- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
The shocking video of a Syrian rebel eating the lung of a pro-Assad fighter spread like wildfire across the Internet earlier this week. The rebel, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Sakkar, has filmed a YouTube video explaining his actions.
"I am willing to face trial for my actions if Bashar and his shabeeha [militiamen] stand trial for their atrocities," he says. "My message to the world is if the bloodshed in Syria doesn’t stop, all of Syria will become like Abu Sakkar."
The Syrian rebel, whose real name is Khalid al-Hamad, goes on to explain that he did what he did because of atrocities committed by pro-Assad fighters. He said that evidence taken from their cell phones showed how they raped women, killed children, and tortured men. In an article published this week by TIME magazine, the rebel fighter explained that he had a sectarian hatred of Alawites, and that he had made another video where he cuts up a pro-Assad fighter’s body with a saw.
Abu Sakkar’s actions not only created controversy among observers of the conflict, but also prompted the Syrian rebel leadership to take action. The Free Syrian Army’s Military Council released a statement condemning Abu Sakkar’s "monstrous act," and instructed field commanders to being an investigation "in which the perpetrator will be brought to justice."
So far, however, Abu Sakkar appears to still be on the battlefield. At the end of the video, the cameraman asks him whether he will continue fighting after this controversy. "Victory or martyrdom, I will fight to the death," he replies, then walks off down the road.