Nizar Nayyouf


According to a story Monday in the Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf (link in Dutch), a Syrian journalist identified as "Nizar Najoef" has identified three locations in Syria where Iraqi WMD is hidden.

"Nizar Najoef" is more commonly spelled Nizar Nayyouf, and he is a remarkable man. He was a journalist and an activist for liberal reform under Hafez Assad, and as a result spent nine years in prison. In his first prison, Nayyouf tried to organize a prisoners' rebellion; he was soon transferred to another prison where he promptly began a hunger strike. Finally, he was sent to a military prison where he was subjected to appalling torture, and is apparently partially paralyzed as a result. Nevertheless, Nayyouf somehow managed to smuggle out information about the torture of his fellow prisoners. Numerous human-rights groups and reporters' organizations tried to intervene in his case; he was finally released in 2001 following a plea from the Vatican. Nayyouf now lives in Europe.

Where does Nayyouf say the WMD is (or was) hidden? In tunnels beneath the town of al-Baida; near the village of Tal Snan; and in "Sjinsjar" (Dutch spelling), a city east of the highway between Hama and Damascus. Nayyouf says he received the information through connections in Syrian intelligence. He believes the U.S. knows all of this, but is biding its time for political reasons. It will act on the information, he told the newspaper, "when the U.S. thinks it's time to see Assad go."

Is there anything to this? Who knows. What's impressive is that, despite paralysis, blindness, and illness due to torture, Nayyouf is still battling the Syrian Baathists. Not long ago he participated in a press conference accusing the regime of still imprisoning a Lebanese man who disappeared 12 years earlier. He's probably right about that. Nayyouf even beat a libel suit brought against him by Syria's former vice president (another Assad), after Nayyouf revealed that he'd ordered the murder of political prisoners. He's irrepressible.