Archive for the ‘Counter-terrorism’ Category

muslim-girl-crying-8(Traduzione di Claudia Avolio)

Una ragazza palestinese diciottenne di nome Huda ha spiegato nel dettaglio le orribili esperienze vissute nelle carceri del regime siriano, che vanno dalle percosse alla tortura con scariche elettriche agli stupri multipli.

Huda, originaria del campo di rifugiati palestinesi di Yarmouk, a Damasco, che non ha voluto diffondere il suo vero nome per ovvie ragioni (la paura di ulteriori ripercussioni da parte del regime) è stata arrestata da membri del Fronte Popolare per la Liberazione della Palestina – Comando Generale (FPLP-CG), gruppo pro-regime, all’entrata del campo verso l’inizio del 2013 quando aveva 16 anni con accuse di “terrorismo”.

Huda ha detto che lei ed altre tre donne palestinesi del campo di Yarmouk sono state torturate dal personale del FPLP-CG prima di essere consegnate al tristemente noto braccio “Palestina 235” del regime di Assad a Damasco, in cui è stata incarcerata per i quattro mesi successivi.

Ha ricordato di aver subìto tutte le forme di tortura da parte degli agenti di sicurezza del regime ogni volta in cui la portavano fuori dalla cella che misurava appena 3 metri per 4 ed in cui è stata tenuta insieme ad altre diciotto donne, la maggior parte palestinesi come lei. I torturatori del regime hanno iniziato con le scosse elettriche, ha detto Huda, seguite da percosse con fruste e corde. In seguito è stata trasferita al “Braccio 215” sempre a Damasco, in cui nelle sue parole la tortura è “esponenzialmente” peggiore di quella che aveva sofferto al braccio “Palestina”.

Al “Braccio 215”, ha ricordato ancora la ragazza, “gli investigatori interrogavano giovani donne e uomini del campo di rifugiati di Yarmouk, chiedendo nomi [di chiunque si opponesse al regime]. Quando negavamo di conoscerli, ci picchiavano, torturavano, lasciavano morire di fame e ci davano scosse elettriche. Sono stata stuprata nel corso della mia permanenza lì per oltre 15 giorni. A volte sono stata stuprata ripetutamente più di dodici volte al giorno da diversi funzionari e guardie della prigione”.

Huda ha scoperto di essere rimasta incinta nel corso di uno degli stupri quando ha abortito per via delle percosse quotidiane che le venivano inferte come sempre, di cui ha detto che il risultato è stato “il mio essere ferita e sanguinante al punto di perdere conoscenza. Mi hanno gettata in una cella piena dei corpi di detenuti uccisi sotto tortura, in cui sono stata obbligata a restare, circondata da quei corpi e da quel sangue per circa tre settimane. È stato allora che ho scoperto di essere incinta, quando ho abortito per via delle percosse”.

Lo stupro di detenute donne è pratica comune, ha spiegato Huda, aggiungendo: “Una di loro ha tentato di suicidarsi sbattendo la testa sui muri della cella. Ogni volta perdeva conoscenza per alcune ore”.

La ragazza ha ricordato un caso di cui è stata testimone quando una ragazza palestinese di 20 anni nella stessa cella ha dato alla luce un bambino concepito quando è stata stuprata ripetutamente dalle guardie del regime. “Dopo che è nato, non riusciva a guardare il bambino o a tenerlo vicino a sé nella cella, e non sopportava il suono del suo pianto. Voleva solo sbarazzarsene, ucciderlo mentre non guardavamo, perché la sua esistenza era un promemoria del fatto che fosse stata stuprata dai funzionari”. Ha continuato dicendo: “Alcuni giorni dopo una guardia è entrata e ha portato via il bambino – sapevano che la sua presenza nella cella era una prova della tortura che l’aveva creato”.

Prison-HandsHuda ha parlato di come sia quasi morta in uno dei centri di detenzione del regime per via degli effetti della tortura, della fame e dello stupro, che l’hanno ridotta sanguinante in modo grave; le guardie del regime l’hanno lasciata nella sua cella senza alcun riguardo sanitario né medicine.

Tra le forme di tortura psicologica che ha ricordato, Huda ha detto che mentre era tenuta nella cella coi corpi senza vita di altri prigionieri è stata obbligata a mangiare del cibo gettato sul pavimento davanti a lei come a un animale, cibo che si era mescolato al sangue rappreso lasciato dalle ferite dei prigionieri morti. I detenuti ricevevano un pasto al giorno composto di bulgur (grano spezzato), a volte accompagnato da una fetta di pane. Ha detto ancora: “Potevo sentire dei lamenti dalle celle vicine mentre camminavano sui corpi delle persone per portare dei cadaveri fuori nel passaggio che collega le celle”.

Ha descritto guardie ubriache far subire ai detenuti percosse in modo indiscriminato senza alcuna ragione o giustificazione, insieme a costanti abusi verbali in cui insultavano i prigionieri e la loro religione, aggiungendo che un’altra giovane donna è morta per le ferite riportate alla testa nel corso di queste percosse date a casaccio.

Funzionari e guardie si vendicavano spesso sui prigionieri delle perdite subìte dall’esercito del regime in scontri con le forze ribelli all’esterno, nonostante i prigionieri non avessero nulla a che farci, ha detto ancora Huda, ricordando poi una donna che è stata punita e messa in una cella di isolamento per oltre tre mesi dopo che ha insultato Assad nel corso delle torture.

Yarmouk, agosto 2015, manifestazioni contro il perdurante assedio del campo profughi palestinese vicino a Damasco.

Yarmouk, agosto 2015, manifestazioni contro il perdurante assedio del campo profughi palestinese vicino a Damasco.

Dopo essere stata finalmente rilasciata dalla prigione, Huda ha scoperto che suo padre era morte in un bombardamento da parte del regime del campo di Yarmouk molti mesi prima, mentre lei era in carcere, e che quattro dei suoi fratelli erano stati imprigionati. Quando ha cercato di scoprire dettagli su dove fossero finiti, recandosi all’ufficio dell’OLP a Damasco e all’ambasciata palestinese, è stata informata da un membro dello staff che “se non fossero stati terroristi non li avrebbero arrestati per così tanto tempo” e che “meritavano di venire arrestati visto che erano terroristi”. Huda ha detto di essere riuscita a identificare tre dei suoi fratelli dalle foto trapelate di detenuti che sono morti nelle prigioni del regime sotto tortura, mentre il destino del suo fratello più giovane resta sconosciuto.

Il Gruppo Palestinese di Lavoro in Siria ha chiesto che il regime siriano rilasci tutti i prigionieri palestinesi e ne riveli la sorte, sottolineando che quanto sta avvenendo nelle prigioni del regime è un crimine contro l’umanità sotto ogni standard. Il gruppo ha ufficialmente catalogato 933 prigionieri palestinesi detenuti dal regime, confermando l’uccisione sotto tortura di 408 di loro, di cui 77 appurate dalla pubblicazione di immagini trapelate di alcuni dei prigionieri uccisi sotto tortura nelle prigioni del regime.

Articolo tratto dal Gruppo Palestinese di Lavoro in Siria

Via: Shahba Press

English version https://wewritewhatwelike.com/2015/08/07/arrest-detention-torture-starvation-rape-when-you-are-a-palestinian-girl-in-syria/

muslim-girl-crying-8(translated by Ruth Riegler) An eighteen-year-old Palestinian girl named ‘Huda’ has detailed her horrific experiences in Syrian regime prisons, ranging from beatings and torture with electric shocks to multiple rapes.

Huda, from Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, who wished to withhold her real name for understandable reasons (fearing further persecution by the regime) was arrested by members of the pro-regime ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command’ (PFLP-GC) at the camp entrance in early 2013 when she was 16 years old on charges of “terrorism”.

She said that she and three other Palestinian women from Yarmouk camp were tortured by the PFLP-GC personnel prior to being delivered to the Assad regime’s infamous ‘Palestine – 235’ branch in Damascus, where she was imprisoned for the next four months.

She recalled being subjected to all forms of torture by the regime’s security agents whenever they took her out of the cell there measuring roughly 3 x 4 meters, where she was kept with eighteen other women, mostly also Palestinians. The regime’s torturers began with torture by electrocution, she said, followed by beatings with whips and rods. After this she was transferred to ‘Branch 215’ also in Damascus, where she said the torture is “exponentially” worse than that she’d suffered at the Palestine Branch.

At Branch 2015, she recalled, “the investigators were interrogating young girls and young men from Yarmouk refugee camp, demanding names [of anyone opposing the regime]. When we denied knowing them, we’d be beaten, tortured, starved, electrocuted. I was raped during my stay there for more than 15 days. Sometimes I was raped repeatedly more than a dozen times a day by different officers and prison warders.”

Huda found out that she had been impregnated during one of the rapes when she miscarried a baby as a result of one of the daily beatings administered as standard, which she said resulted in “my being injured and bleeding heavily, losing consciousness. They threw me into a cell filled with the bodies of detainees killed under torture, where I was forced to stay, surrounded by those bodies and blood for approximately three weeks. Then I found out I was pregnant when I miscarried as a result of the beatings.”

Rape of the female detainees is commonplace, she explained, adding, “One of them tried to commit suicide by battering her head off the walls of the cell. Each time she’d lose consciousness for a few hours.”

Huda recalled one case she witnessed when a 20-year-old Palestinian girl in the same cell gave birth to a baby boy conceived when she was repeatedly raped by the regime guards. “After the birth, she couldn’t bear to look at the baby or keep it next to her in the cell and wasn’t able to endure the sound of his crying. She just wanted to get rid of him, to kill him when we weren’t looking because his existence was a reminder to her of being raped by the officers.” Huda added, “A few days later a guard entered and took the baby away – they knew that his presence in the cell was proof of the torture that created him.”

Prison-HandsHuda recalled how she nearly died in one of the regime’s detention centres due to the effects of torture, starvation and rape, which left her bleeding severely; the regime guards left her in the cell without any medical attention and no drugs, she added.

Among the forms of psychological torture she recollected, Huda said that while she was kept in the cell with the dead bodies of other prisoners she was forced to eat food thrown on the floor in front of her like an animal, which had mixed with the congealed blood that was left there from the wounds of the dead prisoners. Detainees received one meal a day of bulgur wheat, she said, which was sometimes augmented by a round of bread. She added, “I could hear groaning from neighbouring cells as they stepped on people’s bodies to bring dead bodies out into the connecting passage between the cells.”
She described drunken guards subjecting detainees to random indiscriminate beatings for no reason and without justification, in addition to constant verbal abuse cursing the prisoners and their religion, adding that another young woman had died from the head wounds inflicted during one of these random beatings.

Officers and guards would often take revenge on the prisoners for regime military losses in clashes with rebel forces outside the prison, despite the prisoners having nothing to do with it, she added, further recalling that one woman was punished by being subjected to solitary confinement for over three months after she cursed Assad during torture.

Yarmouk, August 2015, protests against the ongoing seige in the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk, outside Damascus.

Yarmouk, August 2015, protests against the ongoing seige in the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk, outside Damascus.

After finally being released from prison, Huda learnt that her father had died in regime bombing of Yarmouk several months previously while she was incarcerated, and that four of her brothers had been imprisoned. When she tried to find out details of their whereabouts from the PLO office in Damascus and the Palestinian embassy there, she was informed by a staff member that “If they weren’t terrorists they wouldn’t have been arrested for so long” and that they “deserved to be arrested since they were terrorists.” Huda said that she had been able to identify three of her brothers from leaked photographs of detainees who died in regime prisons under torture, while the fate of her youngest brother remains unknown.

The Palestinian Working Group in Syria has demanded that the Syrian regime release all Palestinian prisoners and reveal their fate, stressing that what is taking place in the regime’s prisons is a crime against humanity by every standard. The group has officially catalogued 933 Palestinian prisoners detained by the regime, with 408 of this number confirmed to have been killed under torture; 77 of these deaths were confirmed by the publication of leaked images of some of the prisoners killed under torture in the regime’s prisons.

From Palestinian Working Group in Syria
Via: Shahba Press

http://www.shahbapress.com/news/2002/%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B7%D9%8A%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%8A-%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B5%D9%8A%D9%84-%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B9%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%B6%D8%AA-%D9%84%D9%87%D8%A7-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AE%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%AC%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9.html

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO

What precisely is the USA doing regarding Syria? Has it changed its policy over the course of the years since the start of the protests in Syria in 2011? Are the events at the confines of Europe enough to bring a return of multilateralism in response to global crises or even a change in command? To answer the first two questions, it’s a good idea to understand what the USA has had as its goal regarding Syria. It would be too elementary to state simply that they are “looking after their own interests” and defining those interests only in two traditional compartments: control of energy and resources and management of Israel. The first compartment demands no explanation, the second is heavily tied in with maintaining the regional “instability” (not stability, as one might think) because as long as there is an illegal occupation that the USA traditionally supports economically and diplomatically, creating tensions internationally and allowing the USA and its allies to determine a military presence and accept that there is nuclear proliferation in the area, despite having themselves signed the NPT, they can continue to influence events and policies, thus making the control of energy and resources more successful.

everyone in power gets what they want.

everyone in power gets what they want.

However, it is not really either of those two issues that may be the driving interest of the USA regarding Syria. The USA, like any other country, naturally has to have an interest in order for them to do any kind of action, and refraining from an action while stating that actions could be taken is also an action. The USA has been very vocal regarding Syria and they have done specific actions since the start of the uprising, most of them, however, detrimental to Syrian people. The interest they have is to re-establish authority and influence with smaller countries within the new global situation where the relationship between the West and the East has changed. Oddly enough, this is the same problem that Russia has, left as it is without the clearly established balance of power and satellite states, and it seems that the arena for this to play out is Syria.

For a very long time some have attempted to deny that the Syrian people had ever risen up themselves. “Conspiracy buffs” as well as reactionary thinkers of every colour of the political spectrum, believed that it was not possible that civilians could continue to protest against their government even after the government reacted brutally to repress the protests, promising only more blood and destruction. Nor could these “thought leaders” or “vanguards of anti-imperialism” believe that there could be defections from the Syrian Army, where they formed a defensive army that later had the stated goal of overthrowing the government if the government would not step down. The government, naturally, had no intentions whatsoever to step down, and used the smokescreen of “sovereignty” in order to pursue its policy of using brutality to repress the protests and stay in power.

There are conditions both in international law and in what is established by customary international law where sovereignty is considered to be a lesser “right” than the right of protection of human life. In 1999, even without a UN mandate, customary international law permitted international intervention in Kosovo and it went under the journalistic name of “humanitarian war”, surprisingly, having as some of its supporters persons considered within the vanguard of humanitarianism such as Vaclav Havel who stated:

“I believe that during intervention of NATO in Kosovo there is an element nobody can question: the air attacks, the bombs, are not caused by a material interest. Their character is exclusively humanitarian: What is at stake here are the principles, human rights which are accorded priority that surpasses even state sovereignty. This makes attacking the Yugoslav Federation legitimate, even without the United Nations mandate.”

Right on the heels of the moral and practical questions regarding the appropriateness and feasibility of “humanitarian intervention”, scorned by some humanitarians and endorsed by others, comes the other pressing issue concerning intervention, no less bitterly disputed by humanitarians, that of “regime change”. The Syrian people, when they took to the streets to protest, as is now understood by even the staunchest defender of Assad, were not demanding a regime change. They were making explicit demands for reforms and against corruption and what was widely regarded as a governmental policy where privileges, opportunities and development were handed out or withheld along sectarian lines. Those closest to the regime had less trouble advancing and the average citizen was excluded from progress or actually discriminated against on a daily basis according to his or her religious or ethnic belonging. It didn’t take long for the demand for reforms to turn into a demand for Assad to give up his power, because no longer was it considered as legitimate. Not only for the not-insignificant matter that he basically inherited the power, for the leadership of Syria, following the coup of Bashar al-Assad’s father, was simply autocratic rule of a family dynasty with the Ba’ath party providing a way for non-family members to obtain some power.

SAVING ASSADThe uprising had all the aspects of a revolution, including mass defections of the regular army into a people’s army with the goal of overthrowing the government in power. The problem, however, is: once the government goes, something else is going to have to come after it, and neither the US administration nor the apologists in the west who go under the code name of “anti-imperialists” were willing to see some kind of self-determination of the people, since they had not been either groomed for democracy nor were the ideologically prepared to set up a state that would cater to the agendas of the anti-imperialists.

Can a people who are demanding the end of an illegitimate government (and the government did not gain in legitimacy simply by staging sham elections) have conditions put on them externally as well as the internal violence used by them so that they cease and desist? Is any assistance given so that they obtain their goal deemed as intervention? We’ve seen how the anti-imperialists aren’t against foreign intervention, since they strongly support that of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in favour of the upholding of the regime, but they simply do not want US intervention, because they have “interests and an agenda”. Seeming to wish to appease this faction, though not wanting to close off future options, The US Administration used a non-interventionist approach, hoping that Assad would simply leave, or that there could be a political solution, because he had to know, he was a very, very bad man and the USA was going to verbally condemn him for as long as it took! The records are full of scores of condemnations from the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of State, the Spokesman for the White House and the UN representative. Obama has gone on record with a powerful statement of condemnation in February 2012, following the Homs Massacre:

“I strongly condemn the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs, and I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones.  Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now.  He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately. Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity. Yesterday, the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still thought there was a diplomatic solution to get Assad to step down, or simply “goes”, as she had said at the heels of the Hama Massacre in June 2012.

 “We’re disgusted by what we see happening. The regime-sponsored violence that we witnessed again in Hama yesterday is simply unconscionable,” she said. “Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity, and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable or democratic until Assad goes.”

Then a year and a half later, when the more crude massacres were being replaced by a seemingly endless, and still ongoing, campaign of barrel bombing on civilian areas outside of regime control, the White House continued to condemn the regime. Press secretary Jay Carney said:

“The United States condemns the ongoing air assault by Syrian government forces on civilians, including the indiscriminate use of SCUD missiles and barrel bombs in and around Aleppo over the last week.” Yet, he still believed that in spite of the policy of repeated air raids using SCUD missiles against civilians, he called on all parties in the Syrian conflict to “reach a comprehensive and durable political solution to end the crisis in Syria.”

Yeah, that usually works.

To not seem like they were just good at words but short on deeds, the US also supplied some forms of military aid and training. To a very select few, almost never providing them with what they asked for according to their needs, and absolutely not anything that might involve direct intervention or even the request for a No Fly Zone, a demilitarised zone in the sky that perhaps could not be properly enforced, but at least points in the right direction at the ending of aerial attacks. This aid had the characteristic of being just enough assistance to keep some pressure on Assad, but not enough assistance to remove him. Apparently, the US strategy is to wait for Assad to “step aside”, “go” or even be one of the parties to “reach a solution”. The way things are going the only Assad solution looks a lot like the final solution.

Is there still any doubt that the longer this regime stays in place, the worse things will be?

RED LINECould that truly abhorrent policy of “the worse things are, the better they are” be the endgame in the plans of the US? Is their current intervention – one that leaves Assad unharmed, allows his army to concentrate on fighting the “rebels” while others fight it out in the areas where the risks of loss of crucial air power are greater, allowing Assad to be constantly armed by Russia – a deliberate policy? The morphing into a War on Terrorism has become the excuse to intervene selectively while allowing the regime to remain in power. Despite the focus of the US solely on ISIS, it is clear that the only way to save whatever remains of Syria and stop the suffering of the Syrian people is to remove the regime by any means possible in the shortest time possible. To leave the regime in place is to allow a murderous dictator to continue his policy of mass destruction of the assets of the nation and genocide of the population. Therefore, the US solution is not a solution and it can’t be accepted. Stopping a dictator of this sort is one of the reasons that international law is granted legitimacy to intervene, taking precedence over any reasons of sovereignty, which have been violated at any rate by the Russian and Iranian contributions since the very beginning of the war.

There is and has been more than enough evidence, directly presented to the USA administration as well as available to the international community and even to private citizens to verify for themselves and that prove without the slightest doubt that the regime has engaged in actions within its own territory that are in violation of human rights. There is clear evidence that the regime is the perpetrator of massacres, including those deemed even more serious than massacres with conventional weapons because they involved use of weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons). The western apologists repeated the regime line at first, denying that the regime even had any such things and that the massacres of civilians in opposition areas was work of the opposition itself so that they could frame Assad with crimes he did not commit, but Bashar al-Assad himself threw them all for a loop, finally making an “executive decision” to save his skin. He debunked many of these feckless supporters by agreeing to “surrender the chemical stockpiles” to an international body so that they could be destroyed as part of the reassuring deal that the US would refrain from military intervention as a result of the regime turning over its enormous stock of WMDs, including of course, the very Sarin gas that the Assad supporters claimed did not exist.

Where the USA was willing to appease and be appeased, assured that if they intervened, it would never be enough to change the game, or upset their “rival” Russia, and surely not have the aim of regime change, the European Council, in its Foreign Affairs meeting press release stated:

“Non-inclusive policies in Iraq, and instability in Syria caused by the Assad regime’s brutal war against its own people, massive human rights violations and systematic obstruction against democratic reforms, have allowed ISIL /Da’esh to flourish. As a consequence of its policies and actions, the Assad regime cannot be a partner in the fight against ISIL /Da’esh.”

And further:

“The EU is seriously concerned about the humanitarian and security situation in Syria and Iraq and condemns unreservedly the attacks, atrocities, killings and abuses of human rights perpetrated by ISIL / Da’esh and other terrorist groups in both countries as well as by the Assad regime in Syria. The EU is determined to contribute to the international endeavour to defeat those terrorist groups. A Syrian led political transition and inclusive political governance in Iraq are crucial to sustainable peace and stability in the region.”

The question comes naturally, has the USA unequivocally condemned the Assad regime in such clear terms, even attributing to his regime “allowing ISIL/Da’esh to flourish”? The answer is, “No”.

The US is aware that the EU collectively does not possess its own army to enforce the military policies that might derive from Foreign Affairs directives. It does not have the unified military might to actually “contribute” to defeating terrorist groups, though, differently from the “Coalition intervention”, the EU has officially rejected having Assad as a partner in defeating them. In fact, it implicates that the transition to follow the war will be Syrian in Syria and Iraqi in Iraq. It envisions victory in the “war on terror”, but it also rejects what is so far the Russian paradigm of support of the regime and the US one of tolerance of it. The US however, isn’t that concerned about what the EU will or will not do or want, because while they prefer multilateralism, if their allies don’t have the same plans, the US will carry on without any problems in unilateralism.

Tensions are increasing in the Eastern European countries that see the return of Russian expansionism.

Tensions are increasing in the Eastern European countries that see the return of Russian expansionism.

Now that Russia has also returned to its tendencies of expansionism, States under its influence and economically tied to it are undergoing dramatic events so as to get closer to Europe. This increased tension in the area, the blurred line between West and East, is going to contribute to just how far Russia is willing to go for broke with its own interests. Is Russia powerful enough and interested enough to face down both the US and the EU in a power battle that is playing out in Syria and the Ukraine? The veto power in the Security Council only goes so far, at the end of the day, wars are fought on the battlefield. The US is willing to flex its muscles, but not upset the balance too much. The EU would be in a unique position of bringing the war to a quicker end if they are serious and not just using the “condemning” in the traditional way, but they would need to enlist individual armies in the effort, something that is highly unlikely. The vast military spending each nation has, while paling in comparison to other countries, still has provided most of Europe with the most advanced systems on the market. Many of the air forces in Europe are equipped not only with a substantial amount of extremely costly F35s of dubious quality, but also with scores of Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoons and other advanced fighter planes. These aircraft must have been placed into the budgets of these nations not only to decorate the hangars and give pilots something to practice on. It would be feasible for several air forces alone to enforce a No Fly Zone if there is political will to do so. There already is more than enough legal justification for such action. So not acting militarily, even taking into account the difficulty of such a thing, seems to be a matter of choice. All of that will turn what was a revolution indeed into a proxy war, at the expense of the Syrian people. There are better choices to be made, and they have to be made before it is too late. If the US is unwilling to do what is necessary to stop a genocide, Europe should take the lead in international affairs. Not only will it help save Syria and its people, but it will establish multilateralism, which itself is a requirement for self-determination in post war transitional periods.

Most of us recognise this picture as being from Aleppo. Aftermath of one of the market bombings by the Syrian regime against a civilian population. It circulates also as Gaza, where those who are then corrected, instead of saying, "this is terrible and  a crime against humanity" say instead, "Well, it REPRESENTS the suffering of the Gazans". The point is lost and truth is not served.

Most of us recognise this picture as being from Aleppo. Aftermath of one of the market bombings by the Syrian regime against a civilian population. It circulates also as Gaza, where those who are then corrected, instead of saying, “this is terrible and a crime against humanity” say instead, “Well, it REPRESENTS the suffering of the Gazans”. The point is lost and truth is not served.

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO
The question invariably arises when one loses faith in the narratives of the news media: If the mainstream media sets forth aspects of an issue in order to put forth a particular agenda of the dominant or powerful sector of society, and even the so-called alternative media presents its own narrative to push ahead its own ideologies or values and effect the situation with its own “solutions”, where is one to turn to if one seeks to know the truth?

The answer is simple and complicated at the same time. One has to find the truth oneself. The truth is indeed “out there”. The problem though is that it is an enormously cumbersome and time-consuming task to get to it, so difficult and depressing, in fact, that too many give up on it and fall back on whatever the media narrative is, even when we know and have the proof that it is full of lies, full of holes or full of propaganda. The truth can be found not in the various narratives of the news media, but in the vast and bottomless well of the body of evidence. To get to the truth, one has to do one’s own digging, sorting, one has to do one’s own thinking. One can only get to the truth on one’s own and only with great determination and persistency.

It is absolutely frustrating to look at the news on TV or read it in the paper and see things that not only “don’t look right” but “don’t feel right”. We claim (well, most of us who are interested in civil justice and world peace) that we are supporters of human rights. But do we realise that often what we feel as a violation of our own rights on our own soil we shrug off as just “the way they do things” when it is on a vast scale in another country. Mass arbitrary arrests, bombing of civilian areas, torture, policies of terror and starvation to subjugate a population are wrong in our own lands as they are wrong in other lands. However, for a very long time, the extent of these policies has been kept hidden from us, that is, our media only reported on institutionalised (policy-based) violations of human rights when at some level our own interests were involved or there has been what is perceived as a connection between “us” and “them”.  Somehow, the bigger the atrocity is, the more distant we feel from it and the easier it is to keep us away from this reality. We accept as well the media narrative, which sometimes is just the echo of the regime or dominant narrative because the truth, the reality is far, far worse than what even our wildest ideas of it could be.

Orphans in Ras al-Ain, survivors of a Syrian regime aerial raid; the winter clothes alone should tell observers to look beneath the "insta-pundit labelling" of the sufferers as Gazans.

Orphans in Ras al-Ain, survivors of a Syrian regime aerial raid; the winter clothes alone should tell observers to look beneath the “insta-pundit labelling” of the sufferers as Gazans.

There is a reason  why reality is not presented fully to us and why so many populations have been presented as “other”. The people are depicted as deserving of the oppression because they are primitive, not ready for rights and still needed to be controlled by a powerful figure that would take care of their interests, though at times he might be a little rough, he’s probably some kind of oriental despot that we have to learn to live with out of some perverted idea of “relativism”.

We extend our disgust in various ways towards the population and their ignorance. If they voted, they never did it “right”. If they didn’t vote, that was because they didn’t view democracy as a value and therefore if internal movements towards democracy arose, they would be depicted as being driven from reactionary forces abroad who would then throw the rulers out of power and establish their own protectorate. In essence, the individuals and the geographical/ethnic/linguistic/religious groups they belonged to did not have their own agency to affect their own change, and if they are not “willing” to help themselves, it’s very easy to promote the idea that they are impermeable to change or that it has to be imposed from outside if there is going to be any. Otherwise, they get what they deserve.

One of the innocent victims of the bombing of Azaz. The Assad regime kills them an the world lets them dig the dead infants out with their bare hands.  This picture has also circulated with great success as having happened in Gaza.

One of the innocent victims of the bombing of Azaz. The Assad regime kills them an the world lets them dig the dead infants out with their bare hands. This picture has also circulated with great success as having happened in Gaza.

Only those who  have forgotten (or who haven’t realised) that personal freedom is a right for every human on the planet and that there is a series of rights that belong to every human being in order to truly be considered as being a free individual, regardless of the geopolitical situation in which he or she was born or currently is living will be interested in finding the truth and rejecting the “story”, “spin” or “narrative” that any news providers is giving. News providers don’t appear out of nothing, they obtain their information and disseminate their information according to their own interests. If they support a particular ideology, they will have a bias towards only giving information that supports the tenets of their ideology. If they claim to be media providers that are free of ideological bias and hidden agendas, however, they are going to have to have an ethical code of some sort, they are going to have to follow some kind of criteria for the selection of the material they present.

This is the reason that the only way towards knowing and obtaining the truth is to sort through the body of evidence. We can’t pretend to know everything about everything or even something about everything, but if we are interested in international affairs, if we are interested in civil and human rights, we can’t afford the luxury of laziness. We can’t accept everything that is handed to us as “news” and what IS handed to us under that guise has to be scrutinised very carefully. We have been presented with a multitude of “instant pundits” and experts under various titles who assure us that they have a very consistent response to all the issues they speak about and yet, the only thing they are consistently doing is neglecting the bulk of material that comprises the body of evidence. Their arrangement and analysis of information is sometimes even based on no evidence at all, but mere speculation and repetition of what anyone could recognise as propaganda if they actually look at their sources of information or the repetition of specific images over the course of time.

A body of evidence, on the other hand is not sorted, is not usually accompanied by “analysis” of experts and it has a scientific criteria that we can apply, it has a rationale that we can use to judge and verify its strength. First of all, we have to have access to information that is as close as possible to those affected by events. We unfortunately know that witnesses to events, particularly in the worst and most inhuman situations, are too busy trying to survive or escape than they are in trying to inform the outside world about what is happening to them. Outsiders who make it in often themselves become victims of the same situation, so the number of outsiders must be dramatically reduced in order to prevent complications. But, in situations such as war in Syria, the body of evidence is overwhelming in its immensity. There are literally millions of photographs and videos available to anyone at any time. There are millions of witnesses who are able to tell what is happening instead of just posing for a photograph in their miserable setting of an overcrowded and disease-infested refugee camp. There is actually SO MUCH information that we are numbed by the overwhelming quantity of it… but mostly, it is surprising to find that despite the fact that the consistency and veracity of it (given strength by its size, range, content, precision, directness) is overwhelmingly constant: and almost always pointing in the same direction and the news media still seems to ignore it in favour of its own bias which is that of ignoring the voice and evidence of the oppressed in favour of a different narrative with its own appeal and history.

One of the hundreds of banners by the Kafranbel Media Centre... direct, to the point, and with no need for interpretation.

One of the hundreds of banners by the Kafranbel Media Centre… direct, to the point, and with no need for interpretation.

Since the onset of the uprising, protesters were determined to document the events in every way possible and to disseminate what they gathered outside of Syria. They did not own media providers, they were not part of an information “system”, they simply were providing evidence, most of it videos documenting the events and photographs of places during a protest or march or immediately following a sniper attack, a bombing, and later, a massacre. What has developed in Syria is a multitude of independent media aggregators, the Sham News Network, the Aleppo Media Centre, the phenomenon of the Young Lens photographers, the Kafranbel Media Centre and hundreds of others in every province and town, no matter how small. They collect, subtitle, disseminate and identify the evidence of the hundreds of thousands of witnesses to the war in Syria. They open YouTube channels, Facebook pages and blogs where anyone and everyone, INCLUDING mainstream and alternative media providers can tap into their evidence, and luckily, some outside news aggregators have picked up on their evidence and helped spread it far and wide. The problem is, the media providers that have a long history and prestige or are financed by advertising or political interest groups don’t tell a “sexy” story if it’s just about the (now four-year-long) struggle for survival of a besieged and oppressed people who have the misfortune of neither being of interest to the “imperialists” or the “anti-imperialists”, which are by the way, simply code words to express two variations of reactionary ideological thinking, where individuals don’t have rights, collective rights are also selective and all people can be fit into the prism of the narrative or spin of their administrations, regimes or leaders.

There is no shortage of evidence, the evidence provided meets all the criteria to be accepted as valid, even if it contradicts the story of the mass media, which often just serves as an amplifier of those who have the most power, preserving their interests. There is a clear causal chain that is evident to anyone who decides to access the body of evidence. The causal chain’s importance is heightened by the sheer magnitude of the evidence available. Literally, there are thousands of photographs and videos available that document the enormous quantity of atrocities committed against the people. It is not difficult to corroborate the evidence of the perpetrators of a massacre, and while the “pundits” will take the word of one “anonymous insider” whose words seem to mimic the regime narrative regarding who is responsible for the nerve gas attacks against the populations of the “free” towns that were resisting Assad and often victim to the regime’s violent attacks with more “orthodox” means, they refuse to study the evidence of experts who state that the only possible perpetrator is the regime and produce convincing argument that stands up to scrutiny, likewise corroborated by third party investigators who see more than the films, but have access to the sites or can scientifically test the tissue of survivors.

Infant victims suffocated in their sleep by Sarin in Al Ghouta (at the Arbeen field hospital). The fate of these innocent vicitms was "too horrifying" to be shown, but that all changed when they were recycled as victims of Israel and not of Assad and our indifference.

Infant victims suffocated in their sleep by Sarin in Al Ghouta (at the Arbeen field hospital). The fate of these innocent vicitms was “too horrifying” to be shown, but that all changed when they were recycled as victims of Israel and not of Assad and our indifference.

Yet, how could anyone in their right mind continue to even question or doubt such an obvious massacre as that of Ghouta? How could the proof of the culpability of the regime be in doubt for even one minute when their sponsors and patrons in the UN Security Council vetoed decisions made in Human Rights Commission following a detailed war crimes report to support the effort to bring the matter to the International Criminal Court which would judge the body of evidence in a legal seat and then exercise Justice, which then the world powers would have a leg to stand on when they took positions for or against Assad? By closing their eyes to the evidence, despite how great, consistent, direct, precise and applicable (i.e., bearing all the qualities that give what is known as “strength” to a body of evidence) they are able to hide the truth, but not to stop it being true.

Not only the massacre of approximately 1500 men, women and children by suffocation from exposure to nerve gas, but hidden or distorted are the numerous and well-documented “white weapons massacres” by knives and bayonets that are the signature of the Shabbiha thugs who operate for Assad, terrorising villages and leaving hundreds murdered despite their age, condition or innocence. The massacres of Houla, Banyas, Deir Ezzor and countless others have left in their wake hundreds and hundreds of photographs, videos and eyewitness testimony. If one looks at most of the news media though, you are going to find very little reference made to these events and they are simply not providing information on them, often with the ill-disguised goal of exclusion of the videos or pictures due to “the excessive cruelty of the images”, where they fall into the vacuum of oblivion, where our consciences can’t be reached and therefore our outrage can’t be aroused.

Instead they promote “massacres that weren’t” or at least that have no consistent body of evidence such as the “Adra Massacre” or the “Kessab massacre”. The “Hatla Massacre”, depicted as a sectarian attack against Shi’a Muslims by the agencies of the regime, bears a great deal of evidence that it was an armed conflict between anti-regime and pro-regime fighters with civilians caught in the crossfire and not a premeditated massacre to terrorise the population, though as a result, for a time the civilian population fled, as is the case in the entirety of Syria given the amount of urban warfare involved.

What are the images that people remember from the news? They see a “rebel” (not even a member of the Free Syrian Army) eating a heart, they see a “Christian” crucified by Islamists, and to them, the vision of these two images, out of context and factually incorrect (at least in the case of the crucifixion, the victims were Free Syrian Army soldiers, who by their identification are Sunni Muslims) become “the icons” and the real atrocities that matter. The tens of thousands of photographs of the torture of starved prisoners in regime jails was just a blip on the radar. The atrocities committed against Syrians who are tortured to death for crimes they did not commit are too vast to even contemplate. So, see the pictures, then forget them, that is how it works. It is much easier to bear one image and give it any meaning you want or you have been told. It’s not worth it to differentiate between types of atrocities and their intensity of occurrence.

a composite photo of some of the thousands of Syrian infants slaughtered in every way possible, one of them even wrapped in a Syrian Independence Flag... they finally got some interest when they ceased to be victims of Assad.

a composite photo of some of the thousands of Syrian infants slaughtered in every way possible, one of them even wrapped in a Syrian Independence Flag… they finally got some interest when they ceased to be victims of Assad.

But the opposition to Assad, the suffering population has its own iconic images. Millions of them, some of them so familiar to those who have been seeking truth and evidence from Syria for these four years that it comes as a painful shock to see them “recycled” as being Palestinian victims of Israel’s brutal attacks in Gaza. To see the photos cropped to cut out watermarks, Syrian flags or anything that identifies the identity of the victim and the circumstances of his or her death has been a genuine shock and additional accumulation of suffering when one considers that these photos and videos have been shared for years, in the vain effort to inform the world of the situation and the extent of this crime against humanity that is the genocide of the Syrian people, first by Assad’s regime and its infiltrate forces and since the past two years also by the rogue “Islamist” forces that are conducting their proxy wars for the domination of either Iran or Saudi Arabia in the name of their stated objective of the creation of a Caliphate in the Levant.

ISIS, as well as Hezbollah, makes the claim that their enemy is the West, but they are only good at slaughtering and oppressing other Arabs, including Muslims or those who have come to witness and share the information of the besieged and oppressed people, including journalists and human rights workers and volunteers. To the distracted observer, the war is a sectarian war that is now in the face-off stages of secularism vs obscurantism and there is no interest in investigating the facts, but to act “better late than never” against the enemy that is perceived as dangerous to the West, forgetting in essence the actions and objectives of the tyrant whose policies were at the genesis of the entire uprising and who has only consolidated his power in farcical elections that would never be accepted by anyone if they were to happen in their own countries under such condition and lack of democracy or legitimacy. His “election” has given him the perceived license to kill as much and as brutally as possible, and it is a license that he has taken full advantage of.

A roof in Aleppo, again, not surprisinging attracting interest only when it is mislabelled as being the destroyed home of a Gazan.

A roof in Aleppo, again, not surprisinging attracting interest only when it is mislabelled as being the destroyed home of a Gazan.

It is indeed frustrating to realise that the body of evidence proving the total destruction of Syria, its people and its infrastructure, including those who are living in the Palestinian refugee camps who have been subjected to siege, torture, arrest and death no less than their brothers and sisters in Gaza and in the rest of Syria, has been ignored for years, only to be carted out and presented as a different war, a different enemy, a different sponsor. Sometimes the Syrian independence flags that are used by every faction against Assad with the exception of the “black flag Jihadis” are not even cropped out or the subtitles changed. It is with a sickening Orientalism that these victims are passed off as someone more worthy of support, and at least for them, some support has been forthcoming. It is as if Arabs are interchangeable and a defiant Aleppo survivor who painted his ultimate resistance on the ruins of his bombed out roof has become a Gazan. The situation is not identical, though similar, but only one defiant resistant soul is honoured at the expense of another, whose suffering again is buried under rubble and debris. Nothing to see here, move along!

Another iconic image of Syrian grief and suffering,  mislabelled and blamed on anyone but Assad!

Another iconic image of Syrian grief and suffering, mislabelled and blamed on anyone but Assad!

There are shameless people who spread pictures and videos that depict persons in a state of shock after their loved ones are carried off dead in blankets among the buildings that were made to explode and collapse on top of them after air raids in civilian areas. The viewer should use a bit of healthy scepticism to realise that in July winter coats are not worn in Gaza and this event is someplace else, the victims are someone else. The perpetrator of such heinous crimes is not Netanyahu but instead it is Assad.

All of this evidence, the weight of which presents a picture that again and again shows the reality of the situation, the true story of what is happening, stripped from agendas and narratives, all of it is there for us to view. It is a deliberate choice we can make to ignore it and take the easy way out of accepting the stories told by the media that are deliberately hiding or altering this information in such a way so that the struggle to know the truth is stifled, and it is out of our hands to effect change in a positive way to those who are suffering (those whose side we have to be on, no matter what other considerations might influence us such as proximity or religious/ethnic affiliation).

If those who survived a massacre decided to document it, and took all the risks linked to that, they did this so that the truth would not be hidden. They did it in the hopes that those who had the power, influence or ability could help and protect them. They did it not because they want to shock us or draw us into a world that has nothing to do with us, but because this is our world already, it is only a short flight away from many of us or even has touched our shores with its outpouring of survivors of unspeakable atrocities. If we refuse to be lazy, we can look for the truth and we can find it. We are no longer bound to being complicit in genocides and then claiming in the same breath, “we didn’t know” and “never again”. It will be never again ONLY if we make it so NOW. Our task is to be an amplifier of the voices of the people, not a substitute or interpreter of them.  We have the enormous possibility of affecting change simply by not keeping information buried or tearing it out of context. If we choose to, we can save lives and make a better world. It’s up to us. Can we be up to the task? Isn’t it a noble goal to seek the truth and serve the truth?

The Syrians know the Media isn't divided into Mainstream or Alternative. Until evidence is all that matters, they will hold the high moral ground.

The Syrians know the Media isn’t divided into Mainstream or Alternative. Until evidence is all that matters, they will hold the high moral ground.