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13-Year-Old Syrian Boy Allegedly Tortured for Anti-Gov't Protest

“It has provoked people, and the protests are increasing.”

If the revolt in Tunisia was sparked by a helpless fruit-cart owner suffering injustice, you can bet that the story of 13-year-old Hamza Ali al-Khateeb could do the same in Syria. That's because his story is allegedly one of helpless torture. And there is video that shows the aftermath.

[Warning: This story contains graphic content.]

The Washington Post reports:

The boy’s head was swollen, purple and disfigured. His body was a mess of welts, cigarette burns and wounds from bullets fired to injure, not kill. His kneecaps had been smashed, his neck broken, his jaw shattered and his penis cut off.

What finally killed him was not clear, but it appeared painfully, shockingly clear that he had suffered terribly during the month he spent in Syrian custody.

Hamza Ali al-Khateeb was 13 years old.

And since a video portraying the torture inflicted upon him was broadcast on the al-Jazeera television network Friday, he has rapidly emerged as the new symbol of the protest movement in Syria. His childish features have put a face to the largely faceless and leaderless opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime that has roiled the country for nine weeks, reinvigorating a movement that had seemed in danger of drifting.

It is too early to tell whether the boy’s death will trigger the kind of critical mass that brought down the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year and that the Syrian protests have lacked. But it would not be the first time that the suffering of an individual had motivated ordinary people who might not otherwise have taken to the streets to rise against their governments.

“This boy is already a symbol,” Wissam Tarif, of the human rights monitoring group Insan, told the Post. “It has provoked people, and the protests are increasing.”

CNN's John King has some images from the graphic video:

You can see a 23-second version of the video here, as it is too graphic to post.

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