The mother of the 14-year-old Syrian boy shot dead by rebel fighters earlier this month says her son was killed for making a little joke that referred to the prophet Muhammad.
As TheBlaze – citing the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - reported earlier this month, Mohammed Qataa was believed to have been killed after being overheard saying during an argument that "Even if the Prophet Muhammad comes down (from heaven), I will not become a believer” – words that were deemed by his killers to be blasphemous.
His mother Nadia Umm Fuad has now given an interview to The Telegraph, in which she shares details of the execution she witnessed, and reveals that her son was targeted by radical Islamist rebels over an innocent joke.
The Telegraph reports that Qataa was working in his family coffee stall in Aleppo when he made a fatal mistake:
Pressured by a customer to hand over a coffee on promise of payment, he shouted good-humouredly: "I wouldn't give the Prophet Mohammed credit if he came here today." He was overheard by two men on the opposite corner. Marching over, they whisked him away in a car, ignoring his protestations of his love for the Prophet and the objections of a militiaman from the Free Syrian Army nearby. Half an hour later, they returned. According to Mohammed's younger brother and the neighbours, he was staggering and fell to his knees, and had clearly been beaten. A bag had been placed over his head.
"I heard them say, 'People of Aleppo and people of Shaar! Anyone who curses God is given three days to repent. Anyone who curses the Prophet is killed immediately'," Nadia Umm Fuad said.
Umm Fuad recounts that she was at home when her neighbors called for her to come down.
"I said to his father, they are going to shoot your son! Come! Come! Come! I was on the stairs when I heard the first shot. I was at the door when I heard the second shot,” Qataa’s mother says.
Her pleas to spare her son went unheeded: "I saw the third shot. I was shouting, 'That's haram, forbidden! Stop! Stop! You are killing a child.' But they just gave me a dirty look and got into their car. As they went, they drove over my son's arm, as he lay there dying,” she says.
The Obama administration earlier this month decided to provide military support to rebels fighting President Bashar Assad, after it said Syria had crossed a "red line" by using chemical weapons. But stories like the jihadi rebels killing 14-year-old Qataa over an apparent joke raises concern that extremist groups out of line with American values might end up getting their hands on American weapons.
As The Telegraph writes, “He has become a symbol of the fears many Syrians have for the future of a country where jihadists are vying with the regime for control.”
The paper also explains that though Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra [the Al-Nusra Front] has been operating in Syria, it “is no longer the most militant group operating in Aleppo, strange though that sounds.”
And in fact, the Al-Nusra Front condemned Qataa’s killing and denied responsibility.