At the moment of execution the rebels grasped his throat. The young man put up a struggle. Three or four rebels pinned him down. The man tried to protect his throat with his hands, which were still tied together. He tried to resist but they were stronger than he was and they cut his throat. They raised his head into the air. People waved their guns and cheered. Everyone was happy that the execution had gone ahead.
That scene in Syria, that moment, was like a scene from the Middle Ages, the kind of thing you read about in history books. The war in Syria has reached the point where a person can be mercilessly killed in front of hundreds of people—who enjoy the spectacle.
As a human being I would never have wished to see what I saw. But as a journalist I have a camera and a responsibility. I have a responsibility to share what I saw that day. That’s why I am making this statement and that’s why I took the photographs. I will close this chapter soon and try never to remember it.
TIME Lightbox, Witness to a Syrian Execution: “I Saw a Scene of Utter Cruelty”.
The perpetrators of atrocities themselves often use digital cameras or smartphones to photograph or film their acts of torture and murder, uploading the images to the Internet. These images and videos are used for propaganda, and their authenticity is often impossible to verify. It is very rare that a group of fighters from either side gives a professional photojournalist from a country outside Syria full and unfettered access to chronicle an atrocity as it unfolds. The images above are products of that access.
The photographer in the piece goes unnamed in order to protect him from repercussions when he returns to Syria. He reports that this was the fourth execution he had seen that day.
Austin Tice, an American freelance journalist in Syria who has not communicated with family and colleagues since mid August, is shown alive and in the custody of armed men in a video posted on YouTube.
In the 47-second clip, headlined “Austin Tice is alive,” Tice is shown blindfolded and disoriented, mangling an Islamic prayer before crying out, “Oh, Jesus.” He is surrounded by masked gunmen who act like militant Islamists, calling out “God is great!” and wearing the baggy traditional outfits of fighters operating in Afghanistan.
The video was posted Sept. 26 but escaped notice until early Monday, when a link to it appeared on a Facebook page that appears to support the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad. Tips and other evidence previously gathered by the news organizations to which Tice contributed has suggested he is in Syrian government custody.
It’s nice and all, but please quit telling me to be safe.
In a July Facebook post, freelance journalist Austin Tice explained to friends why he was going to Syria to report on the civil war. In large part it was to feel “alive”:
So that’s why I came here to Syria, and it’s why I like being here now, right now, right in the middle of a brutal and still uncertain civil war. Every person in this country fighting for their freedom wakes up every day and goes to sleep every night with the knowledge that death could visit them at any moment. They accept that reality as the price of freedom. They realize there are things worth fighting for, and instead of sitting around wringing their hands about it, or asking their lawyer to file an injunction about it, they’re out there just doing it. And yeah most of them have little idea what they’re doing when they pick up a rifle, and yes there are many other things I could complain about, but really who cares. They’re alive in a way that almost no Americans today even know how to be. They live with greater passion and dream with greater ambition because they are not afraid of death.
Unfortunately, the Washington Post reports that Tice has not been heard from and his current whereabouts are unknown:
The family of Austin Tice, an American freelance journalist who has been reporting from Syria for The Washington Post and other news organizations, said Thursday that it has not heard from him for more than a week and is concerned for his welfare.
Tice, 31, a Georgetown University law student who previously served as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps, reported from Syria this summer. His work, which has been published by The Post, McClatchy Newspapers and other outlets, has offered vivid and insightful accounts of the civil war.
After entering Syria across the Turkish border in May, Tice spent time with rebel fighters in the north. He traveled to Damascus in late July, becoming one of the few Western journalists reporting from the capital. Tice intended to leave Syria in mid-August. Family members and editors who have worked with Tice have not heard from him since then.