Special "Caesar Week" Edition
Caesar's Visit to Washington DC: "One of Our Most Successful Weeks Ever"

Last week was a historic week for the Syrian revolution. "Caesar," a defected Syrian regime photographer, visited the US with the help of the Syrian American Council and the other organizations under the Coalition for a Democratic Syria. Together, we engaged all levels of the US government, from the White House and State Department to the House and Senate. There was unprecedented media coverage and criticism of the current US policy in Syria. It was undoubtedly one of our most successful weeks ever.

Caesar is a former crime scene photographer for the Assad regime's military police. Once the Revolution started, he was tasked with taking photos of those tortured to death in Assad prisons. Initially, this meant 10 bodies a day, but as the killing accelerated the number increased to 50-60 a day. The bodies he photographed were emaciated, tortured, and brutalized beyond recognition. Caesar's conscience couldn't allow him to continue, but instead of simply defecting, Caesar risked his life to smuggle out over 55,000 images of approximately 11,000 bodies of Syrians who were tortured and killed in Assad's detention centers. He is a true Syrian hero and our team here in Washington DC was honored to work with him to further destroy the Assad regime's chances of survival.

At times like this, we appreciate the support of our community, which allows us to continue fighting for Syria alongside our sister organizations. If you ever need an extra reason to donate, just remember Caesar and his bravery.

Thank you again.

Yours until victory, 

The Syrian-American advocacy team: Mohammed Ghanem, Mouaz Moustafa, Kenan Rahmani, Tyler Thompson, Evan Barrett, Sasha Basset, Shlomo Bolts, Chad Brand, Nada Hashem, Bayan Bahloul, and Joel Bombardier

Monday: Caesar's Visit to Holocaust Museum

On Monday, July 28, 2014, Caesar met with members of CDS, international human rights lawyers, and officials from the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. The purpose of this visit was to highlight the war crimes taking place inside Syrian regime prisons, and to seek the advice of Holocaust Museum archivists in dealing with material Caesar has smuggled out of Syria. The images, previously turned over to the FBI and the United Nations, were verified as authentic.

This was the first time that Caesar appeared publicly to answer questions about his photo evidence of war crimes committed by Assad. At the conclusion of this event, Caesar was granted his request that 
a space be devoted to Syria at the Holocaust Museum. Ambassador Stephen Rapp and others have compared Caesar's images of the maimed corpses to those of the Nazi war crimes exposed during the Nuremberg trials.

Tuesday: Caesar's Meeting with Senator McCain
On Tuesday, July 29, Caesar and CDS met with Senator John McCain, who is considered a longstanding friend of the Syrian opposition. During the meeting, Caesar's team offered exclusive photos to Senator McCain and his staff to be utilized in future presentations on the house floor regarding regime war crimes. Senator McCain was moved by Caesar's story and evidence of regime brutality. McCain said that he was hopeful that the legislation to arm Syria's rebels would pass.

The following day, Senator McCain made a powerful Senate floor speech highlighting the Assad regime's ongoing atrocities in Syria. McCain went on to detail his personal encounter with Caesar: "It is with great sadness that I met with Caesar yesterday and had to tell him the truth: that although our great Nation could have done more to stop the suffering...it is with everlasting shame that we have not. Shame on all of us for our current failure." McCain also urged that the United States "offer quick support to the moderate opposition as they battle the Assad regime and extremists from the Islamic State."

Mohammed Ghanem, SAC Government Relations Director noted, "From our meetings with him, we in CDS know that when the Senator speaks out on behalf of Syria, he does so based on his strong sense of humanitarian concern and moral duty." 
Tuesday: Caesar's Testimony to House Foreign Affairs Committee on Assad War Crimes

The highlight of Caesar's visit to the US was his testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, July 31. During his testimony, Caesar spoke about his role as a military photographer, the the bodies he documented before fleeing Syria, and the massive scale of crimes taking place inside regime prisons. Caesar told the committee: 

"You can not give the 10,000 dead their lives back, but remember, there are still 150,000 prisoners in regime facilities awaiting the same fate."

Legal experts Dr. David Crane, Dr. Cherif Bassiouni, and former Obama Administration official Amb. Fred Hof. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) were also present to testify against Assad's war crimes that were not to go regrettably ignored like the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide. Chairman of the HFAC, Representative Ed Royce was vocal about the "industrial" scale and severity of Assad's atrocities, saying, "It is no coincidence that these photos were shown at the Holocaust Museum earlier this week."
Caesar Meetings and Video Screenings at the Department of State

Caesar's video which depicts the mass crimes perpetrated by the Assad regime, was screened three times during Caesar's visit. The first screening was shown at the Holocaust Museum. The second screening was at the Department of State, following a meeting on Thursday, July 31 with Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowsky, Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein, and National Security Advisor Stephen Pomper. The third screening was also at the Department of State on Friday August 1, where it was shown to an audience of 30 people from across the Department of State. 

Both forensic analysts and legal experts analyzed and validated the evidence for authenticity. The video showed pictures evincing 16 different aspects of Assad's torture chambers, including: systems of identification; locations of torture and ultimately death; time frame in which they were killed-- between March 2011 and August 2013; demographics of who was killed; torture mechanisms including eye-gouging, electric shocks, poison, starvation, and various forms of mutilation. 

Caesar's White House Meeting with National Security Council Advisors

To conclude Caesar's Visit, he met with President Obama's National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes and Vice President Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, in addition to Steven Pomper and others from NSC, urging a more aggressive policy towards the Assad regime. 

The Obama Administration was reaffirming in their stance that they would not work with Assad and that they would not let the perpetrators go unpunished. 

Following the meeting the White house released a statement thanking Caesar for his moral courage and bringing the evidence of Bashar Assad's unconscionable tactics to light.


The real work has just begun...

Caesar's visit was a historic visit. It brought to light Assad's egregious human rights violations, and showed the extent the regime would go to eliminate political opponents. It shocked the conscience of lawmakers and officials in Washington D.C., dealing the argument for working with Assad a severe blow. It breathed new life into the Syria issue in the media, with nearly all major media outlets writing on the issue. It also revived the issue of Assad's crimes in Congress, shocking members and leading them to express a renewed affirmation for helping the Syrian people. Finally, it caused panic in some regime circles, as lower-level generals began to fear they would be held accountable for their crimes.

But our real work starts now. We need your support to continue this work. Please donate and become a member to support our work. Again we would like to thank Caesar for his bravery, the Caesar team, and the rest of the CDS team. This monumental effort could not have been possible without all of you.


by Michael Gerson

ft Muna Jondy, Coalition for a Democratic Syria Government Relations Chair

ft Mouaz Moustafa, Coalition for a Democratic Syria Board Member

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