Where are the Syrians in Max Blumenthal’s Article? An Open Letter from Syrian Activist Marcell Shehwaro

Marcel Shehwaro: “Revolt”. Taken during Arab Bloggers Meeting in Jordan by Amer Sweidan.
Marcel Shehwaro: “Revolt”. Taken during Arab Bloggers Meeting in Jordan by Amer Sweidan.

By Marcell Shehwaro

I read Max Blumenthal’s article, which aims to open our eyes to the dangerous hidden reality behind The Syria Campaign. I read it over and over and all I felt was a combination of patronisation and humiliation in detail after detail… Beginning with the focus on who took the photo of Omran and who published it and neglecting the fact that what happened to Omran did actually happen and the boy really was bombed. But of course this detail is marginal… just as marginal as all other Syrian men and women in that piece of writing. All of us are marginal details.

More important now is how to help the killer escape by spreading doubts around all the human rights violations they committed.

My organization is one of the 73 organizations that signed on to suspending cooperation with the UN. The decision was taken and planned as per the following steps. Months and days of dysfunctional coordination with the UN as a result of the political ties of the UN’s offices in Damascus. Let alone the grave failure, that the UN admits to, of dealing with the sieges. The Syrian anger towards this topic was portrayed through many responses, actions, banners and campaigns such as United Nothing. All those are purely Syrians but it seems not important enough for Mr. Blumenthal to mention.

We internally shared the statement, which was drafted by Syrian humanitarian organizations, for endorsement. We even objected to the mild language of the statement which some described as nice and friendly. After the internal agreement of the drafting organizations, which apparently it’s not convincing to the writer that the Syrian organizations have a decision-making mechanism, we shared the statement publicly for wider endorsement.

Of course Mr. Max is able to judge and knows better than all of us that we as Syrians have been influenced to shape our opinions! We have been “spurred” to sign!

We are mislead, absent, easily manipulated.

This is how Syrian organisations are portrayed in the article.

On the no-fly zone and regime change. Here comes a more irritating speech. Early 2012, I wrote a “silly’ blog under the title “10 reasons why I am against no-fly zone.”

I wrote all possible and expected reasons in relation to sovereignty, imperialism and so on I was “naive” back then to think there were global civilian protection mechanisms that will prevent us from tending to such solution ie; no-fly zone. I used to think that airstrikes will never be part of the regime response against people. I had the luxury to do so as by then we were not bombarded at from the sky yet.

Until today I regret that feeling of luxury.

Yes Max, The Syria Campaign say we need a no-fly zone and it is because it echoes what Syrians call for day and night.

Yes we want the shelling to stop. We want the aerial bombardment to stop. Which is until this moment just a small detail in your article.
Yes the Russian and Assad airstrikes target Syrians, their hospitals and schools.

But this article is not about that small detail that takes the lives of hundreds every day.

This one is about how dare an “advocacy” project for syrians to convey syrian messages to the world!!

Yes Max we do want a no-fly zone because two of our education staff were injured last week. Maybe because the manager of our education office in Aleppo has to face a decision whether to close schools and deprive children of their right to education or open schools and risk their safety and lives.

Because once we had to discuss a real decision, and not imagined, on what is the “normal” number of airstrikes where we would continue to operate civil and humanitarian activities and when do we cross the “Ok” number.

Because hospitals are underground. Because schools are now underground.

They brought us bunker buster bombs you know. I looked this word up in your article. It doesn’t sound that important.

Bunker buster bomb that destroys schools and hospitals and even shelters.
But what I found in your article that foreigners want a No Fly Zone. How dare they!!!

Dear Max, if you had listened to Syrians. If you just had assumed that we exist and do have opinions, maybe you would have figured out how we reached this point.

How do we live every day based on Whatsapp ringtone bringing the news of the location of each attack and who are the casualties.

Syrians there live on military air forces planes rhythm, wondering are we going to be bombed during the day only? Shall we work at night? Instead. No shall we do early mornings.

The Russians and the regime which you are discomforted with our will to topple are now working full time job. Day and night. We die. The simple logic is that we want to live. They attack us using air force. We want airstrikes to stop. Don’t you think this is logical?

It is not because we are emotional people. All people across the world, I believe, don’t want to be attacked by air force. This is something common, no?

While discussing toppling the Regime it seems that you are missing some points dear Max. Let me make things clear for you. In 2011 we revolted against one of the toughest dictatorships. We called for freedom and for democracy. We as syrians, for sure if you managed to believe me, want democracy, we want the end of arrests, incommunicado arbitrary detention and shooting at peaceful demonstrations. We want the end of chemical attacks and Bunker buster bombs. We dream of change. Changing this regime, the same regime you referred to revolting against as a coup over a democratically elected government and not as a people’s will to restore its rights. Wait maybe you know better than us about our affairs.

Yes sir, The Syria Campaign as an advocacy group in support of us Syrians does say a lot of what we say over and over which no one listens to. Maybe this is considered political to you but I can see you are trying to take things to a level that is very dangerous for us Syrians. Not only as Syrians but you are undermining the activist movements across the world by painting democracy as a political issue. Hence justice, equality, freedom, and impunity become political issues that civil society activist should not get invloved in. This makes dictators happy while we work like doves of peace.

Yes Mr. Max, we Syrians suffer daily from patronization over our advocacy as when we say Bashar Al Assad is killing us, our “supporters” rephrase to “ Syrians are being killed, Syrians were attacked, Syrians are starved”. The perpetrators are passive in that discourse.

Another example that comes to mind. We say:

“We want the shelling to stop so we can move on with our struggle for democracy”. Becomes “Syrians want the war to end so they can go back to peace.”

Our askes are trimmed or toned so we don’t disrupt anyone with such an ugly form of patronization. This what has forced us to see the need to define advocacy. Is it teaching Syrians what they should want while they face death everyday? Or conveying Syrian messages and voices to the world?

I will not even bother to comment on the White Helmets accusation. They have enough of the hallelujah of Syrian women every time they reach an airstrike site rushing to save people. In addition to cheers from children that they have saved and those are even more honoring than Nobel peace prizes even if I really hope they get it. We are just happy and proud as the White Helmets are from us.

Ah wait who are we? We are invisible in your article at the end. So no worries.

Marcell Shehwaro is ‎‎Executive Director of the Syrian civil society group Kesh Malek ‎كش ملك‎‎ and a writer for Global Voices.

Author: Danny Postel

I'm a co-editor of PULSE (https://pulsemedia.org/), Associate Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, author of Reading 'Legitimation Crisis' in Tehran, co-editor of The Syria Dilemma and The People Reloaded, and a blogumnist for Critical Inquiry, Truthout and the Huffington Post. http://dannypostel.homestead.com/

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