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ICC Note: Rebels have recently regained control of Harasta, located near Eastern Ghouta. They are claiming that they have found evidence that the regime has looted Christian graves in search for precious items. The desecrated graves were found with coffins open, and even some bodies mangled due to soldiers pulling gold teeth. Christians had fled the town with the start of the civil war, leaving behind only the deceased as a memorial to their historical presence in the area.  

03/02/2018 Syria (The New Arab) –   The New Arab has gained exclusive photos from opposition-held Harasta that show evidence of Syrian regime forces, who previously held control of the area, raiding Christian graveyards and looting family tombs of valuables including gold, jewellery – and even gold teeth.

Harasta, which lies just northeast of downtown Damascus in the opposition-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, was only recently liberated by Syrian opposition forces during the Battle of Harasta, codenamed “They were wronged” by rebels.

The town had been under control of the Assad regime for around five years, during which time the graves were dug up in search of precious items, according to church and municipal officials.

After liberating the al-Ajami neighbourhood in Harasta, rebels discovered the regime troops who had previously held the area had plundered the graves, looting them of all valuable possessions buried alongside the dead in their tombs.

Coffins were found opened and devoid of any of the valuable items – including gold and jewellery – that are customarily buried alongside Syrian Christian families.

It has also been alleged that gold teeth had been pulled from the mouths of decomposed corpses, many of which lay exposed in opened coffins.

Christians previously numbered around 35,000 in Harasta – approximately 15 percent of its population – but most left as fighting between regime and rebel forces escalated in the wake of the 2011 uprising.

Church officials confirmed that the graves had been stripped of all valuable possessions.

Syrian rebel factions took control of Harasta, including the Military Vehicles Administration base, in January. The town’s local council subsequently discovered the damage caused by the regime’s tomb raids.

The head of the town’s council, Husam al-Beiruni, told The New Arab how regime forces dug up more than 300 Christian graves and inflicted serious damage to the tombs and the corpses lying inside, as they searched for precious stones and jewellery.

Al-Beiruni told The New Arab that Christians had been living in Harasta for more than 100 years before the violence that forced them to leave.

“We are trying our best to restore these graves, as we would with any other holy site in Harasta,” he told The New Arab.

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