World of Knowledge (Australia) - - History - BASHAR AL- AS­SAD

The first re­ports fil­ter through at 02:45 lo­cal time on Au­gust 21, 2013. Ac­cord­ing to eye­wit­nesses, at least 15 rock­ets have landed in Ghouta, an agri­cul­tural belt around the Syr­ian cap­i­tal Damascus, an area con­trolled by op­po­nents of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-as­sad.

Over the next few hours, sick­en­ing videos are up­loaded to Youtube show­ing graphic footage of adults, chil­dren and small ba­bies who are clearly sick, yet have no ex­ter­nal signs of in­jury. Their symp­toms, de­scribed by medics on the ground, in­clude short­ness of breath, blurred vi­sion, vom­it­ing and even­tual loss of con­scious­ness – all clas­sic signs of a chem­i­cal weapons at­tack, a hall­mark of al-as­sad’s regime dur­ing the Syr­ian Civil War. By the end of the day, the death toll was more than 1,300. The nerve agent sarin, an odour­less, colour­less toxin 20 times more deadly cyanide, was the main cul­prit.

The Chem­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion of 1993 agreed to a global ban on the pro­duc­tion, stock­pil­ing and use of chem­i­cal weapons, but it would be an­other 20 years be­fore Syria came to the party and signed up, even­tu­ally bow­ing to in­ter­na­tional pres­sure af­ter the Ghouta at­tacks on its own civil­ians. (In the in­ter­ven­ing years, the Mid­dle East na­tion de­fied the global mood by stock­pil­ing and test­ing, in­sist­ing the need to de­fend it­self from Is­rael’s nu­clear threat.)

But if the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity thought rat­i­fy­ing the Con­ven­tion would end al-as­sad’s re­pug­nant offensives, they were wrong. Two years later, the pres­i­dent’s troops dropped chlo­rine bombs on in­sur­gent-held ar­eas of Syria. As World of Knowl­edge went to press, the last con­firmed chem­i­cal at­tack oc­curred in Aleppo on April 7, 2016, killing 23 peo­ple and in­jur­ing more than 100.

When he’s not poi­son­ing his own peo­ple, al-as­sad dab­bles in other time-hon­oured dic­ta­tor ac­tiv­i­ties: false im­pris­on­ment, torture and ex­e­cu­tions.

POI­SON GAS The sick are treated af­ter a chem­i­cal weapons at­tack in Syria in 2013.

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