By Liz Sly
The Sydney Morning Herald, May 31, 2011
"His head was swollen, purple and disfigured. His body was a mess of welts, cigarette burns and wounds from bullets fired to injure, not kill. His kneecaps had been smashed, his neck broken, his jaw shattered and his penis cut off. What finally killed him was not clear, but it appeared painfully, shockingly clear that he had suffered terribly during the month he spent in Syrian custody. Hamza Ali al-Khateeb was only 13 years old. And since a video portraying the torture inflicted upon him was broadcast on the al-Jazeera television network on Friday, he has rapidly emerged as the new symbol of the protest movement in Syria. His childish features have put a face to the largely faceless and leaderless opposition to the regime of the President, Bashar al-Assad, a regime that has angered the country for nine weeks, reinvigorating a movement that had seemed in danger of drifting. It is too early to tell whether the boy's death will trigger the kind of critical mass that brought down the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia and that the Syrian protests have lacked. But it would not be the first time that the suffering of an individual had motivated ordinary people who might not otherwise have taken to the streets to rise against their governments.