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SYRIA: Child victim's Facebook page becomes platform for opposition

June 1, 2011 |  3:45 pm

250341_176058185781414_175737975813435_373985_1140554_n The Facebook page created in memory of Hamza Khatib, a 13-year-old boy who died last week, allegedly tortured and killed in state custody, has become a focal point for opposition to four decades of rule by the Assad family in Syria. 

The teenager, who protesters say was brutally abused before being slain in custody, has become a symbol of the pro-democracy protests, Syrian activists said.

The Syrian government insists that Khatib died from a random buller at a demonstration. And President Bashar Assad has invited Khatib's family to meet with him and has promised an investigation of the youth's death.

But such assurances have done little to diminish Syrian protesters' outrage over the death of the boy, who has been tranformed into an icon for the activists' pro-democracy movement. Although the Facebook page has one creator, administrators now include more than 6,000 people. 

"We will not forget you, Hamza. We will not forget all the martyrs. We will not forget the weakness of Arab regimes. We will not forget the weakness of global regimes. We are all Hamza al Khatib," reads one of the posts on the Facebook page. 

TIMELINE: Uprising in Syria

The profile picture for the page is a photo of the dead Khatib emblazoned with the words "tortured and martyred by Assad's gangs," a reference to the Syrian president. 

The words continue across the bottom of a photo of a smiling Khatib: "We will not be silent. We will not close an eye until Assad's gangs are tried. [The regime] is the killer of innocence." 

Almost 67,000 people have become fans of the Facebook page, where people from all over the world share articles, photos and videos of the youth.

"The Facebook page is meant to target international audiences rather than local Syrian ones. The Syrians know very well what is going on in Syria, but the U.N. Security Council is too afraid to begin an investigation," said the creator of the page, who was reached via email and insisted on anonymity because he feared reprisals.  

One picture shows a vigil in Sacramento for the young resident of the southern Syrian city of Dara. In the background, the words "The regime will be overthrown" can be seen painted on a wall. In a written comment beneath the picture, a young woman from New Zealand swears that she will share the story of Khatib's death with the rest of the world.


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-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut 

 Photo: Images of Hamza Khatib dead and alive are accompanied by an inscription vowing to keep alive his memory. Credit: Facebook.