Women stoned to death in Syria for adultery

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BEIRUT (AP) — A cleric read the verdict before the truck came and

dumped a large pile of stones near the municipal garden. Jihadi

fighters then brought in the woman, clad head to toe in black, and put

her in a small hole in the ground. When residents gathered, the

fighters told them to carry out the sentence: Stoning to death for the

alleged adulteress. None in the crowd stepped forward, said a witness

to the event in a northern Syrian city. So the jihadi fighters, mostly

foreign extremists, did it themselves, pelting Faddah Ahmad with

stones until her body was dragged away. "Even when she was hit with

stones she did not scream or move," said an opposition activist who

said he witnessed the stoning near the football stadium and the Bajaa

garden in the city of Raqqa, the main Syrian stronghold of the Islamic

State group. The July 18 stoning was the second in a span of 24 hours.

A day earlier, 26-year-old Shamseh Abdullah was killed in a similar

way in the nearby town of Tabqa by Islamic State fighters. Both were

accused of having sex outside marriage. The killings were the first of

their kind in rebel-held northern Syria, where jihadis from the

Islamic State group have seized large swaths of territory, terrorizing

residents with their strict interpretation of Islamic law, including

beheadings and cutting off the hands of thieves. The jihadis recently

tied a 14-year-old boy to a cross-like structure and left him for

several hours in the scorching summer sun before bringing him down —

punishment for not fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The group has also brutalized Shiite Muslims and others whom it views

as apostates. In neighboring Iraq, Islamic State militants have driven

members of the Yazidi religious minority out of a string of towns and

villages. Thousands of the fleeing Yazidis have been stranded on a

mountaintop for days, a humanitarian crisis that prompted the U.S. to

airlift aid to them this week. On Friday, Kamil Amin, the spokesman

for Iraq's Human Rights Ministry, said hundreds of Yazidi women under

the age of 35 are being held by the Islamic State group in schools in

Iraq's second largest city Mosul, which the militants captured in

June. The stonings in Syria last month were not widely publicized at

the time, but in the following days three photographs appeared online

which appeared to document the grisly spectacle and were consistent

with other AP reporting. The pictures posted on a newly-created

Twitter account showed dozens of people gathered in a square, a cleric

reading a verdict through a loudspeaker and several bearded men with

automatic rifles either carrying or collecting stones. "A married

woman being stoned in the presence of some believers," read the

caption of the photographs on the Twitter account, which has since

been suspended. Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, the activist who witnessed

Ahmad's stoning, said locals where angry to see foreign fighters

impose their will on the community. "People were shocked and couldn't

understand what was going on. Many were disturbed by the idea that

Saudis and Tunisians were issuing (such) orders," he said in an

interview via Skype. Ahmad, he said, appeared unconscious, and he had

overheard that she was earlier taken to a hospital where she was given

anesthesia. The stoning took place after dark, he said, at about 11

p.m. He could not see blood on the body because of the black clothes

she was wearing. Ahmad did not scream or shake, and died silently.

"They then took the dead body in one of their cars and left," he said.

The two cases were first reported by the Britain-based Syrian

Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information through a

network of activists around the country. Bassam Al-Ahmad, a spokesman

for the Violations Documentation Center, a Syrian group that tracks

human rights violations, also confirmed the stoning. An activist based

in the northern province of Idlib, who collects information from other

activists in northern Syria, said Ahmad was a widow. A man who asked

to be identified as Asad for fear of repercussions, said that in the

other stoning, in Tabqa, residents also refused to take part, and that

the act was carried out by Islamic State members. The U.S. Embassy in

Syria, in a statement posted on its Twitter account, condemned the

"barbaric stoning" of a woman in Tabqa. International human rights

groups did not report the stoning, and Human Rights Watch said it had

no independent confirmation. "It is a very worrying trend if true,"

said Human Rights Watch researcher Lama Fakih. The Islamic State group

has "imposed incredibly restrictive rules on the civilian population

which have served to make women and girls particularly vulnerable and

to quite clearly discriminate against them," she said, adding that the

reports of the stoning were the first the group had received out of

Syria. "This is just a more sort of extreme manifestation of those

restrictive rules which are all in violation of international" human

rights law, she said. Such acts have alarmed members of mainstream

Syrian opposition groups fighting to remove President Bashar Assad

from power since 2011. "These behaviors have nothing to do with the

nature and mentality of Syrian society," said Abdelbaset Sieda, a

senior member of the main Western- backed Syrian National Coalition.

He said the group had no official confirmation of the stoning cases

although he did not rule it out. "We expect such acts to be carried

out by the Islamic State," he said.

Kofi Oppong Kyekyeku

I am a Ghanaian Broadcast Journalist/Writer who has an interest in General News, Sports, Entertainment, Health, Lifestyle and many more.

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