Syrian Swimmer Dies In Rebel Attack, But UK’s Independent Blames Assad Anyway

‘Story wouldn’t have been used if #Assad couldn’t be blamed,’ one activist tweeted, adding to the social media backlash to the misleading story.
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    A screenshot of the story on the Independent falsely attributing the death of Mireille Hindoyan to Syrian Army shelling.

    A screenshot of the story on the Independent falsely attributing the death of Mireille Hindoyan to Syrian Army shelling.

    MINNEAPOLIS — A prominent mainstream British newspaper blamed the Syrian government for the recent death of a competitive swimmer in Aleppo, despite evidence that the shelling which took her life was launched by Western-backed rebel forces.

    In a report for the Independent published on Sunday, Katie Forster appeared to blame Syrian government forces for the deaths of Mirielle Hindoyan, a university student and competitive swimmer, and her 12-year-old brother, Arman, both of whom died during intense shelling in the contested city of Aleppo on Friday.

    The siblings’ deaths “came after medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said there had been a ‘bloodbath’ in Aleppo amid a sustained assault on the city by pro-Assad forces backed by Russian warplanes,” Forster reported.

    As her source, Forster cited a Sept. 30 report by Aleppo-based Armenian news outlet Kantsasar, and a Facebook post on an Armenian Youth Association page confirming Mirielle Hindoyan’s death. But media analysts and peace activists soon took to social media to correct the record, noting that Kantsasar actually blamed rebel forces for the attack. Ben Norton, a politics staff writer at Salon, was one of several journalists who tweeted about the error:

    Other Twitter users suggested the move was part of a deliberate effort by the mainstream media to blame the Syrian government and its leader, Bashar Assad, for ongoing violence in the region while downplaying violence committed by Syrian rebels, many of whom are armed with Western weaponry.

    Alison Meuse, a reporter for NPR based in Beirut, also suggested the Independent’s report reflects a mainstream media bias guiding reporting on the Syrian civil war.

    As of Wednesday morning, no correction had been posted on the article. Instead, the report was modified, without fanfare or apology, to reflect the controversy. Journalist Nour Samaha noted:

    With both Democrats and Republicans calling for increased Western military intervention in Syria, a growing number of mainstream media outlets are promoting the cause of war, particularly through selective reporting on the siege of Aleppo.

    The media tends to suggest that the entire city of Aleppo is a war zone besieged by the Syrian government, while it is actually divided into two enclaves, eastern and western Aleppo. Vanessa Beeley, an independent journalist who traveled to Aleppo in August, wrote for MintPress News on Sept. 20:

    “The east is occupied by a number of groups backed by the United States, NATO and their allies in the Gulf, like Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Civilians in the government-held area of western Aleppo describe these groups broadly as ‘terrorists,’ often without noting any specific group.”

    Over 1.5 million civilians live in western Aleppo, which is controlled by the Syrian government, while about 200,000 people live in eastern Aleppo, which is occupied by 50,000 rebels and their families, Beeley reported, citing figures provided by the Aleppo Medical Association.

    Beeley also noted that the media ignores the West’s role in creating Aleppo’s humanitarian crisis in their rush to blame Assad for the civil war:

    “In most Western media reports, little mention is made of this division of Aleppo which was created by the incursion of factions of armed insurgents (or, as the mainstream media and U.S. government call them, ‘moderate rebels’) which drove hordes of civilians out of the eastern parts of the city into the safety of the Syrian government-held western area.”

    Watch “Why Everything You Hear About Aleppo Is Wrong” from Ron Paul Liberty Report:

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    • tapatio

      Global Warfare: “We’re going to take out 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan & Iran

      A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm (1996)

      “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right”


      Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century (2000)

      “Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor (9/11 – PERFECTION). Domestic politics and industrial policy will shape the pace and content of transformation as much as the requirements of current missions.” (p 63)



      Richard perle


      Paul Wolfowitz
      William Kristol
      Alvin Bernstein
      Eliot Cohen
      David Epstein
      Donald Kagan
      Fred Kagan
      Robert Kagan
      Robert Killebrew
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    • James Wherry

      Lots of unsupported speculation about whether this story would have run, if the Independent had not made a mistake about who was to blame. Ho-hum.

      I doubt any media outlet would have intentionally made such a claim except by mistake: as this article points out, it was easy to correct and no newspaper wants to be undermined. Example: in June, 2003, the Guardian ran a completely inaccurate story that U.S. forces at the detention camp at Camp Cropper, Iraq, were not cooperating with the ICRC to even set up detainee inspections. This WAS the second or third day of actual inspections which had been set up, weeks earlier, and the ICRC quickly disciplined the ignorant staffer back in Geneva, Switzerland and retracted the false allegation. The story died with that single article that no one else picked up on – though the Guardian never did print a retraction.

      Bottomline: the Truth is the first casualty of ANY war.