DAMASCUS —(Editorial) During the past six years, a country that was previously absent from mainstream media coverage has taken center stage in the news. One needs only to turn on the TV, read a newspaper or hop online to hear about the ongoing conflict in Syria – a conflict that has been described as this decade’s most brutal humanitarian crisis.
But these headlines have only reiterated the State Department and NATO’s devious “regime change” narrative that has increased Western support for NATO-armed and funded rebels. This narrative uses invariably baseless allegations, misinformation and propaganda to defame the Syrian army and government and lay blame on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the humanitarian crisis brought on by the rebels.
After hearing these fabricated and exaggerated reports of genocide, chemical weapons and atrocities committed by the Assad government, most Western audiences have the luxury of simply carrying on with their day. The uncomfortable scenes they witness in the media every day fade away in their consciousness.
But the luxury of indifference is not afforded to those living in countries that have been wracked by war brought on by U.S. intervention, which in the case of Syria has come in the form of millions of dollars in arms and funds funnelled into the hands of CIA-trained rebels with the intention of inducing a sectarian civil war.
In addition to this, the U.S. has been bombing groups like ISIS in Syria while simultaneously arming rebels who are aligned with Daesh, including the Al-Nusra Front, which has been linked to al-Qaeda.
In 2016 alone, the U.S. dropped over 26,171 bombs on Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan in its so-called “war on terror.” That’s an average of 72 bombs every day and the equivalent of three per hour, according to an analysis of U.S. strikes around the world.
Those living under the threat of being bombed, kidnapped, raped or killed do not have the option of turning off the news and returning to their normal lives. They live in a constant state of fear and are surrounded by immense destruction and devastation. Many families have lost members due to the war.
How can we relate to those in these war-torn countries? How can we see them as fellow human beings who deserve to live a life of peace and happiness?
We can do so by hearing their stories and learning first-hand how their lives have been changed by war. The absolute worst thing we can do is ignore them. They need and want to be heard. The voices of Syrians devastated by the NATO-imposed regime change operation have been silenced by mainstream media for far too long.
In part two of our ongoing series on the Syrian crisis, we get a detailed view of what life is like in Syria’s capital of Damascus.
When reading the heartbreaking stories that many Syrians share, try to imagine yourself in their shoes. This is the only way to fully relate to them as your brothers and sisters in humanity. They have been cheating death every day for over six years – that’s 2,190 days of suffering, something that many of us would have a hard time relating to or are even able to fathom.
Today we’ll hear from Yasmine, a 35-year-old woman who has witnessed the development of the conflict from its very beginnings. She wants the world to know that Syria’s so-called “revolution” is, in fact, a proxy war.
Yasmine from Damascus
First, a little bit about me so you can have an idea about my perspective. I am an engineer, I work for Syrian Telecom. When I graduated, I was so enthusiastic and eager to work and fight the corruption that I’d heard about. But when I started working, I learned that it would not be that easy to achieve my dreams in this environment.
There was no possibility for growth, all the good spots were taken and if I wanted a promotion, I would have to wait for someone else to die in order to climb up the ladder. I decided to work in the private sector and started studying for an MBA. I graduated in November 2010. This is just so you know that I am not blindly pro-Assad – I have had my share of injustice and I criticize everything because I dream of a perfect city.
At the end of 2010, when things started happening in Tunisia, I didn’t really pay attention. But then one day I was chatting with a friend from Tunisia, so I asked her how things were there. She said she didn’t know and that she didn’t dare to go out, as there were gangs in the streets that were looting. I told her that I heard on Al Jazeera that people were celebrating that their president was gone. I said she should be happy for her victory. She said, what victory? It is a total mess and we don’t know who is killing who.
At the time, I was a follower of Ayman Abdul Nour on Facebook. He was a presenter for Orient News, the channel based in Dubai. He used to shed light on all the bad things that were happening in Syria – I liked him because I believe that criticism is always good. But when I started reading what he was writing, it shook me.
His articles were always about Syrian revolution – I remember seeing two articles on his website titled “When are Syrians going to move and stand up” and “Syrians will never move.” I started having doubts about him, so I began following him closely and noticed that he had a lot of sectarian comments on his articles. He had certain followers who were saying bad things about Syrians.
Things kept escalating and (former Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak fell, but still nothing happened in Syria. I was at work in March 2011 when my friends told me that there was a crowd of women at the post office, someone spread a rumor that [Syrian First Lady] Asma al-Assad was paying 100 dollars for each woman to show up and join in protests. Women were standing at the post office waiting to get the fake reward. I knew back then that there was something vicious going on, that someone was trying to collect people to start something.
The First Demonstration
Al Jazeera, Orient News and Al Arabiya showed a snapshot of a demonstration that happened in Al Hamidia for an entire day, showing the same scene the entire day and claiming that the secret service was using force against demonstrators. I called Al Jazeera to ask them to show more of the demonstration, if it was really as big as they described it, but no one answered.
I went out for a jog and ran into my aunt, who coincidentally happened to be in Al Hamidia when the demonstration happened. I asked her if it was big, but she said it wasn’t. She said the demonstrators gathered for a few minutes and then left – no one said anything to them, people watched for awhile and then everything went back to normal.
So from day one we knew it was not a real revolution. Afterwards we started hearing all kinds of frustrating news. For instance, one of my friends told me about an incident involving her cousin’s 13-year-old son. He came home one day with 200 dollars in his pocket, way too much for his age. So my friend’s cousin asked him where he got it – his son told him that someone gave him the money in exchange for writing negative things about Assad on a wall.
There was something strange about the demonstrations that started happening in Dara’a. News about the demonstrations started popping up on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya before they even happened. It almost seemed like the rebels were getting their orders from the TV networks.
There were actually many pro-Assad demonstrations in 2011, but no one ever heard about them. Al Jazeera even claimed that some people were forced to go to the pro-Assad demonstrations, but in truth, I sometimes had to take time off work and lose pay to be part of them.
In another instance, a friend of mine who works for Syriatel [a telecoms company owned by Rami Makhlouf, cousin of al-Assad] told me that all vehicles that had the company’s name on them had been vandalized. She said their drivers were attacked and sometimes murdered. Government cars driven by company employees had been stolen.
I lost many of my coworkers who lived in the suburbs, where the radicals were active. Many of them were murdered just because they were working for the government, regardless of whether they were pro-Assad or not. Many employees who did offsite work like repairing telephone lines were murdered while working.
The year 2011 was a year of expectations. We were scared and waiting – the so-called rebels were trying to gather in al-Abbasiyeen Square and do something similar to what happened in Midan al-Tahrir in Egypt. Fortunately they failed, the police protected the area well. But a lot of cars were still stolen – the rebels were seeking funding, so they stole and kidnapped a lot that year. They were trying to create an atmosphere of fear and pressure.
My friend at work told me about another incident in which a group of people purchased a large amount of bread and threw it into a river to make it appear as if we were in a state of crisis. It worked – Al Jazeera reported on it later and it became difficult to buy bread because people really believed we were in a crisis.
The “rebellion” spread to Jobar, a municipality of Damascus where my uncle worked as a pharmacist. It was the Friday before Easter when people came to Jobar and started destroying everything they saw, trying to push people in Jobar to rise up against al-Assad. I called my uncle to make sure he was okay, he said he was hiding out at his neighbor’s house. That was the last time I spoke to him – he died a month later from a heart attack.
I called my friends every Friday that year to ask if they’d seen demonstrations in their towns. They all reported that there was nothing going on, contrary to what Al Jazeera was reporting. The few demonstrators who went out each Friday demanded things they knew nothing of, and when the president would capitulate, they would demand something else the following Friday. It was perpetual.
The July Bombing Of Damascus And The Start Of A War
I was at work on July 18, 2012 when a man from a German consulting company that we dealt with came to work in the morning and said he and one of his colleagues been instructed by his embassy to leave Syria and go back to Germany. They had been working in Syria for over a year. Around 11 or noon that same day, we heard that a bombing had occurred at the Syrian National Security headquarters. Six high-ranking military officials were killed.
It looked like it had been planned or known of in advance – why else would the German consultants have left so quickly? Maybe the governments involved expected that the country would collapse after the bombing. On that day, I saw the first warplane flying above Damascus, shooting at the “rebels” in Jobar. This is the day our government started fighting. But we’d already been suffering daily.
No More So-Called “Revolution”
The most important thing is that people know that what has happened in Syria is not a revolution. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need any help from the outside. Turkey was setting up a refugee camp long before people started to flee.
I’ve heard from friends that people in some places are threatened if they try to go to a refugee camp that was set up in Jordan, some have even been killed or had their houses burned down. Another friend tried to get into Jordan, as she had an appointment with the embassy, but the Jordanian border patrol refused to let her in because she didn’t have a refugee stamp on her passport.
The same thing happened to another friend’s brother. He was just trying to enter because he’d signed a work contract with a company there, but they wouldn’t let him in without putting a refugee stamp on his passport. This is a way to artificially increase the number of refugees. It makes you feel like you’re in prison and that the world wants you dead.
In order for this war to end we need the U.S.-led coalition to leave Syria. We also need them to stop supporting terrorists, whether intentionally or not. We also need Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to stop supporting terrorists. The armed opposition should return to their senses and stop their fruitless fighting. Everyone knows, including the opposition themselves, that they are puppets and pawns in a proxy war.
The Syrian government should clamp down on traitors who sided with our enemies. Our military should keep fighting the terrorists in co-operation with our allies. The U.S. should reclaim all the prisoners they released from Guantanamo who later became the leaders of Daesh. Syrian radical Muslims should be removed from Syria and taken to places where they can practice their radicalism freely.
Yasmine’s Hopes For The Future
I try to be optimistic, but warmongers never stop and they are not ashamed of their crimes. It’s hard to know what to say. But my hope is for peace to return to Syria. Rebuilding the country will be the result if we can get peace back. I know that those who left Syria may not come back, or at least not all of them. But I am counting on their love for Syria.
A great deal of young men and women have already died or left, there are few left to build the future of Syria. We need Syrians to work together to return Syria to the peaceful state it was in before this proxy war began.
If reading Yasmine’s story has left you speechless, then we have made some progress. Stories like hers should shake us to our core. Maybe then, we can stand up against imposed wars, Western imperialism and invasions that have devastated countries in the Middle East and beyond. We need to fight against the misinformation disseminated by mainstream media. As concerned citizens of the world, we are responsible for taking action and bringing about positive change.
In Part III of our “Syrians Speak Out” series, we’ll speak with Shadi, an atheist from the Syrian city of Safita who will share the intimate details of his kidnapping and torture in 2012 by the Free Syrian Army in Idlib. Shadi’s bone-chilling recollection highlights the cruelty of the terrorists that the U.S. government has described as “moderate rebels.”