People fight here with absolute defiance because they realise that a big massacre awaits them if the regime succeeds in regaining control over the area. Those who are not killed immediately will be arrested and tortured savagely. The options of the people are to either die resisting the aggression of a fascist regime or to be killed by this same regime in the worst way possible. People shudder with fear, and I myself shudder, at the thought that this regime might rule us again.
From the besieged East Ghouta, in the Damascus countryside, Yassin al-Haj Saleh appeals to leaders of public opinion in the West. Published by the Guardian.
Three months ago, I left the city of Damascus, where life had become too oppressive, to go to the “liberated” area of East Ghouta. An area that had 2 million inhabitants before the uprising, East Ghouta is now populated by only around one million. It was a base from which the rebels headed towards the capital, but is now completely besieged by the regime’s forces due to renewed support from Russia and Iran, and the arrival of Iran-sponsored Iraqi and Lebanese militias. During the past three months, I have personally witnessed the staggering lack of arms, ammunition, and even food for the fighters. Many of them would get two meals a day at most, and their situation would have been immeasurably worse had they not been local residents, protecting their own towns and families, and living off their own kin.
The cities and towns that I have seen or lived in during these months are subjected to daily and random air strikes and mortar and rocket shelling. Victims, mostly civilians, fall every day. In a centre for civil defence where I lived for a month I used to see all the bodies brought in. Some were indistinguishable remains, others belonged to children, and among the victims was a six-month fetus lost by a terrified mother. Not a single day passed during that month without victims; two or three usually, but nine on one day, 28 on another, and 11 on a third.
Continue reading “Help Syria Now, Tomorrow May Be Too Late”
In this piece, first published at Open Democracy, Yassin al-Haj Saleh and Rime Allaf, two of Syria’s brightest intellectuals, discuss Robert Fisk’s moral and professional collapse.
The international media has not always been kind to Syria’s revolutionary people. For months on end, many of the latter turned themselves into instant citizen-journalists to document their uprising and the violent repression of the Syrian regime, loading clips and photos taken from their mobile-phones to various social networks; still, the established media, insinuating that only it could really be trusted, covered these events with an ever-present disclaimer that these images could not be independently verified. Since the Damascus regime was refusing to allow more than a trickle of foreign media personnel into the country, chaperoned by the infamous minders, what the Syrians themselves were reporting was deemed unreliable.
Nevertheless, an increasing number of brave journalists dared to sneak into Syria at great personal risk, reporting the same events which activists had attempted to spread to the world. For the most part, experienced journalists were perfectly capable of distinguishing between straight propaganda from a regime fighting for its survival and real information from a variety of other sources. Overwhelmingly, ensuing reports about Syria gave a voice to “the other side” or at least quoted opposing points of view, if only for balance. In some cases, journalists found no room to cater for the regime’s claims, especially when reporting from civilian areas under relentless attack by Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
It was from the wretched Homs district of Baba Amr, under siege and shelling for an entire month, that the late Marie Colvin, amongst others, testified on the eve of her death under the regime’s shells about the “sickening situation” and the “merciless disregard for the civilians who simply cannot escape.” Like her, most of those who managed to get into Syria have testified about the regime’s repression of a popular uprising, even after the latter evolved to include an armed rebellion.
Continue reading “Embedded Fisk”