The Shabiha: Inside Assad’s death squads
“They were like monsters,” said Dr Azzawi, who worked in Latakia. “They had huge muscles, big bellies, big beards. They were all very tall and frightening, and took steroids to pump up their bodies. … An enormous man, identified on the video as Areen al-Assad – a member of the president’s family clan – posed with his gun, grinned from the steering wheel of his car, and flexed his muscles. His huge bicep bulged with a tattoo of the president’s face. At the end of the video, the posturing Shabiha militants proclaim: “Bashar, do not be sad: you have men who drink blood.” “It is their motto,” explained Dr Azzawi, who said that many of the men were recruited from bodybuilding clubs and encouraged to take steroids.