Mass graves are still being dug in Syria today, filled with victims of the ongoing conflict and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, an anonymous whistleblower known as “the gravedigger” told US senators during a congressional hearing about the conflict on Wednesday.
Dressed fully in black from head to toe with his face and head completely covered by black cloth, the gravedigger spoke of the horrors he witnessed working as one of the civilian workers at a mass grave site in Syria from 2011 to 2018. While the gravedigger left Syria in 2018, he said he has spoken with others who fled the country more recently, and said they told him the mass graves are still being dug. The gravedigger gave a prepared statement through a translator.
Syria’s civil war began in 2011 as a peaceful uprising against al-Assad. In the war that has now continued for more than a decade, an estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed, according to the United Nations, and millions more have been displaced by the conflict both in and outside of Syria.
Before the war, the gravedigger worked as an “administrative employee at the Damascus municipality,” but, in 2011, the “regime intelligence officials” visited his office and ordered him to work for them.
“When the regime asks for something, you don’t say no. I was not prepared for the horrors of my duties,” the gravedigger said through a translator.
“Every week, twice a week, three trailer trucks arrived packed with 300 to 600 bodies of victims of torture, bombardment and slaughter. Twice a week, three to four pickup trucks with 30 to 40 bodies of civilians that had been executed in Sednaya prison also arrived for disposal in the most inhumane way,” the gravedigger said.
The gravedigger was able to escape Syria in 2018 and “follow his family to Europe.” He testified before a German court in Koblenz about the horrors he witnessed. Because of other people he worked with who have recently escaped, he knows there are still mass graves being dug today, he said.
“My heart is heavy with the knowledge that many at this very moment are experiencing inhumane torture at the hands of the Assad regime,” the gravedigger said via the translator. “In some, I know exactly where they are piled up into mass graves that are still being dug today. I know this because others who have worked with me on the mass graves have recently escaped and confirmed what we have been hearing.”
The gravedigger said the longer the war goes on and Assad is in power, the more it also enables Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Enabling Assad enables Putin, in stopping Assad hurts the Russian dictator. We must finally learn from the past and not let this never again moment happen yet again,” he said.
The gravedigger recounted horrors of his time working at the mass grave sites. In one instance, a man who was dumped from a trailer truck with other dead bodies made a movement, signaling he was still alive.
“One of the civilian workers said, started crying, said that we had to do something,” the gravedigger said. “The intelligence officer supervising us ordered the bulldozer driver to run him over, the driver could not hesitate or else he would have been next. He ran over the man in the trenches, killing him. As for the young man in our workshop who dared to shed tears over the victim of Assad’s regime, we never saw him again.”
The gravedigger called on the senators to “take action.”
“Although hundreds of thousands have already been murdered and disappeared and millions displaced, the worst is still yet to come. It can be prevented. But I beg of you do not wait a second longer. I beg of you to take action,” the gravedigger said.
CNN has reached out to the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and had not received a response at the time of publication.