The Post-war Generations’ Heritage, A Picture Can Tell it All

By Zeinab Daher

In visual marketing, a picture is worth 60,000 words; that’s why a text cannot compete with images, especially in times of war.

Science proved that the human brain is able to process images 60,000 times faster than a text. This makes clear that it takes a picture less time to reach a wider spectrum of audience than a text does.

Mr. Aziz Taher, a professional journalist photographer who heads the Press Photographers Syndicate in Lebanon, covered the brutal ‘Israeli’ war on Lebanon that happened to take place the summer of 2006. The war, that lasted some 33 days, from July 12th until August 14th, was the toughest in the Middle Eastern modern history.

In an exclusive interview with Al-Ahed news website, Mr. Taher introduces the importance of photos by recalling his own experience as a southerner from the Lebanese village of Houla.

President of the Press Photographers Syndicate in Lebanon, Mr. Aziz Taher – HQ: Hamra, Beirut

“For those who don’t know, in 1948, the ‘Israeli’ enemy committed a horrible criminal massacre in Houla. Because the massacre was not documented with photos, people forgot about it, although it claimed the lives of more than 70 martyrs. The massacre was absented from the society’s public memory. Here lies the importance of the photo.”

As the young villagers started talking about the massacre, people got to learn its story, the man narrates, “but it wasn’t deep-rooted like any other ‘Israeli’ massacre that was photographed such as the Deir Qassem, Sabra and Shatila, al-Mansouri and Qana massacres…”

Hereby, Mr. Taher moves to shed light on the importance of photos during the July 2006 war: “The ‘Israelis’ used to kill us then tell the entire world that they are in danger. Today, however, the equation has changed thanks to the picture.”

Photography as a profession

Mr. Aziz Taher, the professional photographer who works with several international news agencies, including Reuters, spoke on behalf of other Lebanese photojournalists, classifying their affiliations into patriotic and professional.

“Regarding our professional affiliation, we didn’t need anything to add to our photos; the facts on the ground were far worse than intervening in any picture. Massacres committed by the ‘Israeli’ enemy against our people, land, electricity, water, sea, and all what belongs to our life as Lebanese people, were bigger than being captured in a photo,” the man stresses, showing that every single photo was enough to expose the enemy’s brutality.

“On the patriotic level, the Lebanese photographers started observing and pursuing every massacre the ‘Israeli’ enemy committed against our people. This was a reason our photos reached international media outlets, having a strong influence that explained to the international public opinion this war, how it started and what is being committed [during it].”

He further elaborates, “During our coverage, six of my colleagues, and I, faced an intensive campaign by some sides that called us a ‘Hezbollah propaganda’, they started attacking us on the internet claiming that all of our photos are fabricated and fake.”

“They called me the ‘king of toys’, claiming that I prepare my cameras, my lenses and equipment, and I prepare toys, then I reach the “Hezbollah” attacked site and throw the toys there and capture the scene claiming it is a residential area.”

In conclusion, this showed how much harmful the photos were for them “as they tend to claim that we were making up those scenes, adding some toys and children in our photos, to say that ‘Israel’ is building residential areas. But the truth is that we didn’t need anything [when capturing the scenes] because all the places we took photos of are residential. There might be a Hezbollah center in each place, but the entire neighborhoods were residential. All neighborhoods embraced a history, heritage and memories, and it is the same for all the destroyed apartments.”

The man recalls the scenes of photos of the Dahiyeh [Beirut’s southern suburb] describing that they appeared as if an earthquake hit the place. “The case is similar for Bint Jbeil and all other villages where we have passed. The ‘Israeli’ enemy had rancorously bombed Lebanon, sometimes just ‘to have fun’, or just to destroy the place.”

Unforgettable incidents, scenes from the war

According to the veteran photographer, “Photos of the children were the most touching during the war. Scenes of the massacres committed by the ‘Israeli’ enemy were so much moving, lenses got tired of capturing photos of the victims… our eyes were exhausted because of the level of criminality and the daily killing by the ‘Israeli’ enemy against our people.”

Mr. Taher further stresses: “We were touched by every scene. We were all moved by what happened. But the moment I was moved the most was when colleague Layal Najib was martyred after the ‘Israeli’ warplanes bombed her car despite showing the ‘Press’ signal. She was targeted just like any other Lebanese national.”

President of the Press Photographers Syndicate in Lebanon, Mr. Aziz Taher – HQ: Hamra, Beirut

Layal Najib, the martyr of photography who was killed in South Lebanon, is a symbol of all other martyrs who dies during this war, the man points out. “She is not different from them, but she is a photojournalist, and they [pretend] to talk about human rights and freedoms, Layal exposed the example of this enemy that doesn’t differentiate between civilians and journalists and that considers the whole place as a scorched-land.”

We were moved by many scenes of the martyrs, and the destruction… imagine that when you enter the Dahiyeh, you find all the places and buildings you know became rubble, completely damaged, he says.

“Every scene from the July war, just like all other wars, stops you at every detail, the lack of water, the lack of fuel, and the entire sufferings people have faced during the war…”

Speaking on behalf of the Lebanese photojournalists, Mr. Taher says: “We’ve taken pictures of all the ‘Israeli’ aggressions against Lebanon until the historic liberation day in 2000. Each one of us was touched by a picture he/she took at some place, but all of us were moved by the daily photographs we took which were related to the ‘Israeli’ enemy.”

Absented photos

Asked whether the photographers tended to hide certain scenes during the war, Mr. Aziz Taher explains that: “Most of the photos I took during the war were in the southern suburb. Then we started moving to the areas we could reach, to several regions in the south until we reached Bint Jbeil… During the war, we have witnessed many scenes especially those of the resistance fighters, but we absented them due to a patriotic sense…”

He justifies that by saying that “there was no interest to show from where the rocket was launched, we’ve seen that but we intended to absent those scenes. It was the same case regarding the photos of the resistance men we’ve seen when arriving at a certain village; we tried not to take any photo of their faces although we, as photographers, are curious to take photos of a rocket launcher or anything related to the resistance. However, we decided to hide them.”

“In this battle, you are not looking for a scoop, as you see all this suffering, you should show solidarity, at least by the photos you take, with the resistance men who are roaming between valleys, fields and villages to fight this enemy. Your duty is to hide their photos, not because they don’t deserve to be seen; they indeed deserve that their photos head all newspapers and media outlets, but being keen for their lives, and the continuation of the resistance work, we had this intention to hide their faces.”

Covering other wars

In the world of photography and media, wars represent a subject that attracts the pros. It is a passion. Many photographers, during major events, stop their jobs, while many others become more induced. There are two types of motivation, the professional and the patriotic one, the man notes.

“When taking photos in times of war, especially during the July 2006 war, you gain a lot of experience as much as you expose your life to danger. Your life will daily be endangered because while taking photos at any place, the warplanes suddenly start operating or carry out strikes. A road may be blocked, a bridge may be bombed… it is a very tough experience the photographers have faced the like of which the Lebanese people did.”

Pointing out to covering wars in other places, Mr. Taher elaborates: “I covered the Kuwait war… Photography used to include more details, it was more difficult and more adventurous before mobile phones. Today, with the availability of mobile phones, the entire society takes photos. I wish I could have taken part in the Yemen war, also in Iraq… and any other place in the world where wars take place, but I didn’t get the opportunity to do that. There are photographers everywhere, but on the personal level, I wished I could have covered the events in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as all other places of war in our region and abroad.”

According to the Chinese proverb, a picture is worth a thousand words, he states.

“I say that every photo that needs an explanation is an unsuccessful one. The photo should express itself, this is what I teach my students at the Lebanese University. The photo speaks up for itself. The press photo is the most dangerous, most entertaining and most real. Hadn’t it expressed its idea to the people, it is definitely unsuccessful.”

The man notes that a picture is worth a thousand words when it is used properly and reflected honestly. “A photo records the memory of the people. Our photos are not only taken to be published. Sometimes we take photos that we don’t publish. They are intended to document the people’s collective memory, as I previously mentioned the Houla Massacre that was not documented with photos, leading to its absence from the people’s memories. Today, however, the July war or any other incident became tangible to the public through photos.”

A man with such a rich experience and history makes anyone realize that you can look at a picture for one second but think of it an entire life. This is the case of the July 2006 war. With the photos he and his colleagues have taken, they have bought the new generations, especially those who weren’t present at the time, return tickets to many moments otherwise gone. They have also commemorated history and taken part in the heroic duty of defending the nation.

 

From the July-August course of war and victory, by Taher Aziz’s lens: Recorded Moments of War, Suffering, Resistance and Victroy

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لا أمل من النقاش معكم!

ابراهيم الأمين 

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الإثنين 15 تموز 2019

يشكو خصوم المقاومة أنّ السيد حسن نصرالله يتحدث بلغة صاحب القرار، وأنه عندما يطلق مواقف من قضايا داخلية وخارجية، يتصرف كأنه هو الدولة ويحلّ مكانها في تحديد السياسات الاستراتيجية. ويقيس هؤلاء أقوال حزب الله وأفعاله من زاوية اتهامه الدائم بتصدير أزماته أو أزمات حلفائه في الإقليم.

الواقعيون من السياسيين والناشطين والمناصرين لجبهة أعداء المقاومة يمارسون الصمت حيال ذلك. هذا ليس دليلاً على موافقتهم على ما يجري، ولكن على عجزهم عن القيام بشيء. والعجز، هنا، ليس عن إطلاق المواقف الرافضة لخطّ المقاومة ومواقف قياداتها، بل العجز عن إقناع الناس بوجهة نظرهم، وتحريضهم على خطوات عملانية ضد المقاومة، والعجز حتى عن إقناع العدو بالتحرك لمناصرتهم. وأكثر من ذلك، العجز عن ابتداع موقف يمكنه أن يؤثر في النقاش العام. إذ ليس في الجعبة البالية لهؤلاء سوى شعارات بلهاء عن سيادة وحرية واستقلال كالتي يتغنون بها منذ عام 1943.

أما غير الواقعيين، فهم في الأغلب الأعمّ فئة مهملة تشعر بالغبن نتيجة وجودها خارج المشهد السياسي. لا يضمّهم إطار، ولا تجمعهم جمعية، ويشتركون في كونهم من ضيوف مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي. ولم يحدث – منذ سنوات طويلة – أن قال أحدهم جملة مفيدة، أو فوجئ أحد بما يقولونه. حتى صاروا مثل المبرمجين مسبقاً: ما إن يخرج موقف من حزب الله، حتى يخرج من عندهم موقف مقابل. أما كيف ولماذا، فهم أنفسهم لا يعرفون السبب. كل ما يعرفونه أن الصمت الكامل يلغي كل أثر لهم. علماً أن حراكهم ليس فيه بركة لهم أو لغيرهم.

البارزون من معارضي المقاومة ينتشرون في مواقع السلطة والمؤسسات العامة والخاصة. هؤلاء يتوزعون بين قوى وشخصيات ومؤسسات. لا يطلقون علناً المواقف التي من شأنها تهديد التسوية التي عقدوها مع حزب الله لبقائهم في السلطة. لكنهم يضطرون، بين وقت وآخر، إلى إطلاق مواقف حادة، تسجَّل في دفاتر حساباتهم الإقليمية، وفي الوقت نفسه يرسلون – بعيداً من الأضواء – من يشرح لحزب الله حقيقة الأمر. لذلك، يتصرف الحزب بشيء من اللامبالاة إزاء ما يقولونه.

أما للمهتمين بالصورة الحقيقية، فلهم أن يقرأوا الوقائع كما هي. وحتى لو قالوا إن قيادة المقاومة وأنصارها يتصرفون بفوقية ولغة استفزازية، فهذا لا يغير من حقيقة الأمر شيئاً.

يعرف هؤلاء أنهم لا يضيفون شيئاً إلى المشهد الأساسي المتعلق بمصير المنطقة

قبل 13 عاماً، مارس أعداء المقاومة الداخليون، الذين تجمعوا في إطار 14 آذار، أعلى درجات التآمر ضد المقاومة وناسها. اشتغلوا علناً مع العدو على ضرب المقاومة وسحقها. مارسوا كل الأفعال القذرة لتحقيق هذا الهدف. دفعتهم وقاحتهم وعمالتهم إلى الضرب على ناس المقاومة في اللحظات الأولى لسريان وقف إطلاق النار. لكنهم استفادوا، مرة جديدة، من العقلنة التي تتسم بها قيادة المقاومة. وهم يجب أن يعرفوا الحقيقة القاسية، وهي أن قيادة المقاومة منعت محاسبتهم.

خلال الأعوام الماضية، انتقل هؤلاء إلى مستويات مختلفة من التآمر. صاروا شركاء في كل الألعاب الشيطانية ضد المقاومة وضد كل ما تحتاجه أو تقوم به. أمنياً، لم يتوقف العمل ضد كوادرها ومقارّها وحركتها وانتشارها وتسليحها. وسياسياً، لم يتوقف العمل على حجب التغطية الرسمية المنطقية لعمل وطني بهذا الحجم. واقتصادياً، يتصرفون مع المقاومة على قاعدة الطلبات الأميركية المباشرة. وإعلامياً، لم يتوقفوا عن الحملات المحرضة المبنية على كره مذهبي وطائفي. مع ذلك، فقد تراجعت حظوظهم، والفضل، هنا، لجمهور عريض ملّ منهم ومن خطاباتهم ومشاريعهم، ولم يعد مستعداً للسير خلفهم في مغامرات لا طائل منها.

اليوم، يعرف هؤلاء أنهم لا يضيفون شيئاً إلى المشهد الأساسي المتعلق بمصير المنطقة. هم ليسوا في حسابات أحد من الكبار، ولو أن قيادة المقاومة تخلت قليلاً عن تواضعها لحذفتهم هي أيضاً من الحسابات الجدية. بناءً عليه، لا بأس من واقعية قهرية تلزم كل هؤلاء بالتوقف عن «النق» و«القدّ» و«الشدّ». لأنهم، ببساطة، لا يؤثرون في شيء. وحتى استعدادهم لاثارة فتن دموية، كالتي حصلت في الجبل، يبقى عملاً أحمق، وأقرب إلى تمرين على انتحار أكيد لا يشعر به أحد. ومهما علا الصراخ وارتفعت المنابر، فليس بمقدور هؤلاء، كلهم من دون استثناء، فعل شيء في مواجهة مسيرة لم ولن تنتظر إذنهم أو رضاهم للقيام بما يجب أن تقوم به، دفاعاً عن نفسها وأهلها وناسها، وعن قيم إنسانية تتجاوز كل هذه الجغرافيا.

هي لغة فوقية كما سيبدو لكثيرين، لكنها تبدو كذلك، نظراً إلى دونية غير مسبوقة يعيشها هؤلاء، حيث هم وحيث سيذهبون… إذ لا أمل من نقاش معهم.

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What Happened Behind the Scenes of the Interview With Sayyed Nasrallah? ماذا دار في كواليس اللقاء مع نصرالله؟

By Imad Marmal – Al-Joumhouriya Newspaper

The televised interview with Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah carried a lot of connotations due to the positions and sensitive information that it revealed. But not everything appeared on air. There are things that unfolded behind the scenes. The full picture would be incomplete without these details.

At around 7:00 pm Friday evening, the Al-Manar crew began its journey to the location where the interview with Sayyed [Hassan Nasrallah] was to be conducted. The security measures adopted for this particular interview were the same as those on other occasions. Black curtains covered the windows of the cars used, making it impossible to know the route the vehicles took and their final destination.

Remarkably, at each stop, the security detail of the party [Hezbollah] was very polite with us and apologized for any inconvenience those precautionary measures caused. Perhaps the enthusiasm of conducting the long-awaited interview with Sayyed at a time of great complexity and vital issues contributed to alleviating the stress caused by those necessary security measures. In addition, the security escorts were courteous, making it easier and adding a level of smoothness to the whole process. Not long after departure, we arrived at the location chosen for the interview. It was a large hall. A part of it was allocated for the studio where the episode would be broadcast. On the other side, there was a reception hall lined with sofas and a table in the middle that was filled with teacups, plates of sweets, dates, walnuts and raisins.

We were immediately received by Sayyed’s aides and warmly welcomed. Meanwhile, the crew was finalizing details concerning the studio, which was “engineered” in a way that suits the status of the interviewee and the memories of the July war. The walls were decorated with Quranic verses and pictures that captured the experiences of the war and its different stages.

At about 8:30, Nasrallah arrived with a smile that showed an early indication of his satisfaction. After an exchange of handshakes and hugs, Sayyed entered the studio, examining it and expressing his opinion regarding some of its features. Before zero hour, he sat on the seat allotted for him to test it. He noticed that it was not comfortable enough and suggested replacing it with a more suitable one.

Minutes before the interview was about to start, Sayyed addressed us.

“Tonight I will surprise the “Israelis” with a plan that will show them that they are exposed to the rockets of the resistance,” he said.

At that moment, we were confident that the interview would be exceptional. The leader of the crew was quick to ask the cameraman to zoom into the map as Nasrallah began to explain its content.

We asked Nasrallah about his health. He assured us that he is fine. We told him that he appeared to be keen in trying to reduce his weight. He smiled and replied that there was a “breach” during the month of Ramadan when his weight increased a little more than the limit approved.

It’s nine o’clock. The interview is now live on air. It starts with remembering the July anniversary and the equations it set. Nasrallah did not wait long to send messages to the “Israeli” entity. During the first break, one of Sayyed’s aides walked in and presented him with initial reactions to his positions, especially among the “Israelis”. He pointed out that “some circles within “Israel” called his speech the ‘map speech’.” Nasrallah seemed delighted, hinting that the first ‘salvo’ of his messages hit its target.

As the discussion resumed, Nasrallah returns to addressing the challenges facing the region and Lebanon, as he continues to draw the strategic equations.

During the second break, Sayyed catches his breath as he sips on a glass of carrot juice. As the interview resumes, he picks up where he left off. Three and a half hours later, the curtains falls on Nasrallah’s longest interview. The people around him begin to give their impressions about the interview while signs of satisfaction and fulfillment appeared on his face despite the lengthy exchange. After chatting about the content of the episode and its potential effects, Sayyed allows the room to take personal photos with him. In the meantime, one of the attendees brought up the question of the official exams and their results. Nasrallah did not miss the opportunity to make a funny remark.

“If my son had achieved an excellent result, some would have linked it to Hezbollah’s strength and its weapons,” he said. “I am satisfied with him just passing. This is better.”

Sayyed bids us farewell and then departs smoothly. As for us, we return the same way we came using the same procedures and measures.

ماذا دار في كواليس اللقاء مع نصرالله؟

حملت المقابلة التلفزيونية مع الامين العام لـ»حزب الله» السيد حسن نصرالله كثيراً من الدلالات، بفعل المواقف والمعلومات الحسّاسة التي انطوت عليها. لكن ما ظهر على الهواء ليس كل شيء، إذ انّ الكواليس تخفي في جعبتها تفاصيل، لا يكتمل المشهد من دونها.

نحو السابعة مساء الجمعة الماضي، إنطلقت الرحلة نحو اللقاء التلفزيوني مع «السيد» عبر قناة «المنار». الإجراءات الأمنية هي نفسها في مثل هذه المناسبات، لجهة تبديل السيارات أكثر من مرة، وفي أكثر من مكان. الستائر السوداء تغطي نوافذ السيارات المستخدمة، بحيث يستحيل عليك معرفة معالم المناطق التي يتمّ عبورها أو تحديد موقع المحطة الأخيرة التي ستنتهي فيها «الجولة التمويهية».

واللافت، أنّه عند كل محطة نزول وصعود، كان الاشخاص المكلفون من «الحزب» بمرافقتنا يتصرّفون بتهذيب فائق ويعتذرون عن اي إزعاج قد تتسبّب به التدابير الإحترازية والإلزامية. ولعلّ الحماسة لإجراء الحوار المُنتظر مع «السيد» في توقيت مفصلي ومزدحم بالملفات الحيوية، ساهمت في التخفيف من وطأة الإجراءات الضرروية. كذلك، فإنّ دماثة أخلاق المرافقين سهّلت الأمر، وأضفت نوعاً من السلاسة على مسار التنقّل. بعد مضي مدة ليست طويلة كثيراً على الانطلاق، وصلنا الى مكان إجراء المقابلة، وهو كناية عن قاعة واسعة خُصّص جزء منها للاستوديو الذي ستُبث منه الحلقة، بينما وُضع صالون للاستقبال في جانب آخر، حيث اصطفت بعض الكنبات، تتوسطها طاولة توزعت عليها أكواب الشاي وصحون ضمّت الحلوى والتمر والجوز والزبيب.

على الفور، استقبلنا مساعدو «السيد» بكثير من الترحاب والحرارة، فيما كان فريق العمل يضع اللمسات الاخيرة على تفاصيل الاستوديو الذي تمّت «هندسته» بطريقة تتناسب وخصوصية الشخصية وذكرى حرب تموز، خصوصاً لناحية تزيين الجدران بالآيات القرآنية والصور المستقاة من تجربة الحرب ومراحلها.

عند الثامنة والنصف تقريباً، وصل نصرالله ترافقه الابتسامة التي أظهرت مؤشراً مبكراً الى ارتياحه. بعد المصافحة والعناق، دخل «السيد» الى الاستوديو، مستطلعاً جزئياته ومبدياً رأيه في بعضها. جلس على المقعد المخصّص له لاختباره، قبل أن تدقّ ساعة الصفر، فلاحظ أنّه غير مريح كفاية، مقترحاً استبداله بآخر أكثر ملاءمة، وهكذا كان.

دقائق قبل انطلاق الحوار، خاطبنا «السيد» قائلاً: «الليلة سأفاجئ الاسرائيليين بخارطة تُبيّن انكشافهم أمام صواريخ المقاومة». في تلك اللحظة، تأكّد لنا أنّ المقابلة ستكون استثنائية، فيما سارع مسؤول فريق العمل الى الطلب من المصور بأن تغوص الكاميرا في عمق الخارطة وتأخذها «كلوز»، حين يباشر نصرالله في عرضها وشرح محتواها.

نسأل نصرالله عن صحته، فيُطمئن الى انّها جيدة. نقول له إنّه كان حريصاً على السعي الى خفض وزنه، فيجيب مبتسماً أنّ «خرقاً» حصل خلال شهر رمضان حين زاد وزني قليلاً عن الحد المرسوم.

انها التاسعة. الحوار ينطلق مباشرة على الهواء من بوابة استعادة ذكرى حرب تموز والمعادلات التي أرستها، ونصرالله لا يتأخّر في توجيه الرسائل المدوّية الى الكيان الاسرائيلي. خلال الفاصل الاول، يدخل أحد مساعدي «السيد» ويعرض له ردود الفعل الأولية على مواقفه، ولاسيما في الداخل الاسرائيلي، مشيراً الى «أنّ بعض أوساط العدو أطلقت على كلامه تسمية خطاب الخارطة». تنفرج اسارير نصرالله، موحياً بأنّ «الصلية» الاولى من الرسائل أصابت هدفها.

مع استئناف النقاش، يعود نصرالله الى محاكاة التحدّيات التي تواجه المنطقة ولبنان، مستكملاً رسم المعادلات الاستراتيجية.

وأثناء استراحة الفاصل الثاني، يلتقط «السيد» أنفاسه مع كوب من عصير الجزر، قبل ان تدور محرّكات المقابلة مجدداً، ويستكمل ما كان قد بدأه. عقب ثلاث ساعات ونصف الساعة تقريباً، يُسدل الستار على أطول مقابلة أجراها نصرالله. يبادر المحيطون به الى إعطاء انطباعاتهم حولها، في وقت بدت علامات الارتياح والرضا على وجهه، على الرغم من الساعات الطويلة التي استغرقها الحوار. وبعد دردشة حول مضمون الحلقة ومفاعيلها المحتملة، يفسح «السيد» المجال لالتقاط الصور الشخصية معه. في هذه الأثناء، أعاد أحد الحاضرين طرح مسألة الامتحانات الرسمية ونتائجها، فلا يفوّت نصرالله الفرصة هنا كي يمرّر تعليقاً ظريفاً، بقوله وهو يضحك: «لو حقّق ابني نتيجة متفوقة لكان البعض سيربط ذلك بقوة «حزب الله وسلاحه». كان يكفي أن ينجح. هذا أفضل.»

يودّعنا «السيد» ثم يغادر بانسيابية، قبل أن نسلك نحن طريق الإياب، وفق الآلية نفسها التي اعتُمدت في الذهاب، وقد سبقتنا الأصداء الى الداخل والخارج.

Why The BBC acts as a Propaganda Outlet for Israel– An Insider View

“The BBC is institutionally pro-Zionist and institutionally spineless” says former BBC senior editor.

“The BBC is institutionally pro-Zionist and institutionally spineless” says former BBC senior editor.

 

by Gilad Atzmom

The BBC’s Panorama channel ‘investigation’ into Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism’ was so blatantly one sided its broadcast as ‘news’ demanded an explanation. In an attempt to grasp why the British national broadcaster fails to fulfil its core mission to report the news in as unbiased a manner as possible,  I interviewed a former senior editor for the BBC. The editor, a 35 year veteran of the BBC, reveals the culture that has steered the BBC into its present position as a Zionist mouthpiece. 

In acting as a whistle blower, the former editor risks severe consequences.  In Britain leading journalists have been locked behind bars and put under threat of extradition for reporting information whose truthfulness has not even been challenged. 

https://youtu.be/F7eEQMyzLeo

Sadly, this danger is heightened under the present toxic political atmosphere in Britain, as demonstrated by its purging of a major political party and its tolerance for abuse of its judicial system to deter and punish anyone who dares to question the Zionist narrative. 

Q: When did the BBC become openly biased?

A: The BBC has always been biased towards Israel, and its bias has been well documented.  The reasons for this bias have long been the subject of serious academic studies, the best known of which is Greg Philo’s and Mike Berry’s More Bad News from Israel. In fact, in 2006 an independent report commissioned by the BBC’s own governing body concluded that the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “does not consistently constitute a full and fair account of the conflict but rather, in important respects, presents an incomplete and in that sense misleading picture.”

Q: Who and what drove this cultural and political direction within the corporation?

 A: There are a number of drivers behind this biased BBC culture. The most important is the fact that a small number of hardline Zionists occupy key positions at the top and middle levels of the corporation, as well as at the shop-floor level, by which I mean the people who select what to publish or broadcast on a daily basis and who provide editorial steer to journalists. This has been widely publicised and has been in the public domain for some time — see, for example, this http://tinyurl.com/ydhjzeek, these (a) http://tinyurl.com/y7mjtkc6, (b) http://tinyurl.com/y7k39vsh, and (c) http://tinyurl.com/y3x9nktl. Also see this http://tinyurl.com/y6ne4apn and this http://tinyurl.com/y7l88zwl.

Q: What about political impartiality, supposedly a core BBC value?

A: Unfortunately, there are many examples of  such pro- Israel hype, some blatant and others who slant the news by use of emphasis and/or  omission. For instance, there was Sarah Montague’s interview with Israel’s defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, in March 2015, Head of Statistics’ Anthony Reuben’s reflection on fatalities in Gaza   (http://tinyurl.com/ycc9p8d4), and the utilization of  Gil Hoffman, an Israeli army reservist and chief political correspondent for the Jerusalem Post to write for the BBC News website (http://tinyurl.com/yanppk93) to mention but a few.

Q:  Does the broadcaster have the means or inclination to fix itself ?

A: In my opinion, the chances of the BBC fixing itself is about zero. Apart from what I have said above, it is a cowardly, spineless organisation. Not only does it always pursue the path of least resistance by selecting to broadcast what is least likely to upset the Zionist lobby, but it is also deadly afraid of what the Daily Mail might say about its output. Very often, and by that I mean almost on a daily basis, one would hear senior managers ask at the morning agenda-setting editorial meetings, “What would the Daily Mail say about that?” Invariably, they would choose what is least likely to be picked up and criticised by the Daily Mail. Please remember, this is a public broadcaster that is funded by taxpayers (yes, the License Fee is a tax) and is supposed to “Educate, Inform and Entertain”, not propagandise on behalf of Israel.

Q: Some of the so-called Labour ‘Whistleblowers’ were exposed by Al Jazeera as Israeli Lobby assets. Is it possible that the BBC was so bold as to interview these characters hoping that no one would notice or was it simply  a matter of a clumsy decision making? Can the BBC match the journalistic dedication of organisations such as RT or Al Jazeera?

A: There is no chance whatsoever that the BBC would do anything approximating Al Jazeera TV’s programme on Israeli infiltration of the Labour Party (http://tinyurl.com/yad6fslm). The BBC is institutionally pro-Zionist and institutionally spineless.

Q: You worked in the corporation for 35 years, did you notice a deterioration in the quality of people hired? Was there a change in employees’ attitudes and their willingness to express themselves freely and critically?

A: I worked for the BBC’s English-language outlets as an editor and senior editor for 35 years. Since the early 1990s there has been growing intolerance of criticism of editorial management decisions, even in internal forums which internal BBC propaganda claims are meant for staff to speak freely. This applies across the board on all matters. But certainly with regard to Israel and Zionism, any questioning of BBC impartiality would attract accusations of anti-Semitism and would certainly spell the end of one’s career, no matter how privately and confidentially such criticism is conveyed.


My battle for truth and freedom involves some expensive legal and security services. I hope that you will consider committing to a monthly donation in whatever amount you can give. Regular contributions will enable me to avoid being pushed against a wall and to stay on top of the endless harassment by Zionist operators attempting to silence me and others.

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Media on the Frontlines: Differences between the July Victory and the Joroud Victory إعلاميون على الجبهة.. ماذا بين انتصاري تموز والجرود؟

By Ali Ibrahim Matar

Beirut – The media has become the most powerful weapon in the modern era. It has become an integral part of the modern war machine due to its ability to create ideas, market ideologies and promote victories.

The media has become so important that it has crippled the ability of a large segment of the population to think objectively. The rapid flow of news, information and analysis, whether true or false, is being utilized. The threat posed by this weapon has been amplified with the rapid rise of social media.

This media system has a pivotal role in covering wars. In the July 2006 aggression, for example, it was an essential part of showcasing the victory of the resistance against the “Israeli” enemy. It also played a major role during the war in Syria. Social media showed advancements during the media’s coverage. The information war was highly fundamental during the Syrian war. Those watching some media channels such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya would think that Syria has fallen. But the truth on the ground was very different. There is no doubt that the two media experiences of the July 2006 war and the war in Syria starting from 2011 were different. This is what journalists who covered these two conflicts explained to us.

There is no doubt that the media experience differed when it came to the war with the “Israeli” enemy and the war with the Takfiri groups.

“The experience varies between the two arenas according to the region and the environment. In Syria, the movement was slow due to the lack of knowledge of the area. There was always more caution to it. You must be with a certain group, for instance certain combat groups, residents of that area or existing correspondents,” Al-Manar correspondent, Dia’ Abu Taam, points out.

Image may contain: 1 person

He tells al-Ahed News “the situation in the South was different. The coverage was often made individually. There was only the reporter and the cameraman. There were days during the July war when I was alone in the Qaqa’iya al-Jisr area, where I did media coverage on my own.”

“Opening up to a new operational reality gives the reporter greater experience. By dealing with new challenges, it allows him to develop his professional performance significantly,” he adds.

Abu Taam talks about other factors including the development of the resistance’s capabilities.

“This coverage varies because the different capabilities have also evolved,” he insists.

“The extent to which the strength of the resistance in 2006 and 2012 differed was clear. We have seen some kind of fighting from the resistance that cannot be measured in any way to previous years. It was clear that the resistance has developed its performance greatly in terms of equipment, man power, skills, experience and strength,” Abu Taam said.

 

There is no doubt that social media was very important in the entire process. Abu Taam confirms this by underscoring  “the significant difference between the kind of media used in 2006 and in 2012 and onwards.”

“In 2006, the new media was in its early stages. The internet was limited to emails. There was no social media. The price of the internet was very high. It was hard to send the materials, including the videos and audio because of their size. The only method used was through the satellite that was detected by spy drones. This posed many difficulties. There was scarcity in sending visual materials,” Al-Manar’s veteran reporter explains.

“In Syria, the issues differed greatly. The means of communication helped to send the material we wanted easily. It also helped broadcast entire reports from the site without any difficulties. We broadcast the moment of entering the sites live using the phone. This helped a lot in refuting rumors and lies the enemy spread,” Abu Taam said.

Another Al-Manar reporter, Mohammed Kazan, echoes his colleague’s assessment regarding the media coverage and the differences between the July 2006 war and the war in Syria.

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“In the July war, we were bombarded by “Israeli” aircraft and artillery. In Syria, I was in Qusayr, Zabadani and al-Joroud [outskirts]. There was coordination between the operations command in the resistance and with the war media. There was someone who helped us move. But the danger lied in IEDs, sniper rifles and artillery shells,” Kazan tells Al-Ahed.

As for the importance of social networking sites, Kazan points out that for him “using them has been essential since the Mosul war in Iraq. We were in a desert area and in great need of the internet to compensate for the absence of satellites. The situation was the same during the Joroud war against Nusra [Front] and Daesh. The new media made up for the blocking of Al-Manar’s satellite frequency. Meanwhile during the July war, we always used transmitters, which exposed us to spy drones of the “Israeli” enemy.”

Al-Jadeed channel’s senior reporter Nancy Sabeh also spoke to al-Ahed about her experience.

“I was a correspondent inside and at the outskirts of the southern suburbs during the aggression. The means to send messages to the audience were very difficult in the past. There was no new media. There was also no interaction as it is today through social networking sites,” she said.

Image result for Nancy Sabeh

Sabeh stated that the most beautiful thing she witnessed during the July war was the return of local residents to Dahiyeh after the aggression.

“At 7 o’clock in the morning, I entered Dahiyeh as a reporter. There were a lot of people. They started to return to see their homes,” she recalled.

According to Sabeh, “today’s journalism depends more on social media than on traditional journalism. Unlike what we have seen in the past, during the July war work was more accurate. Our work was patriotic. We were not looking for fame as it is today through these sites.”

For her part, LBCI’s Hoda Chedid told al-Ahed that “during the July war, we saw through the coverage that most Western and Arab countries were waiting for “Israel” to triumph and for the resistance to be defeated. This provided material for the other side of the story to each reporter to show how the people of the South challenged the war, how they resisted and how they triumphed over the “Israeli” enemy.”

Chedid explained that “during the war against terrorist groups, the situation completely changed. There was a consensus on the need to confront the terrorist groups and to show it in the media. Social media was a very supportive and important factor in this coverage. The whole country was engaged in confronting Daesh’s terrorism. It was a very important experience that meant a lot to me. I proudly experienced it as a result of the importance of this coverage of the war, the victory and the liberation of al-Joroud.”

As in the battlefield, the fronts are always wide open in the media, between the righteous side on the one hand and falsehoods on the other. It is the responsibility of media professionals to show and champion righteousness and keep up with the victories.

To read the article in Arabic click here

 

Europe Freaks Out Over Minuscule Iranian Uranium Enrichment

Global Research, July 09, 2019

Leave it to CBS News and all the other establishment propaganda mills to spin the obvious.

CBS and the others know the Iran nuke deal is a dead letter.

Trump refused to honor the agreement while Europe pretends the deal is still valid, mostly because it needs Iranian oil. EU apparatchiks understand all bets are off now that the US has reimposed sanctions.

They have no choice but to fall in line.

CBS News

@CBSNews

Iran ignores Trump’s warning, breaks another nuclear deal limit on uranium enrichment https://cbsn.ws/2S3sB8i 

132 people are talking about this

In true Pavlovian fashion—following the lead of Trump and his coven of neocons and Israel-firsters—the Europeans have threatened to trigger the JCPOA’s “dispute resolution mechanism” allowing the EU to impose sanctions. This will result in the issue of Iran enriching low-grade uranium going before the neoliberal lapdog, the United Nations Security Council.

Iran’s foreign minister summed it up:

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo.

Last I checked, EU was against extraterritoriality.

UK’s unlawful seizure of a tanker with Iranian oil on behalf of is piracy, pure and simple.

It sets a dangerous precedent and must end now.

1,580 people are talking about this

Iran is incrementally enriching uranium as a wedge to force Europe to fully abide by the deal and ignore Trump’s ultimatum. Zarif said Iran’s enrichment is “reversible” if the European signatories of the deal fulfill their end.

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

Today, Iran is taking its second round of remedial steps under Para 36 of the JCPOA. We reserve the right to continue to exercise legal remedies within JCPOA to protect our interests in the face of US . All such steps are reversible only through E3 compliance.

1,226 people are talking about this

Meanwhile, clod Trump tells us there is only one purpose for the low-grade enrichment of uranium.

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The Hill

@thehill

President Trump: “Iran better be careful. Because you enrich for one reason and I won’t tell you what that reason is. But it’s no good. They better be careful.”

112 people are talking about this

Trump, thoroughly zombified by his neocon manipulators and his Orthodox Jewish, settler-friendly Likudnik son-in-law, doesn’t realize uranium enrichment at the current level—more than 85 percent below what is needed to make an effective nuclear bomb—is at best useful for nuclear power plant fuel. 

But you wouldn’t know this if you’re the average headline skimmer. The neocons and Israel want you to believe Iran will have a thermo-nuke tomorrow and will immediately target Israel and US “assets” in the Middle East.

The propaganda is working, even though a majority of Americans, according to corporate polls, support the nuclear deal. At the same time, they believe Iran is a threat to America, never mind there is zero evidence of this.

In fact, the opposite is true: the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia are a threat to Iran.

But then most Americans are not very good at history and really don’t show much interest in truth, preferring instead to skim deceptive corporate media headlines on social media between episodes of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.

*

Note to readers: please click the share buttons above or below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

This article was originally published on the author’s blog site: Another Day in the Empire.

Kurt Nimmo is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Voices from Syria’s Rukban Refugee Camp Belie Corporate Media Reporting

Global Research, July 05, 2019
MintPress News 4 July 2019

Eva Bartlett visited refugees in Syria escaping the horrid conditions in the Rukban Refugee Camp, a desolate outpost in the US administered deconfliction zone. What she found was very different than the ‘reality’ depicted by the Western press.

***

A little over a year ago — just after the Syrian army and its allies liberated the towns and villages around eastern Ghouta from the myriad armed jihadist groups that had waged a brutal campaign of torture and executions in the area — I interviewed a number of the civilians that had endured life under jihadist rule in Douma, Kafr Batna and the Horjilleh Center for Displaced People just south of Damascus.

A common theme emerged from the testimonies of those civilians: starvation as a result of jihadist control over aid and food supplies, and the public execution of civilians.

Their testimonies echoed those of civilians in other areas of Syria formerly occupied by armed anti-government groups, from Madaya and al-Waer to eastern Aleppo and elsewhere.

Despite those testimonies and the reality on the ground, Western politicians and media alike have placed the blame for the starvation and suffering of Syrian civilians squarely on the shoulders of Russia and Syria, ignoring the culpability of terrorist groups.

In reality, terrorist groups operating within areas of Syria that they occupy have had full control over food and aid, and ample documentation shows that they have hoarded food and medicines for themselves. Even under better circumstances, terrorist groups charged hungry civilians grotesquely inflated prices for basic foods, sometimes demanding up to 8,000 Syrian pounds (US $16) for a kilogram of salt, and 3,000 pounds (US $6) for a bag of bread.

Given the Western press’ obsessive coverage of the starvation and lack of medical care endured by Syrian civilians, its silence has been deafening in the case of Rukban — a desolate refugee camp in Syria’s southeast where conditions are appalling to such an extent that civilians have been dying as a result. Coverage has been scant of the successful evacuations of nearly 15,000 of the 40,000 to 60,000 now-former residents of Rukban (numbers vary according to source) to safe havens where they are provided food, shelter and medical care.

Silence about the civilian evacuations from Rukban is likely a result of the fact that those doing the rescuing are the governments of Syria and Russia — and the fact that they have been doing so in the face of increasing levels of opposition from the U.S. government.

A harsh, abusive environment

Rukban lies on Syria’s desolate desert border with Jordan, surrounded by a 55-km deconfliction zone, unilaterally established and enforced by the United States, and little else aside from the American base at al-Tanf, only 25 km away — a base whose presence is illegal under international law.

It is, by all reports, an unbearably harsh environment year-round and residents of the camp have endured abuse by terrorist groups and merchants within the camp, deprived of the very basics of life for many years now.

In February, the UNHCR reported that young girls and women in Rukban have been forced into marriage, some more than once. Their briefing noted:

Many women are terrified to leave their mud homes or tents and to be outside, as there are serious risks of sexual abuse and harassment. Our staff met mothers who keep their daughters indoors, as they are too afraid to let them go to improvised schools.”

The Jordanian government, home to 664,330 registered Syrian refugees, has adamantly refused any responsibility in providing humanitarian assistance to Rukban, arguing that it is a Syrian issue and that keeping its border with Syria closed is a matter of Jordan’s security — this after a number of terrorist attacks on the border near Rukban, some of which were attributed to ISIS and one that killed six Jordanian soldiers.

According to U.S. think-tank The Century Foundation, armed groups in Rukban have up to 4,000 men in their ranks and include:

Maghawir al-Thawra, the Free Tribes Army, the remnants of a formerly Pentagon-backed group called the Qaryatein Martyr Battalions and three factions formerly linked to the CIA’s covert war in Syria: the Army of the Eastern Lions, the Martyr Ahmed al-Abdo Forces, and the Shaam Liberation Army.”

Those armed groups, according to Russia, include several hundred ISIS and al-Qaeda recruits. Even the Atlantic Council — a NATO- and U.S. State Department-funded think-tank consistent in its anti-Syrian government stance — reported in November 2017 that the Jordanian government acknowledged an ISIS presence in Rukban.

The Century Foundation also notes the presence of ISIS in Rukban and concedes that the U.S. military “controls the area but won’t guarantee the safety of aid workers seeking access to the camp.”

Rukban

The Rukban camp, sandwiched between Jordan, Syria borders and Iraq, Feb. 14, 2017. Raad Adayleh | AP

Syria and Russia have sought out diplomatic means to resolve the issue of Rukban, arguing repeatedly at the United Nations Security Council for the need to dismantle the camp and return refugees to areas once plagued by terrorism but that have now been secured.

As I wrote recently:

The U.S. stymied aid to Rukban, and was then only willing to provide security for aid convoys to a point 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) away from the camp, according to the UN’s own Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock. So, by U.S. administration logic, convoys should have dropped their Rukban-specific aid in areas controlled by terrorist groups and just hoped for the best.”

The U.S., for its part, has both refused the evacuation of refugees from the camp and obstructed aid deliveries on at least two occasions. In February, Russia and Syria opened two humanitarian corridors to Rukban and began delivering much-needed aid to its residents.

Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari, noted in May 2019 that Syria agreed to facilitate the first aid convoy to Rukban earlier this year, but the convoy was ultimately delayed by the United States for 40 days. A second convoy was then delayed for four months. Al-Ja’afari also noted that the U.S., as an occupying power in Syria, is obliged under the Geneva Conventions to provide food, medicine and humanitarian assistance to those under its occupation.

Then, in early March, the Russian Center for Reconciliation reported that U.S. authorities had refused entry to a convoy of buses intending to enter the deconfliction zone to evacuate refugees from Rukban.

According to a March 2019 article from Public Radio International:

[W]hen Syrian and Iranian forces have entered the 34-mile perimeter around the base, American warplanes have responded with strikes — effectively putting Rukban and its residents under American protection from Assad’s forces.”

Despite the abundance of obstacles they faced, Syria and Russia were ultimately able to evacuate over 14,000 of the camp’s residents to safety. In a joint statement on June 19, representatives of the two countries noted that some of the camp’s residents were forced to pay “militants” between $400 to $1000 in order to leave Rukban.

Media reports on Rukban … from abroad

While Rukban — unlike Madaya or Aleppo in 2016 — generally isn’t making headlines, there are some pro-regime-change media reporting on it, although even those reports tend to omit the fact that civilians have been evacuated to safety and provided with food and medical care.

Instead, articles relieve America and armed Jihadist groups of their role in the suffering of displaced Syrians in Rukban, reserving blame for Syria and Russia and claiming internal refugees are being forced to leave against their will only to be imprisoned by the Syrian government.

Emad Ghali, a “media activist,” has been at the center of many of these claims. Ghali has been cited as a credible source in most of the mainstream Western press’ reporting on Rukban, from the New York Times, to Al Jazeera, to the Middle East Eye. Cited since at least 2018 in media reporting on Rukban, Ghali has an allegiance to the Free Syrian Army, a fact easily gleaned by simply browsing his Facebook profile. He recently posted multiple times on Facebook mourning the passing of jihadist commander and footballer Abdul Baset al-Sarout. As it turns out, Sarout not only held extremist and sectarian views, but pledged allegiance to ISIS, among other less-than-noble acts ignored by most media reports that cite him.

Ghali ISIS

Ghali paid homage to ISIS commander Abdul Baset al-Sarout on his Facebook page

Citing Ghali as merely a “media activist” is not an unusual practice for many covering the Syrian conflict. In fact, Ghali holds the same level of extremist-minded views as the “sources” cited by the New York Times in articles that I reported on around the time Ghouta was being liberated from jihadist groups in 2018.

Four sources used in those articles had affiliations to, and/or reverence for the al-Qaeda-linked Jaysh al-Islam — including the former leader Zahran Alloush who has been known to confine civilians in cages, including women and children, for use as human shields in Ghouta — Faylaq al-Rahman, and even to al-Qaeda, not to mention the so-called Emir of al-Qaeda in Syria, the applauded Abu Muhammad Al-Julani.

Claims in a Reuters article of forced internment, being held at gunpoint in refugee centers, come from sources not named in Rukban — instead generically referred to as “residents of Rukban say”…

An article in the UAE-based The National also pushed fear-mongering over the “fate that awaits” evacuees, saying:

[T]here is talk of Syrian government guards separating women and children from men in holding centres in Homs city.There are also accusations of a shooting last month, with two men who had attempted an escape from one of the holding centres allegedly killed. The stories are unconfirmed, but they are enough to make Rukban’s men wary of taking the government’s route out.”

Yet reports from those who have actually visited the centers paint a different picture.

An April 2019 report by Russia-based Vesti News shows calm scenes of Rukban evacuees receiving medical exams by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, who according to Vesti, have doctors there every day; and of food and clean, if not simple, rooms in a former school housing displaced refugees from Rukban. Notably, the Vesti journalist states: “There aren’t any checkpoints or barriers at the centre. The entrance and exit are free.”

The Russian Reconciliation Center reported on May 23 of the refugee centers:

In early May, these shelters were visited by officials from the respective UN agencies, in particular, the UNHCR, who could personally see that the Syrian government provided the required level of accommodation for the refugees in Homs. It is remarkable that most of the former Rukban residents have already relocated from temporary shelters in Homs to permanent residencies in government-controlled areas.”

Likewise, in the Horjilleh Center which I visited in 2018 families were living in modest but sanitary shelters, cooked food was provided, a school was running, and authorities were working to replace identity papers lost during the years under the rule of jihadist groups.

Calling on the U.S. to close the camp

David Swanson, Public Information Officer Regional Office for the Syria Crisis UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs based in Amman, Jordan, told me regarding claims of substandard conditions and of Syrians being forcefully held or mistreated in the centers that,

People leaving Rukban are taken to temporary collective shelters in Homs for a 24-hour stay. While there, they receive basic assistance, including shelter, blankets, mattresses, solar lamps, sleeping mats, plastic sheets, food parcels and nutrition supplies before proceeding to their areas of choice, mostly towards southern and eastern Homs, with small numbers going to rural Damascus or Deir-ez-Zor.

The United Nations has been granted access to the shelters on three occasions and has found the situation there adequate. The United Nations continues to advocate and call for safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian assistance and access to Rukban as well as to all those in need throughout Syria. The United Nations also seeks the support of all concerned parties in ensuring the humanitarian and voluntary character of departures from Rukban.”

Hedinn Halldorsson, the Spokesperson and Public Information Officer for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) based in Damascus, told me:

We looked into this when the rumours started, end of April, and concluded they were unfounded – and communicated that externally via press briefings in both Geneva and NY. The conditions in the shelters in Homs are also adequate and in compliance with standards; the UN has access and has done three monitoring visits so far.”

Syria Rukban

Syrian Arab Red Crescent members unload food and water for Rukban’s evacuees. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Halldorsson noted official UN statements, including:

“Alleged mistreatment of Rukban returnees

  • The United Nations is aware of media reports about people leaving Rukban having been killed or subject to mistreatment upon arrival in shelters in Homs.
  • The United Nations has not been able to confirm any of the allegations.

Regarding the issue of shelters, Halldorsson noted that as of July 1st:

  • Nearly 15,600 people have left Rukban since March – or nearly 40 per cent of the estimated total population of 41,700.
  • The United Nations has been granted access to the shelters in Homs on three occasions and found conditions in these shelters to be adequate.”

Confirming both UN officials’ statements about the Syrian government’s role in Rukban, the Syrian Mission to the United Nations in New York City told me:

The Syrian Government has spared no effort in recent years to provide every form of humanitarian assistance and support to all Syrians affected by the crisis, regardless of their locations throughout Syria. The Syrian Government has therefore collaborated and cooperated with the United Nations and other international organizations working in Syria to that end, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 46/182.

There must be an end to the suffering of tens of thousands of civilians who live in Al-Rukban, an area which is controlled by illegitimate foreign forces and armed terrorist groups affiliated with them. The continued suffering of those Syrian civilians demonstrates the indifference of the United States Administration to their suffering and disastrous situation.

We stress once again that there is a need to put an end to the suffering of these civilians and to close this camp definitively. The detained people in the camp must be allowed to leave it and return to their homes, which have been liberated by the Syrian Arab Army from terrorism. We note that the Syrian Government has taken all necessary measures to evacuate the detainees from the Rukban camp and end their suffering. What is needed today is for the American occupation forces to allow the camp to be dismantled and to ensure safe transportation in the occupied Al-Tanf area.”

Given that the United States has clearly demonstrated not only a lack of will to aid and or resettle Rukban’s residents but a callousness that flies in the face of their purported concern for Syrians in Rukban, the words of Syrian and Russian authorities on how to solve the crisis in Rukban could not ring truer.

Very little actual coverage

The sparse coverage Rukban has received has mostly revolved around accusations that the camp’s civilians fear returning to government-secured areas of Syria for fear of being imprisoned or tortured. This, in spite of the fact that areas brought back under government control over the years have seen hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians return to live in peace and of a confirmation by the United Nations that they had “positively assessed the conditions created by the Syrian authorities for returning refugees.”

The accusations also come in spite of the fact that, for years now, millions of internally displaced Syrians have taken shelter in government areas, often housed and given medical care by Syrian authorities.

Over the years I’ve found myself waiting for well over a month for my journalist visa at the Syrian embassy in Beirut to clear. During these times I traveled around Lebanon where I’ve encountered Syrians who left their country either for work, the main reason, or because their neighborhoods were occupied by terrorist groups. All expressed a longing for Syria and a desire to return home.

In March, journalist Sharmine Narwani tweeted in part that,

the head of UNDP in Lebanon told me during an interview: ‘I have not met a single Syrian refugee who does not want to go home.’”

Of the authors who penned articles claiming that Syrians in Rukban are afraid to return to government-secured areas of Syria, few that I’m aware of actually traveled to Syria to speak with evacuees, instead reporting from Istanbul or even further abroad.

On June 12, I did just that, hiring a taxi to take me to a dusty stretch of road roughly 60 km east of ad-Dumayr, Syria, where I was able to intercept a convoy of buses ferrying exhausted refugees out of Rukban.

Merchants, armed groups and Americans

Five hundred meters from a fork in the highway connecting a road heading northeast to Tadmur (Palmyra) to another heading southeast towards Iraq — I waited at a nondescript stopping point called al-Waha, where buses stopped for water and food to be distributed to starving refugees. In Arabic, al-Waha means the oasis and, although only a makeshift Red Crescent distribution center, and compared to Rukban it might as well have been an oasis.

A convoy of 18 buses carrying nearly 900 tormented Syrians followed by a line of trucks carrying their belongings were transferred to refugee reception centers in Homs. Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent distributed boxes containing beans, chickpeas and canned meat — the latter a scarcity among the displaced.

Rukban evacuation

Buses transported nearly 900 refugees from Rukban Camp to temporary shelters in Homs on June 12. Photo | Eva Bartlett

As food and water were handed out, I moved from bus to bus speaking with people who endured years-long shortages of food, medicine, clean water, work and education … the basic essentials of life. Most people I spoke to said they were starving because they couldn’t afford the hefty prices of food in the camp, which they blamed on Rukban’s merchants. Some blamed the terrorist groups operating in the camp and still others blamed the Americans. A few women I spoke to blamed the Syrian government, saying no aid had entered Rukban at all, a claim that would later be refuted by reports from both the UN and Red Crescent.

Image on the right: An elderly woman recounted enduring hunger in Rukban. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Syria Rukban

An old woman slumped on the floor of one bus recounted:

We were dying of hunger, life was hell there. Traders [merchants] sold everything at high prices, very expensive; we couldn’t afford to buy things. We tried to leave before today but we didn’t have money to pay for a car out. There were no doctors; it was horrible there.”

Aboard another bus, an older woman sat on the floor, two young women and several babies around her. She had spent four years in the camp:

“Everything was expensive, we were hungry all the time. We ate bread, za’atar, yogurt… We didn’t know meat, fruit…”

Merchants charged 1,000 Syrian pounds (US $2) for five potatoes, she said, exemplifying the absurdly high prices.

I asked whether she’d been prevented from leaving before. “Yes,” she responded.

She didn’t get a chance to elaborate as a younger woman further back on the bus shouted at her that no one had been preventing anyone from leaving. When I asked the younger woman how the armed groups had treated her, she replied, “All respect to them.”

But others that I spoke to were explicit in their blame for both the terrorist groups operating in the camp and the U.S. occupation forces in al-Tanf.

An older man from Palmyra who spent four years in the camp spoke of “armed gangs” paid in U.S. dollars being the only ones able to eat properly:

The armed gangs were living while the rest of the people were dead. No one here had fruit for several years. Those who wanted fruit have to pay in U.S. dollars. The armed groups were the only ones who could do so. They were spreading propaganda: ‘don’t go, the aid is coming.’ We do not want aid. We want to go back to our towns.”

Mahmoud Saleh, a young man from Homs, told me he’d fled home five years ago. According to Saleh, the Americans were in control of Rukban. He also put blame on the armed groups operating in the camp, especially for controlling who was permitted to leave. He said,

“There are two other convoys trying to leave but the armed groups are preventing them.”

Image below: Mahmoud Saleh from Homs said the Americans control Rukban and blamed armed groups in the camp for controlling who could leave. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Syria Rukban

A shepherd who had spent three years in Rukban blamed “terrorists” for not being able to leave. He also blamed the United States:

“Those controlling Tanf wouldn’t let us leave, the Americans wouldn’t let us leave.”

Many others I spoke to said they had wanted to leave before but were fear-mongered by terrorists into staying, told they would be “slaughtered by the regime,” a claim parroted by many in the Western press when Aleppo and other areas of Syria were being liberated from armed groups.

The testimonies I heard when speaking to Rukban evacuees radically differed from the claims made in most of the Western press’ reporting about Syria’s treatment of refugees. These testimonies are not only corroborated by Syrian and Russian authorities, but also by the United Nations itself.

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Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and occupied Palestine, where she lived for nearly four years. She is a recipient of the 2017 International Journalism Award for International Reporting, granted by the Mexican Journalists’ Press Club (founded in 1951), was the first recipient of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism, and was short-listed in 2017 for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. See her extended bio on her blog In Gaza. She tweets at @EvaKBartlett

Featured image:  An elderly women evacuated from Rukban complained of hunger due to extremely high food prices. Photo | Eva Bartlett

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