15 APRIL 2013


Abou Zakkour was a colourful landmark in Aleppo, Syria. For at least 25 years, he wore his totally yellow suit, yellow necktie, yellow hat, sauntering around the historic large clock at Bab El Faraj square. What he did for a living? No one actually knew. Lots of speculation -- at least about why he was obsessed with yellow. For decades, he was -- as the British would say -- "a spot of fun" in Syria's historic city of culture, history and tourism. Some thought he was a pimp. Others felt he was mentally disturbed. Conspiracy theorists swore that he was an informer. Several Arab television stations showed him moving around the central square, looking very serious, though cheerfully smiling when someone tipped him some cash handout.

A recent YouTube showed the man being insulted, investigated and humiliated. It showed the photographer/tormentor pointing a gun at the Yellow Man, asking him if he loved the Syrian Free Army. Very much, he noted (?). After further questioning, he confirmed his great pleasure at being held captive by that Army. Did he love Bashar Assad? No, not at all. Why? "Because he destroyed me; put me in jail hundred times," he dutifully explained. That did not satisfy his interrogators, who kept photographing how they placed their feet on his neck, slapping him, and picking hair off his yellow mustache.

"Bark," came the order. "Bark. Smile." Abou Zakkour does as instructed, crying: "You are my masters. The Free Syrian Army is on my head."

Why would he wear Yellow? The gunman/photographer asked. The degraded, disheveled fearful victim explained: "I am a poor (Darwish) man. Because I wear yellow, people took photos with me and tipped me one hundred pounds."

Was he Sunni or Alawi? Sunni, he explained, while being slapped again. He was instructed to shout: "Down with Bashar Assad." He did.

After the video went viral in the region, it was withdrawn, only to be reproduced by others. On Facebook, the Syrian Free Army denied the incident; it did not reflect the behavior of the Free Army; it was fabricated against it. Later, its official spokesman indicated that the perpetrators will be arrested; it was not acceptable to treat Syrian civilians in such a humiliating way, "whether he was an informer or not." Whether it's the Yellow Man or not, a ruthless regime and similarly ruthless opposition are relentlessly pushing Syria into a sea of red blood.