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Activists use social media to highlight Douma killings

Online social media campaigns bring attention to the estimated 150 Syrian civilians killed this past week in the city of Douma
Injured Syrians are taken to hospitals after Syrian government air forces' air attack on Douma, Syria on 02 February, 2015 (AA)

Activists from Douma, the capital of Damascus’ countryside, kick-started a social media campaign on Tuesday in order to highlight the killings of civilians there by the Syrian government.

In one week, it is estimated that 150 people have been killed as the Syrian army relentlessly bombarded the city using an array of rockets, mortar fire, and barrel bombs. Hundreds more were injured according to activists, although there is not yet a definitive number.

Douma lies in Eastern Ghouta, one of the most heavily bombarded areas in Syria after it fell under rebel control in 2012. The area has been under a two year siege, and faces occasional air strikes by the Syrian army.

In an interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad broadcast by the BBC on Tuesday, the president scoffed at the question of whether his army uses barrel bombs, which are said to be rolled out of helicopters and filled with explosives.

“I know about the army, they use bullets, missiles, and bombs,” he replied. “I haven’t heard of the army using barrels, or maybe, cooking pots,” he smiled.

A Facebook event page was set up for the hashtag #Douma_Exterminated and its Arabic equivalent, which will extend until 5 March. The page describes the event as an “invitation to all activists to expose the Assad regime’s crimes against innocent civilians in Douma city and East Ghouta.”

The hashtag in Arabic was used by more than 100,000 users on Twitter.

Firas al-Abdullah, one of the campaign’s activists, told the Arabic Al Jazeera website that hashtag was directed at bringing attention to people across the world about what civilians in Douma experience on a near daily basis.

“We hope our message reached all those who have the means to save Ghouta by way of pressuring their governments and the international community to halt the bloodshed,” he said. “We want the world to listen and to see what is happening to us in terms of being killed amidst the silence of everyone.”

Users shared graphic photographs of bloodied children or bodies lying in the streets. Activists within Douma were quick to upload videos on Facebook pages, capturing chaotic streets filled with debris and the sounds of military planes flying overhead air strikes were released.

One of the popular markets was targeted, killing scores of people. Two medical centres were also destroyed.

Yasser al-Doumani, a journalist for the Syrian Commission for Media in Damascus, told various media outlets that 40 people were killed on Monday.

“We counted 40 people killed between [Monday and Tuesday]” he told Syria al-Ghad’s channel. “Yesterday [on Monday] there were 23 people killed, but on Tuesday morning we found the bodies of 19 women and children under the rubble, who suffocated to death under the debris of their own homes,” he said.

On Wednesday, dozens of children in Douma took part in a silent demonstration and held up posters denouncing the “brutal massacres” carried out by Assad’s forces. Some were photographed in front of the rubble of their homes, which were completely destroyed.

According to the Douma Coordinating Committee’s Facebook page, a third of those killed during the past week were children. 500 houses were also either partially or completely destroyed.

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