The Islamic State strips, marches regime POWs captured at Palmyra

Joseph Adams

AMMAN: The Islamic State (IS) stripped, marched and photographed at least 20 regime prisoners reportedly captured on May 18 40km east of Palmyra, according to two IS prisoner photographs released on Saturday and Sunday. The march mimics IS prisoner-humiliation tactics preceding the massacre of approximately 160 Syrian army soldiers at Tabqa airbase on August 27, 2014.

Open Syria matches the likeness of at least three regime prisoners from Palmyra, photographed below, with those visible in a second photograph of captured regime soldiers marching through a field in nothing but their underwear.

Caption translation: Urgent: Some of the Nusairi prisoners in the battle of Wilayat Homs. Source: Islamic State. Available on Twitter. May 2015.

Open Syria matches the likeness of three regime prisoners in an initial IS photograph of regime prisoners captured at the T3 pumping station, approximately 40km east of Palmyra, with a second photograph of seven men marching across the desert, stripped to their underwear. Source: The Islamic State. Author. May 2015.

This dehumanizing march is reminiscent of the Tabqa airbase massacre, when IS stripped approximately 160 Syrian army soldiers to their undergarments, marched the men barefoot under an unforgiving August sun for 11km, before executing them by machine gun fire 5km east of A-Raqqa city at Thoul Nayel, an archeological site.

IS reportedly captured the marching men at the T3 oil and gas pumping station, approximately 40km east of Palmyra. T3 fell to IS on May 18; the marching men may have been held captive until May 23, the day photographs first emerged of the stripped prisoner march.

Photo comment translation: “Prisoners of the Nusairi regime at the T3 gas station in Palmyra.” Source: Shahid Kabur. Available on Facebook. May 2015.

At Palmyra, the Islamic State is deploying the same tactics to dehumanize regime captives–stripping, marching and photographing–as it did at Tabqa airbase, perhaps in prelude to mass execution. 

Joseph Adams

Joseph was a 2013-2014 Boren Fellow in Arabic based in Amman, Jordan and is the founder of Open Syria. He holds BA and MS degrees in political science from UCLA and MIT, and is an MA degree candidate in Arabic at Middlebury College.