Pierre Piccinin’s Conversion on the road to Damascus

Posted: 05/26/2012 by editormary in Europe, Internet and Communication, Middle East, Syria

Pierre Piccinin when he believed Assad had a lot of sunny days ahead of him

Frequently quoted by alternative news sources, a guest on RT where he predicted many sunny days for Assad and falsity in the “narrative” of the opposition and the media attention in the west, Pierre Piccinin had a dramatic change of heart when he finally was able to experience the full-immersion into Syrian reality, the arbitrary arrests on false accusations and physical abuse. He now states

“faced with the horror that I discovered and for each of these men I’ve seen horribly mutilated by barbarians in the service of a dictatorship which I never imagined the daring and the degree of ferocity, I agree with them, I call for military intervention in Syria, which can reverse the abomination of the Baathist regime, even if the country is sinking into civil war if this difficult passage is necessary, it must be attempted, so to put an end to forty-two years of organized terror in proportions which I had no idea.”

His own site was a treasure trove for the anti-imperialist and particularly pro-Assad websites to use as a source. Take for instance this excerpt (a bit of fact checking to find out his nationality would have been a nice touch if we are talking about accuracy, but anyway)

In his latest interview with the known Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Pierre Piccinin said, that he was able to witness firsthand, how armed men attacked Syrian government authorities in the Syrian cities of Hama, Homs and Damascus. He also mentioned that he saw the weakness of the so-called opposition and that the amount of pro-government demonstrations has never been broadcasted by international media.

The French academic also mentioned in these statements to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, that the real image of the situation in Syria was not reflected accurately by Arab and international media and news agencies. He also stated that these media agencies use false information for their reports. This false information is in contrast to the real situation within this country of the Middle East. In line with other known people as e.g. Lizzie Phelan, Webster Tarpley and Thierry Meyssan,

Pierre Piccinin reports about his own experiences in Syria and these reports are really in a huge contrast to the coverage by international and Arab media. This is also in contrast to the false propaganda of some Western governments. Pierre Piccinin visited Syria twice in recent months and wasn`t too afraid to visit also the Syrian cities of Hama and Homs.

On his Facebook page, which has a large number of Assad supporters as “friends”, he issued his first post upon his return to Belgium. In rough translation, this is the content:

Well back to Brussels. A little battered, but alright. I thank all those who, on Face Book or by mail, have supported me in these complicated moments that I now find messages of friendship, after six hard days spent in four different Syrian prisons. I also thank my fellow prisoners who are still there.

What really happened …

Because I read a lot of nonsense about me, since I got home, late afternoon: This article from the newspaper Le Soir, in particular, is a stupidity of wickedness and filth, not only because that it is filled with mistakes and nonsense-the photo to begin with, was taken in Lebanon, along with anti-Assad Sunni militiamen, but also because it is well known for some unhealthy mudslinging, and I said that, contrary to other media who had traveled to greet me at the airport this afternoon, Le Soir published the dispatches of anything without contacting me for checking, I also wonder how many Le Soir journalists had the balls to go on the ground twice in Libya, Yemen, Syria three times, etc.., as I did, I in fact I know the answer: no

I come home exhausted and injured, and I have to read this shit.

The facts: While trying to map the rebellion in Syria (I had already visited the region of Zabadani, Homs, in Tal-Biset, where I had met the rebel military command, and to Rastan Hama), I was arrested May 17 by the Syrian intelligence services, before the rebel city of Tal-Calah, on the border with northern Lebanon, where I was also trying to get into Qouseir before going to Idlib.

After several hours of a dungeon, I was transferred to the center of the intelligence services of Homs, where I was “severely questioned” the Syrian secret services were convinced that I was spying on behalf of the French government and attending the logistics and coordination of the Free Syrian Army. I was then transferred to the center of the intelligence services of Palestine Branch in Damascus (which was the subject of a bomb attack a few days earlier). I was questioned again, but more politely this time.

When the Syrian authorities have understood that I was presenting no danger to them, I was thrown into a basement, to be expelled. With some accomplices, I was able to get a message out, the Belgian Foreign Ministry was notified and immediately made every effort to locate me and get me out of the country and I thank him for his extraordinary effectiveness .

I just got home, in Brussels. The six days of hell I experienced the night during which I was questioned, Homs, and, especially, during which I saw my fellow prisoners being tortured, so much more violently than I have been myself, were moments of intense physical and psychological suffering. Nevertheless, I thank God for bringing me into this place of pain, so now I can testify on behalf of all those I left behind me.

So far, about Syria, I have always defended the Westphalian principles of law and of national sovereignty and noninterference. But, faced with the horror that I discovered and for each of these men I’ve seen horribly mutilated by barbarians in the service of a dictatorship which I never imagined the daring and the degree of ferocity, I agree with them, I call for military intervention in Syria, which can reverse the abomination of the Baathist regime, even if the country is sinking into civil war if this difficult passage is necessary, it must be attempted, so to put an end to forty-two years of organized terror in proportions which I had no idea.

In any case, the system Assad son is not reformed and different from that of the father, contrary to how superficial analysis gave hope. Some will say that my reversal on this point the Syrian dossier shall certainly part of the trauma I experienced, but, beyond that, the fact of an objective reflection based on the reality on the ground that I have apprehended this time than before.

Fuck this bloody bastard regime! (English in original) [end]

You can imagine how his friends reacted. From once being the pinnacle of objectivity when he was stating:

I am saying that several dozens were killed in the armed conflict. But journalists are talking about reprisals by the regime. If the government attacks peaceful protesters, we can call it reprisals, but if the Syrian authorities are dealing with an army based in refugee camps in Lebanon and Turkey, financed from Qatar, and trained by the French army – it’s not repression. The regime is defending its territory from foreign aggression!

Much quoted in the alternative media, but not this blurb from the same interview:

Israel is also very concerned now. Should the Syrian regime collapse, the country could sink into chaos, and then Israel will have significant problems with it, whereas now, despite the prevailing anti-Israeli rhetoric in Damascus, Israel is in fact quite comfortable with the current regime. In reality, they are getting along pretty well.

An interesting figure, and now, a real head-scratcher for his followers. Was he lying then? Is he lying now? Some are accusing him of faking the story, including here where he was previously their darling for his opinions that were considered as expert, as they whitewashed most of what almost all Syrians know to be the truth of the crimes, repression and censure of thought:

He has been detained for two and a half days at the prison in Damascus, but not six, and never in the prison of Homs, nor at the seat of intelligence. It was therefore not able to attend to the horrific scenes he describes. He requested consular assistance, which he was immediately granted. Considered a pathological liar and not a spy, he was immediately expelled. Without comment on what Mr. Piccinin, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the excellent cooperation from the Syrian authorities to resolve this deplorable affaire.

And the Italian media after our tips (thanks to Wassy, Tahar, Suzi, Angelo, Eleonora who had worked to get this story out), has picked up the story, which for the first time is appearing in English in this translation:

Belgian historian mistaken for a spy recounts the inferno of the prison cells of the Syrian regime

He wanted to see for himself the situation in Syria, but was suspected of being an agent for the French Secret Services. Pierre Piccinin was imprisoned and beaten. His is the eyewitness account of the terror established by Bashar Assad.

BRUXELLES – He wanted to see with his own eyes what takes place in Syria and assess how the regime was operating. But a week in a Syrian prison cell was all it took for him to understand that what the Syrians say about Bashar Assad is not fruit of their imagination.

Pierre Piccinin is one of those intellectuals who wants to experience the reality first hand, and like Jonathan Little, he travelled into the hell of Syria, like the author of Benevole, a travel diary that is shocking in its description of the repression. Belgian, History professor at the European School of Bruxelles, Piccinin was able to obtain a visa thanks to which he entered the country from Lebanon last 15 May. In Damascus, he rented a car, which he used to go to Homs, stronghold of the rebels and therefore also prime objective of the military machine of the regime. From there he went to Talbisseh, under the control of the armed opposition. “They are well organised,” he told the newspaper La Libre Belgique “much more than you can imagine”.

The moral point of no return was reached by Piccinin when he reached Tall Kalakh on 17 May, at the Lebanese border: “I wanted to go to the city in a legal way, I asked for authorisation at the checkpoint, they let me go through. Two hours later, wandering through the city I was met by men from the secret services: I could only go around in their car, they told me. Once I boarded, they handcuffed me and brought me to a building.” Piccinin was identified by them as a member of the French secret services.

The Belgian intellectual had then seen hell: his personal effects taken from him, he was transferred to Homs: interrogated, he saw being passed before his eyes prisoners who were now cadavers. In the office where he was interrogated he noted “needles, blood, fingernails everywhere”.

The agents beat him. Then they transferred him to Damascus, during the day there was a terror attack that caused 55 deaths. In the cells of the security headquarters, at Qazzaz, “people wailed and screamed all night long”. The day after, in the prison of Bab al Musalla, thanks to the “wonderful” solidarity of the prisoners, he managed to get enough money to bribe a guard into letting him use a mobile phone. Thus Piccinin called a friend, who had alerted Belgian diplomatic authorities. On 22 May the historian was released from prison. Fascinated by the Arab world, his view on Syria today is this: “Nothing will change there if there is no intervention. A regime of terror is governing”.


  1. […] If the prisons in Syria have always been filled with persons whose “explanations” were extracted through torture, an awareness of torture may no longer be just from the mouth of Assad, but it could be very personal, as formerly pro-Regime westerners such as Pierre Piccinin are able to testify. […]

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