The UN inquiry group apparently did not consider the interviews carried out with eyewitnesses by German, Dutch and Russian journalists, nor of the refugee from Houla, interviewed and protected by Sister Agnes-Mariam of Homs. Sister Agnes Mariam had observed for herself the FSA's ethnic cleansing of Christians in Homs, and had grave suspicions of who was behind the killings at Houla. She had said publicly that Syrian Christians had been pressured to join the FSA, had been used by the rebels as human shields and that Christian homes had been taken over by Sunnis. She had also denounced "false flag' crimes, back in 2011 (SANA 2011; AINA 2012).
German journalist Rainer Hermann interviewed witnesses from the Houla area, within days of the massacre. Hermann speaks Arabic and is a scholar of modern Syrian history. His account in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) painted a very different picture to that of the UN inquiry. He noted that Sunni rebels had attacked three army checkpoints around Houla, which had been set up to protect Alawi villages from jihadis in the surrounding Sunni area. Those killed had been:
"nearly exclusively families from the Alawi and Shia minorities in Houla " several dozen members of one extended family which had in recent years converted from Sunni to Shia belief were slaughtered. Also killed were members of the Alawi family Shomaliya and the family of a Sunni member of parliament who was considered [by the FSA] a government collaborator' (MOA 2012).
This account was partly contradicted by some interviews done by a journalist for another German paper, Spiegel Online (Reuter 2012). Most of these witnesses were Houla area Sunnis, introduced to the outsiders by FSA collaborators.
Another German reporter questioned the emerging "official' story. Alfred Hackensberger pointed out that those killed had been Shiites, identified as enemies by the FSA and mostly pro-government. Hackensberger spoke with one witness, Jibril, who had taken refuge with Mother Agnes-Mariam at the monastery of St James. He had witnesses the atrocities and informed the monastery. Jibril said the rebels had driven the soldiers from the area, then went to the hospital and killed patients there. They also killed some Sunnis who refused to join them and had participated in the May elections, in face of the FSA boycott (Al Halabi 2012).
Rainer Hermann defended his story, quoting the only known survivor of the Al Sayyid family, an eleven year old boy Ali, who said the attackers "were shaved bald and had long beards' in the Salafi style. The boy only survived because he pretended to be dead. Hermann names who he says were the criminals:
"more than 700 gunmen under the leadership of Abdurrazzaq Tlass and Yahya Yusuf came in three groups from Rastan, Kafr Laha and Akraba and attacked three army checkpoints around Taldou. The numerically superior rebels and the (mostly also Sunni) soldiers fought bloody battles in which two dozen soldiers, mostly conscripts, were killed. During and after the fighting the rebels, supported by the residents of Taldou, snuffed out the families of Sayyid and Abdarrazzaq. They had refused to join the opposition' (LRC 2012).
The Russian journalist Marat Musin (who works for the newsagency Anna) was in Houla on May 25 and 26 and corroborates Hermann's version. So too does the Arabic speaking Dutch writer Martin Janssen (MOA 2012b).
The UN group, on the other hand, relied for their witnesses mainly on surviving Taldou residents, many of whom are said to have collaborated with the FSA in the murders. The UN identified no particular criminals, only repeating the claims their sources had made about un-named "Shabiha', and how unlikely it was that FSA groups could have reached the villages because of the army's security. Yet according to the other independent witnesses, those on the army posts had been killed or driven out by the numerically superior FSA forces.
The UN report (HRC 2012) has not provided any satisfactory explanation as to why pro government militia ("Shabiha') would enter a strong Sunni area to slaughter Alawi and other pro-government villagers. Nor have they properly explained their own selection of witnesses, in particular the reliance on pro-FSA Taldou residents, in the face of the accusations of bias. Nor have they (unlike the German writers) identified any particular perpetrators. Not only is this UN version of events unsatisfactory, it seems likely to prolong the violence. The rebels are not blind to the political advantages of false flag terrorism.
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