penis chopped off

“Hamza Ali al-Khateeb--the Emmett Till of Syria: Not Following Social Norms”

He was 13 years old and was tortured to death.  Hamza Ali al-Khateeb lived in Syria and was one of many protestors that have been protesting the injustice and inhumane action of his government. On April 29, 2011 he was arrested—yes, arrested for protesting and was missing for approximately one month. Later, his body was returned back to his family; however the body that was returned was not the body of the boy his family remembered.

According to several media accounts, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb’s body was ripped apart. The New York Times reported that:

“his skin is scrawled with cuts, gashes, deep burns and bullet wounds that would probably have injured but not killed. His jaw and kneecaps are shattered, according to an unidentified narrator, and his penis chopped off.” (

If this act had taken place in the United States the public outrage and the news networks would not have enough hours in the day to cover it. When I first read about this event, the story of Emmett Till came to mind. Emmett Till was a 14 year-old boy, who like Hamza Ali al- Khateeb, acted out of the social norm and ended up being tortured and killed. Emmett Till was a Chicago native who was visiting relatives in Mississippi. On August 24, 1955 Emmett Till was out with his friend and he allegedly “accosted” (some say whistled) at a white woman in the grocery store owned by her husband.

Roy Bryant, the husband of young woman, and his half brother, J. W. Milam, kidnapped Emmett Till and tortured him, eventually killing him. In the end Emmett’s killers were tried and were found not guilty after an hour of deliberation. A few months after the end of the acquittal, in Look magazine, both individuals gave the details on how they killed the 14 year-old Emmett Till.

Both Emmett Till and Hamza Ali al-Khateeb were innocent kids that fell victim to the harsh society in which they lived. No matter what happens, both of these names speak volumes of the cultures of the time. The Pre-Modern Civil Rights movement in the United States and the modern fight for Human Rights in Syria both represent movements that lost and will lose many, but in the end, hopefully their deaths will not be in vain. Let’s just hope that Hamza Ali al-Khateeb did not die in vain.

To read more about Hamza Ali al-Khateeb’s story please see:

To read more about Emmett Till’s story please see: