bruises. There are gunshot wounds to his torso and his genitals are mutilated.

CNN cannot independently verify what happened to Hamza or the authenticity of the video.

His death has punctuated the domestic and international outcry against the clampdown by President Bashar al-Assad's government against peaceful protests. "I can only hope that this child did not die in vain," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week.

Patrick McCormick, a spokesman for the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, said children are not immune to the civil unrest across the region.

"The pictures are shocking. They have gone all over the world. And no one could see that without being deeply moved and ashamed about what happened to that boy," he said. "I have no idea why anybody would brutalize a young boy like that. I cannot even begin to go there. We just know that somehow it happened."

UNICEF is calling for investigations so the perpetrators can be brought to justice, "some sort of justice in a situation that's volatile," McCormick said.

"We want to get to the bottom of it."


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Middle East
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Nancy L

    Fareed Zakaria I can't believe you said this. "Assad is worse than Stalin or Hitler." You can't be serious. Hitler did live experiments on people and exterminated 6 million. You don't think he could get a family to say what he wanted them to say by intimidation? What Assad's people did to that young boy is unconscionable but poor, poor choice of analogy.

    June 2, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  2. Ebrahim

    You are so obsessed with this boy's story and I understand it is sad. A civil war in Yemen, in the other hand is not that important to you.... You care because of your agenda not because this just news. What is happening in Yemen is more important but it doesn't serve you ignorance. You follow just what makes you enemies look bad, and we get it Syria's president is an tyrant. Now can you cover something about Yemen, ask somebody in the Obama administration why they are so slow in responding to such a crisis. It seems that the U.S didn't learn its lesson. Yemen is the real source of trouble in the near future, and we should focus more on it.... Just saying....

    June 2, 2011 at 8:31 pm |