"Sexual exploitation and assaults": Child abuse scandals haunt Putin’s Assad regime favourite, Suhail Al-Hassan

Suhail Hassan with youths

A large number of photos have circulated in recent years showing Major General Suhail al-Hassan, a senior officer in Assad’s forces known as ‘the Tiger’ (al Nimr), pictured in often suggestive poses with youthful and under-age male conscripts, raising doubt and mistrust over the reasons and circumstances of their capture, and representing decisive evidence of the recruitment of children into the ranks of Assad’s militias.

Al-Hassan has won favour with Vladimir Putin for his military prowess, with Putin personally praising him for his military “effectiveness” and “achievements” on the ground during fighting in 2017. It was reported last year that fighters from al-Hassan’s division are among hundreds of Russian-trained Syrian fighters who reportedly signed up to fight alongside Russian forces in Ukraine.

In the latest violations by al-Hassan, related to his controversial appearance with minors in suggestive positions, embracing and kissing or being kissed by them, information has circulated about official reports submitted to security authorities affiliated with the Assad regime, indicating al-Hassan’s involvement in committing crimes of sexual exploitation and rape of child soldiers conscripted into the Russian-backed 25th Division/’Special Tasks’ militia which he leads.

The Shaam News Network (SNN) reported on Wednesday that, according to leaked security reports classified as ‘internal notifications’ and addressed to the regime’s Military Intelligence Division (Military Security), the Air Force Intelligence Directorate (AFID), and Political Security Directorate, the infamous leader of the ‘Tiger’ militia raped minors and had sex with junior personnel on numerous occasions.

According to these charges, Al-Hassan, in addition to the renewed scandals, may face punishment with imprisonment of between three months and three years in accordance with Article 520 of the Syrian Criminal Code. The Syrian Penal Code stipulates the criminalization of homosexuality, stating that “any unnatural sexual intercourse is punishable by imprisonment of up to three years.” However, according to leaks from regime officials, Assad's intelligence service is still blackmailing Al-Hassan about these violations without prosecuting or arresting him.

Despite the numerous documents that clearly indicate the documentation of several incidents of rape of minors, and cases of rape, many of them with children, sources say that Al-Hassan enjoys special support and protection, which may enable him to keep these security reports and information locked up in the regime’s security archives.

Informed sources noted that the recently circulated security leak is likely to have been deliberately publicized to pressure and blackmail Suhail al-Hassan, and it may also be a weapon for the security services to get rid of him or attempt to reduce his followers’ loyal to him at the very least. The regime’s intelligence follows many methods and tools in bringing down potential opponents and competitors, including psychological and physical elimination.

Suhail’s criminal brigade has perpetrated an extensive range of crimes, with his name becoming known to the public since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in 2011, when he was an unknown lieutenant-colonel in the AFID and only a few of his superiors had heard of him. A number of the children he recruited were killed after being involved in battles over subsequent years, with the most prominent of these being Abdo Hamdan and Haider Al-Khatib in the eastern countryside of Aleppo.

Suhail Hassan, born in 1970, is originally from the village of Beit Ghana in the Jabla area in the countryside of Latakia. He graduated from the Air Force College in 1991 and rose through the military ranks until reaching the rank of brigadier general in the AFID and then the rank of major general.

Photo: S.N.N.

Report based on S.N.N. article, "Sexual exploitation and assaults"... Scandals haunt Suhail Al-Hassan after he recruited children into his militias (Arabic):