Aljazeera - Hamza al-Khateeb used to love it when the rains came to his small corner of southern Syria, filling up the farmers' irrigation channels enough so that he and the other children could jump in and swim. But the drought of the last few years had left the 13-year-old without the fun of his favourite pool.
Instead, he'd taken to raising homing pigeons, standing on the roof of his family's simple breeze-block home, craning his neck back to see the birds circling above the wide horizon of fields, where wheat and tomatoes were grown from the tough, scrubby soils.
Though not from a wealthy family himself, Hamza was always aware of others less fortunate than himself, said a cousin who spoke to Al Jazeera. "He would often ask his parents for money to give to the poor. I remember once he wanted to give someone 100 Syrian Pounds ($2), and his family said it was too much. But Hamza said, 'I have a bed and food while that guy has nothing.' And so he persuaded his parents to give the poor man the 100."
In the hands of President Bashar al-Assad's security forces, however, Hamza found no such compassion, his humanity degraded to nothing more than a lump of flesh to beat, burn, torture and defile, until the screaming stopped at last. Arrested during a protest in Saida, 10km east of Daraa, on April 29, Hamza's body was returned to his family on Tuesday 24th May, horribly mutilated.
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