Syrian cities under siege – truth versus fiction

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SHAFAQNA – Earlier this January media broke the story of Madaya, a Syrian town whose people had been made to suffer immense hardship under the weight of a de facto humanitarian blockade.

Outraged, UN officials pointed an angry finger at Damascus, laying blame at President Bashar al-Assad’s feet – confirmation they argued that Assad government had in fact lost all legitimacy.

In January the UN Security Council condemned the “barbaric” sieges in Syria, demanding immediate access “for life-saving humanitarian assistance.”

“We have requested, called for, insisted and demanded that the conflict be brought to an end, that civilians be protected from the relentless violence and access be granted for life-saving humanitarian assistance,” Kyung-Wha Kang, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the 15-member body during a briefing.

Around 400,000 people in 15 towns are trapped in areas besieged by the various parties engaged in the Syrian civil war, according to the UN.

While most agree that Syrians are being holed up and held up in horrifying conditions, experts and officials have different views as to who is in fact responsible for this sad state of affair.

For Western powers, President al-Assad remains the designated devil of this war – a tyrant whose thirst and greed for power is so immense that he has willingly sacrificed the welfare of all his people. This version of the story has been sold ad nauseam by the likes of the BBC, CNN and other corporate media – the echo chambers of a system which exploits narratives to sell its politicking.

Facts betray a different truth altogether.

The West is attempting to derail the upcoming Syrian peace talks by using the humanitarian blockade of besieged cities as an “unscrupulous tactic,” Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN told the Security Council at an emergency meeting this January. “It looks like that, under the pretext of the deterioration of the situation in besieged cities, attempts are being made to undermine the launch of the inter-Syrian dialogue scheduled for January 25,” Vladimir Safronkov told  the UN Security Council.

Safronkov is alluding here to Western officials’ propensity to “edit” their outrage in favour of political scoring. In this particular case, outrage was focused on Madaya, a Sunni-majority town under the control of radical militias, while completely by-passing Shiite-majority cities suffering from the same fate.

“Much is being said about Madaya, but not a word about the villages of Nubul and Az-Zahra in the province of Aleppo. And we are talking about the fate of tens of thousands of people,” the Russian deputy ambassador pointed out.

But the deception, or rather manipulation does not stop there …

Vanessa Beeley, an astounding investigative journalist whose research on Syria has been both thorough, and fair noted how Madaya and the new “western humanitarian narrative of war” has been played to justify aggressive foreign policy in the MidEast, and bypass the rule of law.

Here Madaya was meant as a distraction away from Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record and its disturbing taste for blood – which taste has increasingly been linked and compared to that of Daesh (aka ISIL).

“The entire Madaya outrage has played into an anti-Russian, anti-Resistance and anti-Syrian rhetoric … The UN knew about Madaya long before its officials rung the alarm bell. Why now? Why not a month ago or before that? Asked Vanessa Beeley.

From the Vice News, to the Independent, the Telegraph, the BBC and CNN, most media have jumped on Madaya’s bandwagon, spewing misinformation and half-truths to a public which has learnt to never question the Establishment.

“Public outcry and condemnation against the Syrian government spread like wildfire across mainstream news and social media when the horrific photos of starved children and civilians from the besieged town of Madaya emerged,” wrote Paul Antonopoulos for Al Masdar News.

Indeed, painful images of starving children and desperation have accompanied news reports and televised debates, painting a harrowing picture of Syria’s war.

Only Damascus was never to blame for that sad state of affair – instead it was those very radicals the West has so liberally labelled as “moderate” who stood guilty of hording humanitarian aid for profits. As Vanessa Beeley explained on her blog: The Walls Will Fall, Madaya was under Terror’s siege … it was President al-Assad who, through intense military pressure against Wahhabi militias managed to negotiate a humanitarian corridor for the Red Cross the use. This story never made it to the media – neither was the use of erroneous footage and fabricated photos challenged adequately.

Regardless of one’s political sentiment vis a vis President al-Assad, journalism should remain a reflection of the truth based on facts and not fabrication.

Ms Beeley wrote: “The Madaya media circus lumbers on regardless of the multitude of proven anomalies and outright deceit of the mainstream narrative.  Deaf to either public opinion or investigation, institutions like the BBC consider they are above accountability to those who pay for their existence, the British public.  They consider it perfectly acceptable to release footage from Yarmouk 2014 and represent it as Madaya 2016… and when questioned, to remove the offending footage without explanation or responsibility for their obscurantism and misinformation tactics. Thankfully, Robert Stuart, ardent campaigner against the BBC’s long running, hostile, anti Syria propaganda offensive did raise an official complaint and demanded answers that the BBC has, for too long, been allowed to avoid answering.”

Following is an observation made by Sharmine Narwani, a political analyst for the Middle East on media’s new role as officials’ propaganda echo chambers: They [the media] are news-as-entertainment professionals – packaging glossy corporate content for maximum distribution and big bucks. The goal is not objective reportage. Their targets are quantifiable and highlighted in a business plan somewhere. Success is based on a simple formula: stay within parameters “understandable” to a wide audience that devours sound bites and familiar storylines on the hour, every hour. Like trained seals whose every desire, instinct and buying pattern has been measured by corporate media’s marketing department for the consumption of its advertisers, the audience demands satisfaction – and western media delivers it.”

Almost half a million people stand to starve under Terror’s boot. Millions of people have been put into harm’s way as powers have debated arming militias, analysing their degree of radicalisation to manifest the ousting of President al-Assad.

When did regime change in Syria become a priority over Terror?

 Madaya, like so many cities across Syria has suffered under the ignominious Black Flag, forced to live under Wahhabism, and its many injustices; Damascus government’s move was only ever to liberate such cities … a move the so-called Coalition failed to plan for, let alone accomplish.

By Catherine Shakdam for the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies

 

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