PALESTINE, SYRIA, WHITE HELMETS AND BANA AL-ABED – TAREQ HADDAD SPEAKS TO EVA BARTLETT

Eva Bartlett

CONTACT INFO: evakbartlett2017@gmail.com

An independent writer and rights activist with extensive experience in Syria and in the Gaza Strip, where she lived a cumulative three years (from late 2008 to early 2013). 

Very pleased to have been a guest on the program “Conversations”, hosted by courageous and principled journalist Tareq Haddad.

He writes:

“Former Newsweek journalist Tareq Haddad speaks to Eva Bartlett, an award-winning independent journalist and activist. They discuss Eva’s early history, including her early days in Gaza and the West Bank, and how she transitioned into journalism in addition to addressing the large backlash and smears she faced.”

Please consider supporting his podcast:https://www.patreon.com/tareqhaddad

https://www.paypal.me/tareqhaddad

Also, support his share of the podcast on Twitter.

CONVERSATION-RELATED LINKS:

A Personal Reply to the Fact-Challenged Smears of Terrorist-Whitewashing Channel 4, Snopes and La Presse

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Stealing Palestinian Land in Susiya [August 2007 post from Susiya, occupied Palestine]

Susiya Grandfather Under Attack by Illegal Colonists [September 2007]

Introducing Susiya: a beautiful landscape marred by illegal colonists [September 2007]

Further Susiya posts

Nablus After the Israeli Military Invasion [July 2007]

Breaking Fast Under “Curfew” (Lockdown) [October 2007]

Collective Punishment in Balata and Nablus [November 2007]

Azzoun: village under israeli assault and lockdown [December 2007]

My 2007 posts from occupied Palestine

Personal Reflections from occupied Palestine

Overview of what I witnessed in the West Bank, occupied Palestine

Free Gaza Movement [which sent 5 boat trips to Gaza in 2008]

November 2008 boat to Gaza: how I got to Gaza

*GAZA MASSACRE (2008/9):

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December 2008 posts (scroll down)

January 2009 posts (scroll though)

February 2009 follow-up posts

videos

Israel’s widespread use of White Phosphorous:

White phosphorous mutilated and murdered family members [photos and video]

“next time it will hurt more”: Israeli threat against surviving family members of White Phosphorous attack [follow-up on the family I met in Shifa hospital]-the attacked Wafa rehabilitation hospital

Long-burning fires: White Phosphorous on Sheikh RajleenDocumenting Israel’s use of White Phosphorous and widespread destruction

some of the Israeli war crimes:

widespread attacks on Gaza leave nearly 300 dead, hundreds seriously injured (start of the war on Gaza)

Israeli army kills Palestinian medic with dart bombIsraeli Sniper Targets Uniformed Medics: what I witnessed in Gaza

Another funeral bombedShifa ICU: a glimpse of hospital critical injuriesinjured, denied access: Israeli soldiers shoot woman in stomach and keep elderly hostages

While eating chips and chocolate, Israeli soldiers assassinate 2 and 7 year old“They killed me three times”: Palestinian father on Israeli army murder of family members including infant girl

All we’ve got left of him: parents speak of their Israeli-drone-struck youthBurning al Quds: one of Gaza’s remaining functional hospitals bombed in Israel’s war on Gaza

Updates from runs with medics; grief of husband of drone-struck womanIsrael bombed the news building I was in

Israel’s ceasefire violations:

It’s a ceasefire…just not on the beach, not in your home: Israeli soldier shoots 7 year old boy in head;

Continued Israeli shelling, F-16s and drones after the ceasefire

*GAZA MASSACRE 2012:

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Gaza under israeli bombs: day 6 since Nov 14

Killing before the Calm: Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Civilians Escalated before Cease-fire

Zionist drones and warplanes pollute Gaza’s skies immediately after 9 pm “cease-fire” [VIDEO]

Israeli Soldiers Fail to Cease Firing on Palestinian FarmersThe Flattening of Gaza [with photos]

The Civilian Toll of Israel’s BombsAfter the Zionist bombing stopped (again)

*OTHER GAZA LINKS:

Observations from Occupied Palestine: Gaza [many links within this article]-213 Palestinians murdered by Israeli soldiers during Great March of Return, with 36,134 injured (including being shot in the eye) since the demonstrations began on 30 March 2018, according to OCHA as of January 23, 2020.
UN predictions fall short: Gaza uninhabitable todayDirty Tricks: Israeli Soldiers Shoot Deaf Palestinian Farmer, 4th Farmer Shot in 3 weeks

*SYRIA RELATED LINKS:

-on the Guardian White-washing the White Helmets: How the Mainstream Media Whitewashed Al-Qaeda and the White Helmets in Syria

*on (some of) the BBC lies/war propaganda on Syria:Fabrication in BBC Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children’

From my “Absurdities of Syrian war propaganda“:

“In April 2014, after an elementary school was mortared by terrorists east of Damascus, killing one child, the BBC later reported, “the government is also accused of launching them into neighborhoods under its control.” On a recent social media post, I noted this deceitful journalism, and the BBC could have easily learned about the trajectory of mortars and from where the mortar in question could only have come: the “moderates” east of Damascus.”

*Other examples of Western media lies on Syria:

US to grant $35 million to promote its fake news bubble in Syria & control local media

‘They know that we know they are liars, they keep lying’: West’s war propaganda on Ghouta crescendos

Faked concern: Haley & corporate media bleating about Idlib civilians, ignore terrorists’ presence

Organ theft, staged attacks: UN panel details White Helmets’ criminal activities, media yawns

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

MintPress Meets The Father Of Iconic Aleppo Boy, Who Says Media Lied About His Son

–From my “Exploitation of children in propaganda war against Syria continues“:

“In November 2014, a clip dubbed ‘Syrian hero boy’ went viral, viewed over 5 million times already by mid-November. The clip showed what appeared to be a little boy saving his sister from sniper gunfire, and was assumed to have been in Syria.
The Telegraph’s Josie Ensor didn’t wait for any sort of verification of the video which she cited as having been uploaded on November 10, the next day writing“…it is thought the incident took place in Yabroud – a town near the Lebanese border which was the last stronghold of the moderate Free Syrian Army. Experts tell the paper they have no reason to doubt its authenticity. The UN has previously accused the Syrian regime of ‘crimes against humanity’ – including the use of snipers against small children.”

On November 14, the BBC brought on ‘Middle East specialist’ Amira Galal to give her expert opinion on the clip. She asserted“We can definitely say that it is Syria, and we can definitely say that it’s probably on the regime frontlines. We see in the footage that there is a barrel, it’s painted on it the Syrian army flag.”

Once again, the so-called ‘experts’ got it wrong. The barrel which Galal referred to had a poor imitation of the flag of Syria painted on it, the flag’s color sequence out of order. The clip she was so certain had been filmed in government areas of Syria was actually produced in Malta by Norwegian filmmakers.”–Guardian, Atlantic contributor acts as a Syrian terrorist mouthpiece on Twitter, and if you don’t like it you’re a Russian stooge

*on Syrian elections 2014:

what I saw/heard at Syrian embassy in Beirut: Syrians Flock to Vote in LebanonSelection of articles on the elections (and terrorist attacks)-From my: “US-Backed Terrorism in Syria: A First-Hand Account of the Use of Mortars Against Civilians“:

“…in the three-month period of April, May and June 2014, terrorist-insurgents fired 994 mortars on Damascus and environs, 426 of which were fired in June (see list of locations hit and number of mortars below). On June 3, Election Day in Syria, the terrorist-insurgents fired 151 shells on Damascus, killing 5 and maiming 33 Syrians…”-A week after the elections, Syrians celebrating outcome in Homs*My 2014 reports from Homs & Maaloula:-from my “Liberated Homs Residents Challenge Notion of “Revolution””

“…Abu Nabeel explained that the insurgents mined the area before leaving. “They left booby-trapped explosives in the houses, all over, even behind paintings on the wall.”

In the courtyard of the Jesuit church sat a lone plastic chair adorned with flowers and a photo of Father Frans van der Lugt, the Jesuit priest assassinated on April 7, 2014.

Nazim Kanawati, who knew and respected the Jesuit, arrived moments after the 75-year-old priest had been shot in the back of the head.” We were surrounded and under siege. This was the only place we could go to. Everyone loved it here,” he said.

“Father Frans was a peace-maker and played an important role in arranging the evacuation of civilians from the Old City during the siege. He was trusted by both sides, and didn’t distinguish between Christians and Muslims. He was concerned with humanity.”

…Although he chose to stay in the Old City, Father Frans was critical of the insurgents. In January 2012, he had written: “From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”

“People in Homs were already armed and prepared before the protests began,” said Kanawati. “If they hadn’t been planning for the protests from the beginning, the people wouldn’t have had the quantity of arms that they had.”

…No one expected the priest himself to be killed, Kanawati attested. “Someone who was probably in his twenties came here, his face covered, came and ordered Father Frans to go with him. Father Frans refused. So the man told him to sit on this chair, and shot him in the head.”Abu Nabeel added another piece of information regarding van der Lugt’s murder.

“Three or four days before Father Frans was killed, the Syrian army had targeted a vehicle filled with explosives, which the insurgents were planning to send into the city. Many of the insurgent leaders killed were less extreme that the foreign insurgents, and had been protecting the church. After their deaths, the other insurgents went to the church and demanded Father Frans hand over the valuables residents in the area had left with him for safe-keeping. He refused, so they killed him.”

Mohammed, a Syrian from the Qussoor district of Homs, is now one of the reported 6.5 million internally-displaced Syrians.

“I’m a refugee in Latakia now. I work in Homs, two days a week, and then return to Latakia to stay at my friend’s home. I left my house at the very end of 2011, before the area was taken over by al-Nusra and al-Farooq brigades.”

He spoke of the sectarian nature of the insurgents and protests from the very beginning in 2011.

“I was renting a home in a different neighbourhood of Homs, while renovating my own house. Just beyond my balcony there were protests that did not call for ‘freedom’ or even overthrowing the ‘regime’.They chanted sectarian mottos, they said they would fill al-Zahara – an Alawi neighbourhood – with blood. And also al-Nezha – where there are many Alawis and Christians.”

“My aunt lives in another neighbourhood nearby. She’s Allawi and her husband is Sunni. Because she is Allawi, the ‘rebels’ wanted to kill her two sons. I chose Bashar al-Assad, so they said, ‘we will kill you, because you chose him.’”

The windows and door handle to the home of Aymen and Zeinat al-Akhras were missing, but the house itself was intact. Zeinat, a pharmacist, and Aymen, a chemical engineer, survived the presence of the armed men and the resulting siege on the Old City.

Every space in their small sitting was filled with the books and boxes fleeing family and neighbours, entrusted to the Akhras siblings who chose to weather the storm.

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…“I dropped to 34 kilos. Aymen told me to weigh myself. I got on the scale and said, ‘What’s 34 kilos?’. A ten-year-old weighs more than that! And Aymen was 43 kilos. For a man, 43 kilos,” she said laughing.

…“Thirty-eight times they came to steal our food. The first couple of times, they knocked on the door, after that they just entered with guns. The last things they took were our dried peas, our cracked wheat, our olives, finally our za’atar (wild thyme). We started to eat grass and whatever greens we could find in February, 2014, and that’s all we had till Homs was liberated,” Zeinat said.“The last time they came all we had were some spices. I was putting the spices on the grass and weeds that we were eating at that point, to give them some flavour. They even took the spices. They didn’t leave us anything…”–Devastation…and Inspiration: Recalling Liberated Ma’loula[2016 article: Overcoming Savagery and Treachery, Maaloula’s Heroic Defenders Fight for the Future ][2018 article: Damascus Trade Fair and Festival of the Cross Mark the Return of Peace to Much of Syria ]-Regarding Zahra’a (Homs) terrorist attacks: Where is the West’s compassion & condemnation following terror attacks in Middle East?On hospitals being bombed in Syria, and those not

*On Douma/Ghouta Chemical Hoax, and Reality of Life Under Terrorist Rule:

No attack, no victims, no chem weapons: Douma witnesses speak at OPCW briefing at The Hague (VIDEO)

Real ‘obscene masquerade’: How BBC depicted staged hospital scenes as proof of Douma chemical attack

Syrian civilians from ground zero expose chemical hoaxTorture, starvation, executions: Eastern Ghouta civilians talk of life under terrorist rule

Lies, Newsweek and Control of the Media Narrative: First-Hand Account, by Tareq Haddad

‘Brazen disinformation’: Syria narrative managers defend Douma chemical weapon hoax as OPCW comes under attack

Worst lie since fake claim sparked Iraq war? OPCW report behind Syria bombings was altered, whistleblower tells UNSC

Twitter thread on OPCW revelationsUN On Khan Sheikhoun – Victims Hospitalized BEFORE Claimed Incident Happened

US TO GRANT $35 MILLION TO PROMOTE ITS FAKE NEWS BUBBLE IN SYRIA & CONTROL LOCAL MEDIA

Fake News Media

January 24, 2020, RT.comAlthough Western media has a shoddy track record of lying on Syria (and Libya, Iraq…), the US State Department will pump $35 million more into future war propaganda on Syria, under the guise of promoting honest reporting. 

A US State Department grant, “Support for Independent Media in Syria,” is unabashed in stating one of its main goals is “to advance U.S. Government policy objectives in Syria.”

That is probably the sole honest clause in the grant description: that it is in the end about US self-serving, hegemonic objectives in Syria.

The description goes on to claim these goals include the defeat of ISIS—although the illegal US-led coalition has attacked Syrian army positions on numerous occasions, ensuring the advance (not defeat) of ISIS in those areas. One of the most glaring instances being the September 2016 repeated attacks on the Syrian army in Deir ez-Zor province, which saw ISIS take over the region.

The US assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, recognized in the region as the man responsible for the near-defeat of ISIS, is another notable example of the US goals being to prolong, not defeat, ISIS in the region.

With their grant, the US plans to “advance human rights and promote tolerance and dialogue between ethnic and religious communities,” which is again morbidly laughable given that the US has been supporting wahhabi and other extremists whose human rights track records include caging, torturing, raping, and starving civilians, and public executions.

It wouldn’t be American policy if the State Department grant didn’t include mention of countering “Russian disinformation” and ending the presence of “Iranian forces and proxies in Syria.”

However, removing Iranian forces isn’t within America’s right to do; Syria invited Iran, Russia and other allies to actually fight terrorism in Syria, as opposed to the US-led occupation forces. And as discussed, it isn’t Russia that has the track record of disinfo on Syria, that honour goes to America and allies.

Western outlets in chorus promoted the accusations of Syria/Russia preventing food and aid into eastern Aleppo (even Reuters reported“rebels” had stockpiled aid) and Madaya and eastern Ghouta (none was true).

Western media sold the story of Russia/Syria bombing the home of Omran Daqneesh (didn’t happen), of the al-Quds hospital being “reduced to rubble” by Russian/Syrian bombing (didn’t happen), and a litany of other grotesque war propaganda stories.

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[READ: MintPress Meets The Father Of Iconic Aleppo Boy, Who Says Media Lied About His Son ]

[READ: Absurdities of Syrian war propaganda ]

Suddenly we’re meant to find credible journalists who embed with al-Qaeda and whitewash their crimes, and media which have on many occasions used photos not even in Syria to accompany sensationalist war propaganda stories. 

CNN and western media got it wrong about Omran Daqneesh, but I haven’t even seen any retractions for this lie.

And yet the US wants people to believe that the independent voices and Russian and Syrian media who actually reported factually and honestly on these and other issues…are not credible. 

The US wants people to live in a fake news bubble, where the narratives are controlled by the war mongers. And, strangely, America seemingly wants Syrians to be subjected to media that reports opposite of the reality they are living. As if after nine years of enduring Western (and Gulf) media’s lies Syrians will suddenly believe them and decide to overthrow the president they elected (and support)? America is grasping at straws…

The OPCW Truth Bombs

Western nations accuse Russia of disinformation around whether Syria used a chemical weapon in Douma, eastern Ghouta.

In April 2018, Western media pounced on and promoted the White Helmets’ lies, shedding crocodile tears over civilians allegedly exposed to a chemical agent, at the same time ignoring or mocking the testimonies of 17 Syrians from Douma (including the boy starring in the White Helmets’ hoax video). 

Turns out the body tasked to examine this accusation omitted from its final report key findings that poke massive holes in the (West’s) official narrative around Douma. Not one, but many revelations have been leaked about the critical omissions of the OPCW  report. 

The only ones taking this seriously are mainly Russia, Syria and independent researchers. In the face of these recent revelations, most Western media have largely thus far been silent.

Similarly, Western media didn’t cover the December 2018 panel detailing damning findings on the White Helmets’ association (and membership) with terrorist groups in Syria, and their involvement in staging chemical attacks and in organ harvesting…

[READ: Organ theft, staged attacks: UN panel details White Helmets’ criminal activities, media yawns ]

In the State Department’s quest for truthful reporting, one of the issues to be protected seemingly at all costs is of course the White Helmets (and the chemical hoaxes they help stage).

Anyone who has seriously researched the White Helmets, much less bothered to interview Syrian civilians about the fake rescue group, knows their footage and claims are as credible as the words of nurse Nayirah, Colin Powell, or the entries of Wikipedia.

Journalists who bothered to interview medical staff in Douma following the chemical hoax were told that doctors were treating patients with normal wartime injuries when “strangers” (including White Helmets members) entered yelling about a chemical attack, creating a panic (and demonstrating a lack of medical skills), and filming the scene with then 11 year old Hassan Diab.

[READ: Syrian civilians from ground zero expose chemical hoax ]

Diab was one of the Syrians dismissed by western media when he testified to the OPCW that he had not been subject to a chemical attack but had been used by the White Helmets. For Western media, only some children are credible (exploited)…when it suits their narrative.

One such youth, Muhammad, gained notoriety when eastern Ghouta was being liberated. Like the Aleppo child Bana before him, the Ghouta teen had an account in his name on Twitter (the dodgy logistics of which I raised in my last article) and was busy parroting the accusations.

Incidentally, Ghouta (to the silence of media which claimed concern in 2018) is rebuilding, in peace.

In any case, I get the feeling people are tired of lying Western media, chemical hoaxes and the antics of the White Helmets. I certainly see propaganda apologists getting called out on Twitter more than prior, and people are extremely skeptical of chemical weapons accusations.

As Vassily Nebenzia said of the OPCW official report on Douma: “Humpty-Dumpty, as we know, “sat on a wall, had a great fall and all the king’s horses, all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again”. I mean, that is exactly what happened to FFM report. Exactly.”

RELATED:

‘Truth is the 1st casualty of war’: Syria’s East Ghouta battleground distorted by MSM propaganda 

‘Brazen disinformation’: Syria narrative managers defend Douma chemical weapon hoax as OPCW comes under attack

Torture, starvation, executions: Eastern Ghouta civilians talk of life under terrorist rule 

THOMAS RÖPER ON HIS “ANTI-SPIEGEL” WRITINGS, AND ON LIFE IN RUSSIA VS. RUSSOPHOBIC STEREOTYPES

Thomas Röper is the creator of the Anti-Spiegel, a website that examines content produced by the German news site Der Spiegel for lies or misinformation.
We discuss his work, and also life in Russia, where he has lived for over 20 years.
Worthwhile listening for those wondering if perhaps the 24/7 anti-Russia rhetoric emanating from Western media and political figures might just be a bunch of nonsense.

*Apologies for the tech problems in first half, getting accustomed to the recording program.*

Follow Thomas’ work at the following links:

https://www.anti-spiegel.ru/https://twitter.com/SpiegelAnti

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC93mqUPbNmHZhl4fAVvZWpQ

CONVERSATION-RELATED LINKS:-Why I was in a police station filing a complaint:“Canadian journalist critical of protests attacked by Foreigner (American?) with anti-Russian slogans”

The dialectic of the Moscow Protests Hoax‘Fancy’ coups: US-backed workshops exposed as revolution masterclasses [VIDEO]–«Почувствовать себя в игре»: как организуют протесты в МосквеThe Interference of the West in the Affairs of Russia Through the Moscow City Duma Election

Twitter has been on a narrative-control rampage, removing or censoring legitimate accounts that are critical of US-led wars, propaganda and lies. Facebook and Instagram have increased their Big Brother policing, too.

anuary 17, 2020, RT.com

-by Eva K Bartlett

Twitter has been on a narrative-control rampage, removing or censoring legitimate accounts that are critical of US-led wars, propaganda and lies. Facebook and Instagram have increased their Big Brother policing, too.

Attempts by American-based social media behemoths to silence or censor voices critical of the establishment-approved narrative is nothing new, but this trend seems to have intensified lately. 

Just in the past several days, following the criminal US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, Instagram and Facebook have been removing posts supportive of Soleimani, even profile photos honouring the general, allegedly to comply with US sanctions, a truly absurd explanation for the narrative control.

On January 7, it was reported that Twitter had suspended numerous Venezuelan accounts, including those of the central bank, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, public media, political leaders, the Finance & Oil ministries.

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*Tweet here

It returned to normal some days later but, at the start of January, the account was again no longer available. Admin used a backup account with a dramatically smaller following and, although after about a week—and many Twitter protests later—the account was again restored, it has not since tweeted and thus appears to be restricted.

In mid-2019, the account of the Russian embassy in Syria disappeared not long after tweeting about the White Helmets, terrorists, and war propaganda. This, again, begged the question of what ‘Twitter rules’ had been violated.

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*Tweet here

These aren’t some isolated incidents, they’re part of a systematic purging by the NATO-aligned social media corporations who bleat about alleged “Russian propaganda” but are themselves the (transparently poor) masters of propaganda.

Many anti-war voices have been scrubbed from Twitter and Facebook, including the prominent anti-war voice of Daniel McAdams – Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity– who was banned from Twitter for using the word “retarded” to describe a Fox News host, something I’m sure many people would think an insufficient and mild description of such corporate media entities…

Accounts Calling For Genocide A-Okay on Twitter

While accounts like McAdams’ are taken down allegedly for reasons of political correctness, other accounts can call for genocide and destruction with no repercussions.

Take the rather no-name lobbyist Jack Burkman, who, after the US assassination of Iran’s beloved General Soleimani, tweeted about the “need to burn every major Iranian city to the ground.” His tweet actually included “Load up the [chemical weapon] napalm.

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On several more occasions, Burkman tweeted about destroying Iran, including his tweet on the firebombing of Dresden and his desire to “replicate the campaign against Iran.” Some of those tweets have been removed, but his account remains active, without restrictions, as though he hadn’t violated Twitter rules on multiple occasions.

Then there is the President of the United States, who, after having General Soleimani illegally assassinated, went on to threaten to destroy 52 Iranian cultural sites. That tweet remains up on Twitter, in spite of surely violating rules on threatening violence (and not only against a person but a nation). I mean, most normal people consider threatening to destroy places somewhat violent.

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*Tweet here

On the other hand, allegations about genocide risk being censored, as happened to Mint Press News’ editor in chief, Mnar Muhawesh, whose video on the US-Saudi led war on Yemen was deemed “child nudity” by Facebook.

Muhawesh protested: “This is false. Images show skeleton, dying children wearing diapers.”mn

*Tweet here

Terrorist Accounts, Exploited Children, And More Twitter Restrictions

Accounts abound on Twitter and Facebook that are openly supportive of suicide bombers, ISIS and al-Qaeda.

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*Tweet here

I’ve found Western corporate journalists citing terrorist-supporting accounts as “media activists” in areas militarily surrounded by the Syrian army, as was the case when eastern Ghouta was being liberated, although the ‘activists’ allegiance to Jaysh al-Islam and al-Qaeda was easily identified.

[READ: ‘They know that we know they are liars, they keep lying’: West’s war propaganda on Ghouta crescendo ]

And there are accounts representing the terrorists themselves, whose graphic content certainly ought to be deemed violations of Twitter’s rules, yet so many of these accounts remain intact.

Twitter serves as a platform for war propaganda, that’s fairly clear. But there’s a point that some people might not know about Twitter and Syria: Twitter doesn’t recognize the Syrian country code, thus you’d need a non-Syrian phone number to open an account.

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*Tweet here

So how do all these poster children like Bana al-Abed (one of the chief faces of war propaganda in the lead-up to the liberation of Aleppo in late 2016) and those which popped up later in eastern Ghouta and then in Idlib get accounts?

Keep that in mind when the war propaganda again resurges around Idlib and the children holding English posters and hashtagging #SaveIdlib pop into your feed. More exploitation of kids, and Twitter the perfect platform.

READ: Exploitation of children in propaganda war against Syria continues

In researching for this piece last week, I came across a recent article announcing a new feature Twitter would test, in its valiant efforts to quash trolls: limiting who may reply to tweets before sending a tweet.

This smacks not of cutting out trolls, but of making echo chambers more impenetrable, so war propagandists can back-slap one another without allowing intelligent voices to poke holes in their lies.

But in the end, perhaps even that doesn’t matter, because at any moment your account can be zapped. Nestled in Twitter’s terms of service is this line: “We may suspend or terminate your account…for any or no reason…” This means any protest over suspended accounts is thus a waste of time after all.

This is total narrative control, and it’s only getting worse.  

FAULT LINES RADIO ⚡️ NOW: TWITTER STILL BUSY BANNING THE LEFT, RIGHT… AND YOUR NEWS ALTERNATIVES W/ EVAKBARTLETT

On Fault Lines yesterday, we discuss Twitter (and social media in general) censorship.Watch HEREAlso HERE (the last 30 minutes)Related Links:–Social Media Censorship Reaches New Heights as Twitter Permanently Bans Dissent: Mnar Muhawesh speaks with journalist Daniel McAdams about being permanently banned from Twitter, social media censorship and more.–Twitter Suspends Dozens of Accounts of Venezuelan OfficialsViews of Sputnik Representatives on West’s Smearing & Censoring of Russian Media

MEDIA HAVE BEEN SPREADING PROPAGANDA AGAINST SYRIA FOR YEARS – JOURNALIST

Dec 31, 2019, RT America:

“Fallout continues from recent Wikileaks revelations, which confirmed that the OPCW had been pressured to alter its report to cover up evidence about the alleged April 2018 chemical attack in Douma, Syria. Investigative journalist and on-the-ground reporter Eva Bartlett joins In Question to discuss.”

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I thank Robert Thorpe for his summary of the interview:

“Steadfast Canadian journalist Eva Karene Bartlett, who has spent months on the ground in many parts of Syria since 2014, discusses Western propaganda designed to mislead people about Syria, demonize the nation in support of Western efforts to overthrow its sovereign government, and the defacto complicity in terrorism of the US, British, Canadian and other NATO governments.

She raises the issue of the recent resignation of Newsweek journalist Tareq Haddad’s from the publication over the censorship of his coverage of recent leaked internal OPCW documents which show that the senior management of UN sponsored organization produced fraudulent reporting of the non-existent alleged gas attack (a White Helmet false flag) at Douma used to justify US, French and British missile attacks on Syria.

Related/Mentioned Links:

GUARDIAN, ATLANTIC CONTRIBUTOR ACTS AS A SYRIAN TERRORIST MOUTHPIECE ON TWITTER, AND IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT YOU’RE A RUSSIAN STOOGE

December 27, 2019, RT.com

-by Eva Bartlett

Eva Bartlett

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 Palestine (where she lived for nearly four years).

FILE PHOTO: Al-Nusra fighter in Syria ©  AFP/ Rami Al-Sayed

Giving a sympathetic platform to a terrorist is reprehensible at best, downright criminal at worst, and definitely a bad look for a ‘respected’ media contributor. Oh, it’s for bashing Assad and the Russians? Go ahead, then.

A funny thing happened recently on Twitter. A journalist who contributes to the Guardian, Foreign Policy and the Atlantic tweeted—in a long thread peppered with photos of Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, the leader of an Al-Qaeda branch in Syria—about “the force that dominates” Idlib. Hassan Hassan’s initial tweet coyly avoided mentioning that this force is Al-Qaeda in Syria.

And no, its not just us Russian bots who say that Idlib is infested with Al-Qaeda: former US special envoy, Brett McGurk, deemed Idlib “the largest Al-Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.”

The thread smacked of giving a platform to terrorist propaganda. After extensively quoting Jolani, Hassan weighed in with his own thoughts on the situation in Syria and his Al-Qaeda “rebels”.

Aside from whitewashing designated terrorists, the point of his thread was clearly a continuation of the anti-Russia hysteria corporate journalists are so rabidly devoted to.

These latest anti-Russia, anti-Syria headlines and tweets echo those  which abounded when eastern Ghouta and Aleppo were being liberated from  terrorists. Go to Aleppo now and you’ll find a city that just celebrated  Christmas and is rebuilding, and indeed rebuilding all over Syria, in areas once occupied by terrorists.

More importantly, liberated areas are no longer ruled by fanatics who imprison, torture, starve and assassinate civilians. Syrian women I interviewed  earlier this year in Sinjar, Idlib, spoke of being tormented by  terrorists in Idlib, and called for the Syrian army to liberate all of  Idlib.

But war propagandists don’t care about those civilians…

Backslapping and Rebranding

The  same corporate media vultures who bandy about self-righteously furious  expressions for all things Russian and Syrian are normalizing terrorists  in Syria, rendering ISIS into mere militants”, “fighting for survival”, as was the case in a recent Washington Post ode to ISIS.

So the US and allies invaded Iraq under the pretext of fighting Al-Qaeda, largely destroyed that country, killed untold numbers of Iraqi civilians, maimed untold numbers more… and now the same designated terror group, Al-Qaeda, is suddenly a fuzzy li’l militant?

Likewise, a recent Bloomberg article describes the bandits ruling in Libya (with its slave markets – thanks, American humanitarian intervention!) as an “internationally recognized” government, and the terrorists heading there to create more chaos as Syrian “rebels”.

Extreme Xenophobia

Unsurprisingly, when war propagandists get called out by thinking people, they deflect blame onto Russia. A perusal of replies to Hassan’s tweets reveals many (non-Russian) people object to war propaganda and the platforms that propagate it.

Hassan  gets a sticker for his efforts to do best in the Russophobia challenge.  He went beyond merely hurling the same old unoriginal accusations at  Russia, and denigrated the entire nation as “repulsive”. Classy.

Of course, when many on Twitter pointed out his xenophobia, he scrambled to reword.

But that’s the thing about Twitter: no edits. The vitriol is out there, there’s no undoing the racism.

Blatant war propagandists like him have, for years, acted as  cheerleaders and whitewashed the civilian-murdering terrorists in Syria,  slandered  those of us who challenge war propaganda and bother to give platforms  to civilians instead of terrorists, and relentlessly hounded Russian  diplomats and media.

The Russophobia, and indeed xenophobia, has  gotten preposterous. It is Russia that is actually helping Syria fight  terrorism, it’s Russia that also sends humanitarian aid, it’s Russia  that helps open humanitarian corridors for Syrian civilians, it’s Russia  that is aiding Syria in rebuilding, and it’s Russian sappers who have  done most of the demining of areas formerly occupied by terrorists.

And it is not Russia who financed, backed, and whitewashed terrorism: that honour goes to the US and its allies.

Increasingly,  people on Twitter are calling the war orchestrators and their  propagandists out. Of course,they must all just be Russian trolls, da?

WESTERN LEADERS, SCREW YOUR ‘SANCTIONS TARGET THE REGIME’ BLATHER: SANCTIONS KILL PEOPLE

December 16, 2019, RT.com

-by Eva Bartlett

The US has a favourite tool for bullying non-compliant nations: sanctions. Sanctions inflict considerable suffering, even death, on ordinary people in targeted nations. Yet those defiant nations persist and resist.

A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post proposing a new oil-for-food scheme, this time in Venezuela, surprisingly acknowledges that sanctions “can also end up harming the people that they intend to protect.”

Okay, first off, we know there is no intention of “protecting” civilians in any of the countless countries targeted by Western sanctions. Do Western talking heads really think we’ve forgotten the half-a-million dead Iraqi children, thanks to US sanctions?

Yet, ask a Western leader about crippling sanctions placed on nations which don’t bow to Imperial demands and you’ll be met with some nonsensical explanation that sanctions only target ‘regimes’ and ‘terrorists,’ not the people.

I’ve lived in, spent considerable time in, or visited areas under sanctions and siege, and I’ve seen first hand how sanctions are a form of terrorism, choking civilians, depriving them of basic and urgent medical care, food, employment, and travel entitlements that many of us in Western nations take for granted.

When I was in Syria last October, a man told me his wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer, but because of the sanctions he couldn’t get her the conventional treatments most in the West would avail of.

In 2016, in Aleppo, before it was liberated of al-Qaeda and co, Dr. Nabil Antaki told me how –because of the sanctions– it had taken him well over a year to get a simple part for his gastroenterology practise.

In 2015, visiting Damascus’ University Hospital, where bed after bed was occupied by a child maimed by terrorists’ shelling (from Ghouta), a nurse told me:

We have so many difficulties to ensure that we have antibiotics, specialized medicines, maintenance of the equipment… Because of the sanctions, many parts are not available, we have difficulties obtaining them.

Visiting a prosthetic limbs factory in Damascus in 2016, I was told that, due to the sanctions, smart technology and 3D scanners –used to determine the exact location where a limb should be fixed– were not available. Considering the over eight years of war and terrorism in Syria, there are untold numbers of civilians and soldiers in need of this technology to simply get a prosthetic limb fixed so they can get on with their lives. But no, America’s concern for the Syrian people means that this, too, is near impossible.

In 2018, Syria’s minister of health told me Syria had formerly been dubbed by the World Health Organization a “pioneer state” in providing health care.

“Syria had 60 pharmaceutical factories and was exporting medicine to 58 countries. Now, 16 of these factories are out of service. Terrorists partially or fully destroyed 46 hospitals and 620 medical centres.”

I asked the minister about the complex in Barzeh, targeted with missile strikes by the US and allies in April 2018. Turns out it was part of the Ministry of Health, and manufactured cancer treatment medications, as well as antidotes for snake or scorpion bites/stings, the antidote also serving as a basic material in the manufacture of many medicines.

[READ: Caught in a lie, US & allies bomb Syria the night before international inspectors arrive ]

Last year, Syrian-American doctor Hussam al-Samman told me about his efforts to send to Syria chemotherapy medications for cancer patients in remission. He jumped through various hoops of America’s unforgiving bureaucracy, to no avail. It was never possible in the first place.

“We managed to get a meeting in the White House. We met Rob Malley, a top-notch assistant or adviser of Obama at that time. I asked them: ‘How in the world could your heart let you block chemotherapy from going to people with cancer in Syria?’They said: ‘We will not allow Bashar al-Assad to have anything that will make people love him. We will not support anything that will help Bashar al-Assad look good’.”

Fast forward to the present: in spite of the sanctions, or precisely because of the sanctions, Syria recently opened its first anti-cancer drugs factory. President Assad is, again, looking rather good to Syrians.

UN expert: Sanctions on Venezuela “a form of terrorism”

Alfred de Zayas, the human rights lawyer and former UN official, aptly calls sanctions a form of terrorism, “because they invariably impact, directly or indirectly, the poor and vulnerable.

Earlier this year, The Center for Economic and Policy Research estimated 40,000 deaths had occurred due to sanctions in 2017-2018.

While in Venezuela in March this year, I spoke with people from poor communities about the effects of sanctions. Most I met were very well aware of the US economic war against their country, and rallied alongside their government.[READ: US is manufacturing a crisis in Venezuela so that there is chaos and ‘needed’ intervention][READ: Venezuela isn’t Syria… but America’s war tactics are the same ]

One woman told me:

“If you don’t have water, don’t have electricity, the basics, how would you feel, as a mother? This makes some of the population, that doesn’t understand about the sanctions, blame the government.”

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, said during that visit:

“We told [American diplomat and Trump envoy] Mr Elliott Abrams, ‘the coup has failed, so now what are you going to do?’ He kind-of nodded and said, ‘Well, this is going to be a long-term action, then, and we are looking forward to the collapse of your economy.’”Indeed, that collapse would come about precisely due to the immoral US sanctions against the Venezuelan people.

North Korean Youth: Sanction the USA

After visiting Korea’s north in August 2017, in a photo essay I noted:

“The criminal sanctions against the North, enforced since 1950, making even more difficult the efforts to rebuild following decimation. The sanctions are against the people, affecting all sectors of life.”[READ: Photo-Report: The North Korea Neither Trump Nor Western Media Wants The World To See]And although most I met there were proud of their country’s achievements in spite of the sanctions, they were also vocal about the injustice of being bombed to near decimation and then sanctioned.

In a Pyongyang Middle School, to my questions about the sanctions, a girl replied:

The sanctions are not fair, our people have done nothing wrong to the USA.

Another boy spoke of the silence around America’s use of nuclear bombs on civilians:

Why do people all over the world give us sanctions? Why can’t we put sanctions on the US?

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Dr. Kim Un-Song: “The sanctions are inhumane and against human rights.” © Eva Bartlett

At the Okryu Children’s Hospital, Doctor Kim Un-Song said: “As a mother, I feel extremely angry at the sanctions against the DPRK, even blocking medicine and instruments for children. This is inhumane and against human rights.

As with Syria, sanctions on the DPRK prevent further entry to Korea of hospital machinery, as well as replacement parts.

Defying the sanctions

In spite of draconian sanctions, Syria, the DPRK and Venezuela continue to resist. After fighting international terrorism since 2011, Syria is rebuilding in liberated areas. That process could proceed more quickly were sanctions lifted, making it easier for companies outside of Syria to invest. 

But Syria is managing, with its allies’ support, including that of North Korea, and due to the steadfastness of the heroic Syrian people, and its leadership. 

REB

Link to tweet: https://twitter.com/SyriaRebuilt/status/1205149675747205120

Likewise, Venezuela and North Korea, facing America’s economic war and endless propagandistic rhetoric, continue to resist.

jorge

Link to tweet: https://twitter.com/jaarreaza/status/1204209014625783810

In each of these countries, I’ve met well-informed people who are fighting the sadism of the sanctions, and who are determined to remain free of US tyranny.


RESIGNATION OF BOLIVIA’S EVO MORALES WAS NO VICTORY FOR DEMOCRACY, BUT A US-SPONSORED COUP

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Nov 11, 2019, RT.com
by Eva K Bartlett

Evo Morales, an indigenous leader who bucked the IMF and condemned US imperialism, has been pressured by the military to resign after winning an election. Yet Washington calls this blatant coup in Bolivia a victory for democracy?

Morales was re-elected as Bolivia’s president on October 20. The coup-backing Organization of American States (OAS) wasn’t pleased and went ahead interfering in a sovereign nation – as the US itself does so well – issuing a report that the vote result wasn’t satisfactory to their desires.The heavy funding from the US surely has no influence on OAS policies…

In any case, on November 10, President Morales first announced a new election. Later that day, he announced his resignation, naming as reason the recent brutality of Bolivia’s right-wing opposition, including “kidnapping and mistreating” families of indigenous leaders and burning down the homes of public officials.

I resign from my position as president so that (Carlos) Mesa and (Luis Fernando) Camacho do not continue to persecute socialist leaders.

Morales was clear that his move was solely due to the violence incited opposition leaders. However, it soon became clear that this was a coup, not a resignation.
Former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff tweeted her solidarity with the “legitimate president of Bolivia [Evo Morales] who was deposed by a military coup, had his house raided by the police and suffered an illegal arrest warrant. A very serious attack on democracy in Latin America and violence against the Bolivian people.”

Another Brazilian ex-president, Lula, likewise declared the “stepping down” a coup. And even before the events of November 10, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner foresaw there would be pressure to force Morales out of office, as did Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro.

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As most readers know, this is not the first US-backed coup in Latin America. Washington’s history of meddling in sovereign nations stretching back many decades. But let’s look at how Bolivia changed under Morales’ leadership.
Poverty, unemployment and illiteracy all decreased significantly under Morales. In fact, according to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), Bolivia’s was the “fastest-growing” economy in South America, having “basically been stagnant for a quarter century prior to Morales becoming president in 2006.” To do so, however, “the Bolivian government ended 20 years of IMF agreements in 2006,” the same CEPR report notes. Furthermore, expelling US military bases, threatening to close the US embassy in Bolivia, and nationalizing the oil and gas industries haven’t done much to put him in the good graces of ‘democracy-bringers’.

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After all, with America’s lust to ‘democratize’ the world and steal precious resources in the process, nationalizing a country’s goods really mucks up Washington’s dirty plans. It doesn’t help that Bolivia has $2.3 billion worth of contracts to develop its lithium deposits with China, not the US.

Who benefits from Bolivia losing Morales as president? Not the Bolivian people, that’s for certain. In fact, some predict Bolivia’s future could be very dire under the rule of a US puppet.

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“My sin is being a union leader, indigenous. We are giving up so that my brothers do not continue to be kicked,” Morales said, when submitting his forced resignation.

This statement poignantly demonstrates the racism and utter lack of concern by the US for the people of Bolivia. Concerned citizens around the world are holding rallies in solidarity with Bolivia’s elected President and against yet another US-backed coup of a sovereign nation.

“He is now in hiding with his Indigenous Nation, and the death squads have issued an arrest warrant for him,” analyst Laith Marouf noted.

“Know now that if they kill him claiming he resisted arrest, or that he committed suicide; that it was an assassination in the land that saw the assassination of Che Guevara.”

As events unfold in Bolivia, it’s important to keep in mind the possible frightening outcomes. Anything is possible when US imperial interests are at stake.

Accused of Treason and Imprisoned Without Trial: Journalist Kirill Vyshinsky Recounts His Harrowing Time in a Ukrainian Prison

Eva Bartlett sat down with recently released Ukrainian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky. Vyshinsky endured 15 months of appalling conditions in a Ukrainian prison after being falsely accused of treason.

October 28th, 2019

Video

In November 2018, I became aware of the case of Kirill Vyshinsky, a Ukrainian-Russian journalist and editor imprisoned in Ukraine without trial since May 2018, accused of high treason.

Soon after, I interviewed Vyshinsky via email. He described his arrest and the accusations against him as politically-motivated, “an attempt by the Ukrainian authorities to bolster the declining popularity of [then] President [Petro] Poroshenko in this election year.” 

Vyshinsky noted that his arrest was advancing the incessant anti-Russian hysteria now prevalent among Ukrainian authorities, as he holds dual Ukrainian and Russian citizenship. He noted that the charges against him, which pertain to a number of articles he published in 2014 (none of them authored by Vyshinsky), became of interest to Ukrainian authorities and intelligence services four years after they were published. To Vyshinsky, this supports the notion that neither the articles nor their editor were a security threat to Ukraine, instead, he says, they were a political card to be played.

In early 2019, I traveled to Kiev to interview Vyshinsky’s defense lawyer Andriy Domansky about the logistic obstacles of his client’s case. Domansky viewed the Vyshinsky case as politically motivated and expressed concern that he could himself become a target of Ukraine’s secret service for his role in defending his client, an innocent man.

Domansky told me at the time,

The Vyshinsky case is key in demonstrating the presence of political persecution of journalists in Ukraine. As a legal expert, I believe justice is still possible in Ukraine and I will do everything possible to prove Kirill Vyshinsky’s innocence.”

To the surprise of those following the case against Vyshinsky, in late August 2019 he was released with little fanfare after serving more than 400 days in a Ukrainian prison but still faces all of the charges brought against him by the Ukrainian government and is “obliged to appear in court or give testimony to investigators if they deemed it necessary.”

By early September, Kirill Vyshinsky was on a plane to Moscow. Despite never being tried or officially convicted, he found himself the subject of a prisoner exchange between the Russian and Ukrainian governments.

A banner reading “Freedom to Kirill Vyshinsky” is held at a June 16, 2019 rally in Moscow. Maxim Shemetov | Reuters

I interviewed Vyshinsky in Moscow in late September. He told me about his harrowing ordeal, the Ukrainian detention system, other persecuted journalists, and what lies ahead for him.

He also touched on the inhumane conditions he experienced in Ukrainian prisons. He noted that a pretrial detention center as we know it in Western nations is a very different entity in Ukraine and that Ukrainian prisons were so over-crowded that it was common for inmates to sleep in three shifts in order to allow enough standing room for inmates crammed into a cell.

 

Ukrainian prisons like a “concentration camp”

Aleksey Zhuravko, a Ukrainian deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of V and VI convocations recently published photos taken inside of an Odessa pretrial detention center showing utterly unsanitary and appalling conditions. Zhuravko noted, “I am shocked at what was seen. It is a concentration camp. It is a hotbed of diseases.”

Another Ukrainian journalist, Pavel Volkov, was subjected to the same types of accusations lobbed against Vyshinsky. Volkov spent over a year in the same pretrial detention center as Vyshinsky. He was arrested on September 27, 2017, after Ukrainian authorities carried out searches of his wife and mother’s apartments without the presence of his lawyer and with what he says, was a false witness.

Volkov spent more than a year in a pretrial detention center on charges of “infringing on territorial integrity with a group of people” and “miscellaneous accessory to terrorism.” On March 27, 2019, he was fully acquitted by a Ukrainian court.

Volkov shared his thoughts on the persecution of journalists in Ukraine, saying:

The leaders of the 2014 Euromaidan movement, who subsequently occupied the largest positions in the country’s leadership, repeatedly stated that collaborators from World War II who participated in the mass extermination of Jews, Russians, and Poles are true heroes in Ukraine, and that the Russian and Russian-speaking population of Ukraine are inferior people who need to be either forcibly re-educated or destroyed.

They also believe that anyone who wants peace with the Russian Federation, and who believes that the Russian language (the native language for over sixty percent of Ukraine’s population) should be the second state language, is the enemy of Ukraine.

These notions formed the basis of the new criminal law, designed to persecute politicians, public figures, journalists, and ordinary citizens who disagree with the above.

Since 2014, security services have arrested hundreds of people on charges of state treason; infringing on the territorial integrity of Ukraine; and assisting terrorism for criticizing the current government in the streets or on the Internet.

People have been in prison for years without a conviction. And these are not only the journalists included in the ‘Vyshinsky list’.

Activists from Odessa, Sergey Dolzhenkov and Evgeny Mefedov, have spent more than five years in jail just for laying flowers at a memorial to the liberators of Nikolaev [Ukrainian city] from Nazi invaders.

Sergeyev and Gorban, taxi drivers, have spent two and a half years in a pretrial detention center because they transported pensioners from Donetsk to Ukraine-controlled territory so that they could receive their legal pension.

The entrepreneur Andrey Tatarintsev has spent two years in prison for providing humanitarian assistance to a children’s hospital in the territory of the Lugansk region not controlled by Ukraine.

Farmer Nikolay Butrimenko received eight years of imprisonment for paying tax to the Donetsk People’s Republic for his land located in that territory.

The 85-year-old scientist and engineer Mekhti Logunov was given twelve years because he agreed to build a waste recycling plant with Russian investors. The list is endless.

People often incriminate themselves while being tortured or under the threat of their relatives being punished, and such confessions are accepted by the courts, despite the fact that lawyers initiate criminal proceedings against the security services involved in the torture. These cases are not being investigated.

The only mitigation that has happened in this direction after the change of government was the abolition of the provision of the Criminal Procedure Code stating that no other measure of restraint other than detention can be applied to persons suspected of committing crimes against the state.

This allowed some defendants to leave prison on bail, but not a single politically-motivated case has yet been closed. Moreover, arrests are ongoing.

The only acquittal to date from the so-called journalistic cases on freedom of speech is mine. However, it is still being contested by the prosecutor’s office in the Supreme Court.

Ninety-nine percent of the media continue to call all these people ‘terrorists’, ‘separatists’, and ‘enemies of the people’, even though almost none of them have yet received a verdict in court.”

Volkov’s words lay bare the true nature of the allegations made against Kirill Vyshinsky as well as the countless other journalists and citizens of Ukraine that have fallen victim to the heavy hand of Ukrainian authorities.

Feature photo | Kirill Vyshinsky poses while covering Ukraine’s Maidan protests in 2014. Photo | Zenit-ka.ru

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.

FROM MT QASIOUN, LOOKING DOWN ON DAMASCUS, AT PEACE IN SPITE OF WESTERN WAR ON SYRIA

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Finally made it to Qasioun mountain, a fantastic view of Damascus.

Eva Bartlett

Looking down on the city, I remembered the intense terrorist shelling with mortars and missiles. In my visits in 2014, 2015, 2016 (and 17, 18, but the earlier years were, generally, more hard-hit), this mortar terrorism was very vivid, I have many accounts and memories of it.

To look down on a city at peace, relieved of the terrorism Western nations and their Gulf allies (not to overlook israel and Turkey) unleashed upon Syrian civilians, was a hugely moving moment.

Looking forward to the day that every inch of Syria is liberated.

Related:

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DPR DEFENDER: “(UKRAINE’S) BIGGEST MISTAKE HERE WAS USING WEAPONS AGAINST CIVILIANS”

Eva Bartlett

Recently, I visited Zaitsevo, a village in the north of the Donetsk People’s Republic. It has been relentlessly shelled by Ukrainian forces/paramilitaries since 2014, and continues to be bombed nearly every day and night.

The population has dropped from 3,500 to 1,600, including 200 children.

With me was Dmitry Astrakhan, press officer of the DPR People’s Militia, and a People’s Militia officer going by the nickname “Gyurza”.

In this clip, Gyurza relates how events unfolded in Zaitsevo, how the local defenders have maintained their defensive position, and some of the violations committed by Ukrainian forces.

See related videos/posts:

DPR Village Resident Says Ukrainian Bombings Destroying Homes Street By Street

Resident of the Mine 6-7 District, DPR, Shows Damage to her Home After Ukrainian Shellings

Zaitsevo (DPR) resident: “We are not living, we are surviving”

DPR VILLAGE RESIDENT SAYS UKRAINIAN BOMBINGS DESTROYING HOMES STREET BY STREET

Eva Bartlett

Zaitsevo, a village in the north of the Donetsk People’s Republic, has been relentlessly shelled by Ukrainian forces/paramilitaries since 2014, and continues to be bombed nearly every day and night.

The population has dropped from 3,500 to 1,600, including 200 children.

I interviewed Irina Dikun, head of the administration of Zaitsevo, who spoke at length on the terror civilians have faced over the years and continue to face with the Ukrainian bombing that erupts nearly every single night, targeting civilian homes and village infrastructure.

“Those who could leave, left. Mostly it’s elderly remaining here. None of the ceasefire agreements (24/5) reached here. Not more than 1 or 2 days of ceasefire,” she said.

“They are destroying street by street in the town. They take one street and destroy it house by house. Then they turn to another street.

There was a school, and a kindergarten, before, but they were both destroyed by Ukrainian artillery. So now the children go to a district of Gorlovka, by school bus, organized by Mayor Prikhodko of Gorlovka.

The paramedics, the emergency, don’t go farther than this building, it’s too dangerous to go further. So, someone has to use their own car to go, if somebody needs help over there (near frontlines), and take them to the point where medics can then take them to Gorlovka. Also, the soldiers help civilians who are injured.”

Dmitry Astrakhan, the DPR press officer who accompanied me and provided translations, said:

“I want to add that Ukrainians shot at medical vehicles and fire brigade vehicles, even if they are white with red crosses. So it’s really dangerous to go farther (than the administrative building).”

[Note: This is also a tactic used by Zionist soldiers, targeting Palestinian medics, something I’ve experienced first hand, in 2009:

Israeli Sniper Targets Uniformed Medics: what I witnessed in Gaza

Israeli army kills Palestinian medic with dart bomb]

Irina’s words are powerful. Please do listen to this courageous woman, whose closing words were:

“Western weapons are used to kill us. We don’t wish for any person to live through what we are living here now. What is here is something you don’t wish for your enemy.”

RELATED POSTS:

MintPress Sits Down with Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

MintPress Sits Down with Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova weighs in on Syria, Crimea, the Moscow protests and more.

Moscow — In a simple meeting room at the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry building, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova gave me a generous hour of her time in a conversation peppered with bemused laughter at Western allegations about Russia and clear frustration at the West’s incessant vilification of all things Russia.

I traveled to Moscow in August, where to my delight I had the opportunity to interview Zakharova. Given that Russia is the focus of obsessive and largely negative Western media reporting, and also the country’s role in eliminating the proliferation of terrorist groups that once controlled large swaths of Syria, I wanted to ask Zakharova for her take on a variety of topics related to both Russia and Syria.

In our wide-ranging discussion, Zakharova spoke of the U.S. sanctions regime against Russia and of the Western interference in Russian domestic issues — such as the protests seen in Moscow in July and August.

On Syria, she addressed the issue of exploitation of children in propaganda against Syria and Russia — notably Omran Daqneesh, a child whose image was splashed across newspapers and screens worldwide in 2016, incriminating Russia and Syria in an airstrike that was later proven to have never happened. An official apology from one of the most adamant perpetrators of that narrative, CNN’s Christian Amanpour, also never happened.

One cannot discuss the war in Syria and related propaganda without addressing the massively-funded White Helmets. In discussing the group, Zakharova gave examples of its role in fomenting support for Western military intervention, including in pushing responsibility on the Syrian government for the alleged but unproven and, by most honest accounts, staged chemical attack in Douma, eastern Ghouta, in 2018. Footage of the attack included video starring the White Helmets and another exploited Syrian boy, Hassan Diab, whose testimony of the events ran in stark contrast to the allegations against the Syrian government that were being circulated in the Western media.

Zakharova also addressed the inconsistencies around the Skripal case, the historic importance of Crimea’s referendum, and the U.K. “media freedom” conference of July 2019, where cases of imprisoned journalists like Julian Assange and Kirill Vyshinsky were notably not part of the conference program.

In an unexpected development since my discussion with Zakharova, Ukrainian-Russian journalist and editor Vyshinsky was released from his over 15 months of imprisonment without trial by Ukraine. Referring to his imprisonment, Zakharova described him as a hostage.

The interview took place at a time when Western media reporting would have one believe that the streets of Moscow were full of chaos and unrest with the protests. In fact, contrary to media reporting, Moscow was calm, as were the protests I attended on August 10. Once again, it seemed, the media was hyping and distorting reality, as they have so often done elsewhere in the world.

Zakharova’s words are a reality check and offer an informative insight into the Russian perspective on Russian, Syrian, and global events.

Feature photo | Maria Zakharova sits down with Eva Bartlett at a Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry building in Moscow, Russia in August, 2019.  Eva Bartlett | MintPress News

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

LOVELY ENCOUNTERS IN SEVASTOPOL, CRIMEA

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Eva Bartlett

I have a lot to update on from various areas of Russia over the past few weeks, but have been working hard on a special project that takes priority over all my other work and over even simple updates (and which unfortunately two days ago I had to re-start from the beginning when my project and backup project inexplicably failed).

Yesterday was one of the few exceptions to me taking time from that project to post an update, because it’s just too lovely to not post while still buzzing from the happiness of the encounters I had in Crimea today, again.

Yesterday afternoon, I walked 25 minutes or so from my Simferopol hotel to the train station, managed to buy a ticket thanks to translation app (119 Rubles, several hundred fewer than the bus prices I was seeing online), and had a delightful train ride in a slow train filled with locals getting off/on the train periodically over the two hours of the journey.

Wooden seats, chug chugging, sun beating down on me whichever side I moved to. Authentic simple travel that I love.

Aside from the lovely countryside, what I kept noticing was that on either side of the train I saw every so often more construction, improving the infrastructure.

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After arriving in Sebastopol, I realized I needed to find a cafe or somewhere I could sit and charge my phone enough to navigate to the room I thought I’d successfully booked for a few nights.

As I stood orienting the map route (on mobile)and zooming in to see if any signs of cafes or other popped up, a woman walked by me and said with a smile something with the word “shto”, which I think means ‘what’. When I replied in English, she laughed sweetly and flagged down another woman who spoke English.

That woman at first was suggesting I take one of the trolley-buses into the centre of the city, but when I showed the map and my destination, she said she and her husband would take me instead. I normally walk wherever I can, but this was a pretty great offer…one which I appreciated even more when the road became a slow and long incline which would have been a pain with the suitcase and laptop backpack.

I’d expected to walk only a few kilometers but by the time their car arrived at the guesthouse, I was relieved they’d offered to drive me: it was further than I had expected to walk.

As we drove, we chatted. At one point, I asked her about the referendum. I mentioned that some in Canada and elsewhere have the notion that it was done under duress, with a heavy military presence to influence the vote. She laughed, saying, “We are now under the wing of Russia.”

“There were no troops, no military, around us during the referendum.”

She spoke of the joy of Crimeans to vote.

She said that 98% of Sevastopol had voted in favour.

I asked about positive developments since then. She mentioned the improvements in roads, the opening of kindergartens and schools. Free courses (like music) for children.

I’d heard some of these points a few nights ago in Yalta (I have a very interesting, very informative, audio to post of a woman in Yalta speaking at length, but again I have to prioritize for now the project I’m working on, especially since all my work was inexplicably lost [corrupted?] the other day and I had to start over.).

The woman in Yalta mentioned (correct my memory if its wrong) 200 new kindergartens since the referendum. I jotted a couple notes on my mobile as she spoke, including that when she moved to Crimean in October 2012, everything was ‘dilapidated and run down’.

“The nice roads you were driving on, they didn’t exist when we were a part of Ukraine.”

As I stood inside the guesthouse I’d tried to book a room in, waiting for someone to greet me and sort the room, the woman who’d offered to drive me mentioned her parents have a guesthouse overlooking the bay. Ding dong! When nobody materialized after around 10 minutes, I took her offer to rent from her parents instead.

What a fantastic happenstance. Beautiful home, little apartment setup, 2 minute walk to a lookout of the bay, or 30 second walk if I go up to their balcony. They are lovely, so hospitable, have a fig and pear tree (and I consequently have a brimming bowl of fruit).

I have a pair of sandals I bought from a shoe-maker in Beirut. They’re comfortable and nice, but while walking, one of them became a flip-flop, the glue unstuck. Guesthouse owner had repaired it for me while I was walking back from the grocery store.

They invited me for dinner and also suggested I cool off in their little pool, but I had to politely decline in order to get back to my work. But I did take a few minutes just now to enjoy their pool, and the stars, the silence, and the incredible fragrance of some night blossoms.

A SYRIAN LEADER TELLS HIS COUNTRY’S STORY: AN INTERVIEW WITH SAA GENERAL HASSAN HASSAN

In Gaza

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Eva Bartlett sits down for an exclusive interview with the head of the Syrian Arab Army’s Political Administration, General Hassan Hassan.

August 5, 2019, Mint Press News

For years, international headlines spotlighting Syria have claimed that the Syrian government, army, and its allies were guilty of a variety of atrocities. Yet as time has passed, many of the accusations levied at government and its allies have been shown to have been either falsified, staged (as in the case of allegations of chemical attacks in eastern Ghouta), or actually committed by the myriad terrorist groups operating in the country.

For their part, Syrian leadership has maintained from the start that the demonstrations in their country were not peaceful, from 2011 and on. Media in the West and the Gulf vilified Syria’s leadership, featuring story after story of government-imposed violence while ignoring or whitewashing the violence of the burgeoning armed groups flooding into Syria.

From as early as 2011, armed groups were throwing civilians from rooftops and committing beheadings, kidnappings, and massacres. The year 2011 alone saw multiple massacres of civilians and security forces committed by what the media called “unarmed protesters” and later by the “Free Syrian Army.” This was the same year that many in the media were insisting that a “peaceful revolution” was underway.

Since that time, those same armed groups, as well as the many iterations they spawned, have starved, tortured, imprisoned, murdered, maimed and even harvested the organs of Syrian civilians, in addition to killing Syrian and allied soldiers and journalists and destroying much of the country’s infrastructure.

To give a voice to the often ignored “other side” — those Syrians that have been working to defend their country since 2011 —  Eva Bartlett interviewed the Syrian Arab Army’s Head of Political Administration, General Hassan Hassan. General Hassan’s shelves and large wooden desk are covered with stacks of books, family photos, and various homages to the country he serves — the general holds a Ph.D. in geopolitical studies. The following is a transcript of Bartlett’s interview with Hassan following the 74th anniversary of the founding of the Syrian Arab Army.

 

Eva Bartlett (EB) | I would like to begin by asking you your thoughts on how honest Western and Gulf media’s reporting on Syria has been, especially regarding their choice of lexicon — for example, regarding the Syrian Army, the Syrian Government, what they call rebels — and the events in Syria in general.

General Hassan (GH) | Media has been one of the weapons of mass destruction used in this war on Syria. The biased media, in addition to the takfiri [Salafi] fatwas — especially the fatwas — have been the weapons that contributed most to the destruction taking place in Syria, including the destruction of human beings, vegetation, civilization,…everything.

President Bashar al-Assad emphasized more than once the necessity of countering the rhetoric used. I can elaborate for two or more hours on the terms used. However, I will limit myself to some examples.

The Free [Syrian] Army is among the lexicons used. What “army” and what “freedom” are they talking about? Every army is known for its discipline, hierarchy, fighting strategies in both defense and attack, and the cause it fights for.

The so-called Free Syrian Army has none of these qualities, except for the ability to kill. The media tried to put into circulation the term Assad’s Brigades or Assad’s Forces. Our army is the Syrian Arab Army, which includes in each of its formations soldiers from all Syrian governorates, with no exception.

I’ll give you an example. Almost three months ago, the militants supported by Turkey targeted a Syrian army position to the north of Latakia. Twelve soldiers were martyred as a result. Each soldier is from a different governorate. This is the Syrian Arab Army.

They used the term “defection.” There is no defection in the Syrian Arab Army; defection did not really occur in the Syrian Arab Army but there are some cases of soldiers running away. The term “defection” is used when a brigade or a squad defect from a certain army. Until now, the Syrian Arab Army has not witnessed what might be called defection even within its smallest units.

In order to spread the idea of defection they resorted to unsophisticated lies. In 2012 they said that General Mohammad al-Rifa’i, commander of the Fifth Squad, had defected from the army. This lie was circulated through the media. Yet, Syrian TV interviewed the general, who had retired in 2001, 11 years prior.

Gangs would stop civilian or military vehicles on highways, hold soldiers hostages, film them and force them at gunpoint to declare that they had defected [from the army].

I’ll give an example available from the internet of their lies regarding the term the Free Syrian Army. Anyone can check the Free Syrian Army term through Google. We type Abu Saqr al-Asadi — right here, I have typed Abu Saqr al-Souri [the Syrian]. We now find [the result] “face to face with the fighter Abu Saqr al-Asadi who ate the heart of a soldier.” (Abu Saqr is also transliterated as Abu Sakkar, as per the BBC article referred to by General Hassan).

That was in 2013 when he was filmed cutting into the chest of the soldier and eating his heart. It is here on Google from the BBC Arabic website. This is not a Syrian media outlet. It is a Western outlet. It is not a pleasant sight to watch him chewing the soldier’s heart.

Abu Saqr al-Asadi was a fighter in the Al-Farouq Brigades, which was an armed rebel organization formed by the Free Syrian Army. When he died he was a member of the Nusra Front. So, he was a member of the Free Syrian Army, used to be with the Farouq Brigades, and then joined the Nusra Front.

I could speak for hours about the issue of lexicon. For instance, they talked about what is called the armed opposition. How could opposition be armed?! Opposition is a political term. Opposition is a political party that did not win elections. Such a party plays the role of opposition in the parliament. These militant groups want to govern the country, the people and everything by armed force. Does this sound normal? Never was there a term called “armed opposition,” except when they spoke about these terrorist gangs.

 

EB | So in the article you’ve just shown, the English version, the BBC did not report it as an act of carnage. They humanized Abu Saqr and asked him what drove him to do such a desperate act?

GH | This is the media war. Either they say he is violent or they say he is an angel; hasn’t he demonstrated how he cut out an organ and ate a piece of it? When the BBC describes a man who ate the heart of a dead soldier as a peaceful man, how then would they describe beasts?

 

EB | Regarding events in Syria in 2011, both Western and Gulf media called it a peaceful unarmed uprising for many months, even for up to a year. Do you have an example of attacks by what the West called unarmed protesters against the Syrian army, police or security forces in 2011?

GH | In 2011 they said the reason behind the first spark was that the army, or another security body, pulled out the nails of some children in Dara`a. Over the past eight years, it has become clear that all of the armed groups are equipped with video cameras and live-streaming devices. Can any of them provide us with a video of one child whose nails were pulled out? Where are these children? Why couldn’t the media that fabricated such lies film the pulled-out nails?

Let’s go back to the peaceful uprising. On April 10, 2011, less than a month after the beginning of the so-called uprising, an army convoy transporting soldiers back to their homes was intercepted on the highway from Tartous to Banias. Nine people were martyred: two officers, five warrant officers, and two civilians. They also fired at the ambulances that tried to reach the wounded.

Other examples are the Nawa massacre in Dara`a, the Jisr al-Shoghur massacre, and the Asi River massacre — where they live-streamed the dumping of people into the river. All these massacres were perpetrated before the end of June 2011.

That is the peaceful [Arab] spring the Western and Gulf media talked about.

Are these examples enough, or should I cite more? It’s important to me that Western readers know how many lies and how much deception there has been, especially by the media.

I’ll give you another minor example. Usually, the BBCAl-Jazeera and France 24, etc. would broadcast that an explosion took place in a certain area. However, there was no explosion. But 15 to 30 minutes later an explosion would take place in the same area. It was like a code to the armed groups to carry out the explosion.

I’ll provide you with a more comprehensive example. When the area of Ma`raba [near al-Tal, a suburb of Damascus] was targeted by the Israeli enemy, cameras were focused on the targeted area even before the missiles hit.

 

EB | So, they were ready?

GH | The cameras were aimed at the area where the missiles were supposed to hit. At the moment that the missiles hit the targeted area, members of armed groups began cheering “Allahu Akbar… Allahu Akbar.” This was documented by their cameras; definitely not Syrian media cameras. At the same time, armed groups in eastern Ghouta attacked Damascus from seven fronts.

As an ordinary person — not as a military figure– I could tell it was a role carried out by three. First, the one who carried out the aggression, and that is the Zionist entity [Israel].

Second, the media outlets that were assigned to broadcast the aggression before it was carried out.  And third, the armed groups who attacked Damascus. Therefore, the cameraman and those militants are substitute recruits of the Israeli enemy. I cannot call them but the substitute army of Israel and the United States.

According to confessions by Israeli and American officials, including previous U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ISIS was made by America. Later on, ISIS was classified as a terrorist organization.

Thus, those terrorists made in the U.S. are the rebels of the peaceful [Arab] spring later circulated in the region by means of the foreign media outlets.

 

EB | According to Israeli media, Israel is fighting terrorism, Muslim extremists. However, there are reports of Israel treating militants or terrorists in Israeli hospitals. Can you please outline Israel’s role in the war on Syria?

GH | Everything that has taken place in Syria and in the region — all the blaze erupting in the region,  under what they falsely called the Arab Spring — serves the interests of Israel. These are not my own conclusions; rather, it is the Israeli media who talk about this. The Israeli prime minister appeared on television when he visited wounded terrorists, injured while fighting the Syrian army, being treated in Israeli hospitals. This is number one.

The other issue is that every time the Syrian Arab Army is making an apparent advance, Israel conducts an aggression [airstrike]. When Israel is unable to achieve its objective, it seeks the help of the United States, just as it did when the U.S. Air Force targeted the Tharda Mountains in Deir ez-Zor as the Syrian army was en route to clear Deir ez-Zor of terrorists.

I hope that you underscore the following statement: Those who sponsor terrorism don’t fight it.Israel is an entity based on both killing and falsehood. When Palestine was already inhabited, they claimed that Palestine was a land without people and wanted to give it to people without a land. Thus, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, gave what the U.K. didn’t own to those who didn’t deserve it.

In 2019, Trump did the same and gave the Golan to Israel as if Trump inherited it from his own father. Who gave Trump the right to give other people’s property to others? The issue here is that international law needs power to protect it. Unfortunately, the United States is still the superpower of the world and the financial and economic despot of the world. U.S. officials are indifferent to falsehood, humanity, law or human rights. All this means nothing to them.

I would like to remind foreign readers that Iraq was destroyed under the pretext of having weapons of mass destruction. The whole world still recalls Colin Powell when he presented what he called a satellite image as evidence of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. When Powell left office, he admitted to U.S. media outlets that that moment was the darkest in his lifetime. The question is: When did he admit it? How many innocent victims were killed as a result?

How come a sovereign state was occupied without international legitimacy? American officials don’t care about this. Wherever the U.S. has interfered around the world, the result has been more killing, destruction, and suffering and successive U.S. administrations are competing to serve Israel.

 

EB | Syria has been accused of using chemical weapons against civilians. Does the Syrian army use chemical weapons against civilians?

GH |  An official mission came to Syria and demanded that the Syrian government carry out an official investigation. They delayed for years before the mission arrived. And those who came submitted an untruthful report.

Syria signed the agreement and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) visited Syria and checked all places and the existing stockpile [of chemical weapons] was destroyed on a U.S. vessel. Accordingly, The OPCW announced that Syria was chemical weapons-free.ve

The Syrian Government has been accused of using chemical weapons many times, in eastern Ghouta and in other areas. Under this pretext, [th U.S. and its allies] launched their aggression on Syria. Syria affirmed many times through statements by Syrian officials, both before and after the agreement was signed, that Syria does not in any way intend to use chemical weapons and that Syria has not used nor will it use chemical weapons.

After the declaration of this organization [OPCW] that Syria is free from chemical weapons, how could Syria use something that it does not have? Despite evidence that chemical substances and weapons entered into areas under the control of militant groups in Syria through Turkish borders, investigations were not resumed.

There are a number of videos showing how the armed groups were the ones using chemical weapons themselves. Each time Syria was accused of using chemical weapons, the Syrian army was on the verge of finishing a military operation. Is it logical they’d use chemical weapons — which would prevent the declaration of victory?

With regard to their claim of using chemicals in Ghouta, the areas there are interconnected. Those who use chemical weapons cannot protect themselves. When those terrorists used chemicals there, both the civilians and the military were hit, as was the case in Khan al-Asal and elsewhere. This was exposed in the [UN] Security Council by Bashar al-Ja’afari.

Syria does not possess chemical weapons. Syria has never used chemical weapons before. Syria cannot use a chemical weapon for a simple reason, or for two reasons in fact: Ethically, Syria does not believe in using chemicals [weapons]. This is number one. Second, Syria does not own chemical weapons.

 

EB | The Rukban Camp is near the U.S. base of al-Tanf. One question is about the U.S. relationship with ISIS in that area and whether or not America has been fighting ISIS in the area. Also, according to Western media, refugees evacuated from Rukban to centers in Homs, for example, are taken and thrown in prison.

For example, the Canadian Globe & Mail, citing a Qatari-based organization, said that from 2017 to 2019 around 2,000 Syrians who returned to government-controlled areas (in general and not from Rukban specifically) were detained and 784 are still in prison. How would you reply to accusations that people returning home were detained or forced to serve in the Syrian army?

GH | In relation to ISIS and the U.S., I can say that a mother does not eat her own son. ISIS is a U.S. product, according to American confessions. However, America sometimes becomes a cat and eats some of its own kittens when they become a burden.

America uses ISIS, fights with ISIS, not against ISIS. Whenever the role of some armed ISIS fighters comes to an end, the U.S. abandons or gets rid of them. The U.S. does not care whether those members get killed or not.

However, when the U.S. needs them, it sends helicopters to evacuate them, just like what happened when Deir ez-Zor was liberated. American helicopters would land and evacuate ISIS leaders together with their families and fly them somewhere else.

Rukban Camp is within the sight of the Americans in the Tanf base. U.S. surveillance can distinguish a hen from a rooster on a street anywhere in the world. How is it that ISIS members are able to move at the Tanf border without being observed by the U.S. military there? How can the U.S. convince the world that it is fighting ISIS when the latter’s members move freely under U.S. observation?

Four months ago, I was working with the Head of the Russian Reconciliation Centre, General Victor Kopcheshen. He told me that the Russian government received an official reply from the Americans that they would not allow any Syrian or Russian to come close to the 55-kilometer line around Rukban Camp to help evacuate people from the camp.

Less than four months ago we first began evacuating a few hundred [people] from Rukban. Now, the number of people who returned from Rukban Camp has exceeded 15,000 (As of July 31, that number has reached 17,458 according to Russia’s Ministry of Defense). Can anyone provide me with the name of even one person who left Rukban and got detained? These claims are flagrant lies.


Author’s note | 

I asked officials at the UN about the accusation that the Syrian government was imprisoning former residents of Rukban, I detailed their reply in a separate article for MintPress:

“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, the 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 smaller 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.’”


GH | I would like to stress a point concerning military service in the army. Several presidential decrees have been issued. Any Syrian citizen [living] abroad who wishes to settle his status and return to Syria can benefit from those decrees, which invalidate any other verdict issued against that Syrian citizen.

These decrees do not nullify a Syrian citizen’s rights nor their duties. Syrian citizens who return to Syria are still Syrian citizens and therefore still have the duties of Syrian citizens. The decrees granted them a grace period of six months to settle their legal status.

For example, a person who lost their official ID, or army service registry or anything, can settle their legal status during this period. It is a normal official procedure to call for duty those who are subject to mandatory or reserve military service. This procedure has been applied to all Syrian citizens in all provinces, not only those who return.

I cannot say just respect the rights and ignore the duties. Everyone is equal before the law. They have to obey what Syrian law states and the majority of them are loyal and doing their duties enthusiastically.

But the people who have their status settled do not have the right to commit a crime. If I had a son living abroad who returned and settled his status, does it give him the right to commit an offense against his neighbors or to kill somebody or commit a crime? The law is the law and must be adhered to.

 

EB | Western media say that Iran and Russia’s presence in Syria is an attempt to occupy Syria and control it. What are the roles of Iran and Russia in Syria?

GH | Before I answer your question, let us decide what logic we’re using. Are we using the logic of international law or the law of the jungle? Who has the right to speak in the name of the Syrian people? It is only the Syrian state that has the right to speak in the name of the Syrian people. No other side has the right to speak for them. Surely, those who are speaking in the name of the Syrian people do not know the Syrian people. It is really strange that the governments of those who kill the Syrian people are acting as if they were advocates of the Syrian people.

According to international law, it is the right of any state to defend itself when such a country faces hazards endangering its own existence. Such a country has the right to defend its existence and sovereignty by using all means possible. In this respect, this country has the right to rely on its relations with friends and allies as well, no matter whether those allies are Russian, Iranian or any other ally. Neither the U.S., Israel nor the Gulf states have anything to do with this. It is a matter of Syrian sovereignty.

The other thing has to do with the military presence of any country on the territory of another state. Such a presence can be legal in one of the following two cases: when invited by the state concerned, or through a resolution issued by the [UN] Security Council. Otherwise, such a presence is an occupation.

Therefore, there is no reason for the Syrian state to be ashamed of its stance on the presence of Iran or Russia in Syria. The Syrian State declares its stances clearly and explicitly: that the presence of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah is based upon an official invitation by the Syrian government. Thus, their presence is legal according to international law. Can anyone in the West — or the media outlets who claim to be neutral — convince any Syrian citizen that the U.S. presence or the Turkish presence is legal?

The Syrian State says they are forces of occupation. There is no [UN] Security Council resolution allowing them to be present in Syria. So what is the meaning behind their presence? They are using the law of force, rather than the force of law. Thus, they are referring back to the law of the jungle and not to the force of international law.

Those occupiers support terrorism, created terrorism, and are still financing it according to a confession made by the former Qatari prime minister that his country spent $37 billion to arm and finance armed groups in Syria. The Qatari PM confessed that his country and the armed groups had agreed to destroy Syria. Yet, they disputed when things went out of their control. They paid the armed groups to hunt the prey. However, they disputed among themselves when the prey escaped.

 

EB | Syria welcomed Palestinian refugees and has supported the Palestinian resistance. Could you please explain the role of some Palestinians in the events in Syria within the past few years, whether in fighting terrorism or supporting it.

Will Hamas Challenge Fatah in the West Bank?

GH | The Syrian State does not deal with people and does not take stances based on reactions. The Syrian state has its own constants and principles, and it [continues to] adhere to these constants and principles even in its ninth year of war. Syria still believes that the cause of Palestine is the central cause of the Arab world.

So, when some Palestinian groups choose to affiliate themselves with the Muslim Brotherhood rather than being loyal to the Palestinian cause and to Syria, it makes Syria [even] more committed to its principles. Especially as these days, the world knows well that the Muslim Brotherhood [has become] the basis of evil since they’ve adopted terrorism.

The Palestinian cause remains the central cause. Syria will always take interest in the Palestinian cause, in spite of the fact that some [Palestinians] were eager to be part of the war on the Syrian State. Even though weapons that were supposed to be used to fight Israel were used in the war on Syrian citizens.

The Syrian State is now recovering and history will remember those [Palestinians] as traitors. History will show that Syria has been, and will be, loyal to the Palestinian cause.

The Yarmouk Camp is back under Syrian sovereignty. The camp is now free from those who carried weapons and used them against Syrian citizens, whatever names they used — ISIS, Nusra or otherwise — and regardless of their nationality, Palestinian or otherwise. All of them are now gone, thanks to the sacrifices made by the Syrian people the heroism of the Syrian Arab Army and the wisdom of our leader, President Bashar al-Assad.

 

EB | Some Palestinians remained loyal to Syria, including in fighting terrorism, like the Quds Brigade…

GH | Yes, of course. Surely. There are loyal people even inside occupied Palestine. Not all people are ungrateful to those who help them. Not all people bite the hand that is stretched out to help them. Only traitors bite that hand.

 

EB | When eastern Aleppo and eastern Ghouta were being liberated, Western and international media said that the Syrian army was massacring and raping civilians there and that both the Syrian and the Russian militaries were bombing hospitals. Now, they are saying that 29 hospitals in Idlib have been targeted. What would you say about these accusations?

GH | We have liberated eastern Ghouta. We have also liberated eastern Aleppo. In both locations, a number of field hospitals were shown on television with piles of medicine. This implies that these hospitals were not bombed. This is very briefly.

The other point is that when a building is selected as a command center for armed groups under the pretext of its being a hospital, does this mean we should let those positioned in eastern Ghouta target Damascus on a daily basis with their shells?

Didn’t the world watch those angels of mercy, when they entered Adra industrial town, burning people alive in ovens and throwing civilians off fourth and fifth floors?

We’re talking about war here, we’re talking here about armies of terrorists equipped with light, medium and heavy weapons and empires of media around the world, in addition to the regional and world powers supporting them.

It is the duty of the Syrian State, before being its own right, to provide the Syrian people with protection against terrorism. The problem with the national Syrian media is that it does not reach the West.

Crossing points are identified as corridors for the exit of civilians before any military operation gets started in a populated area. Such corridors are then equipped with ambulances, medical services and every other need. Who targeted the nurses, doctors and civilians on their way out when citizens were evacuated from eastern Ghouta?

Has anybody seen the photo of the Syrian soldier carrying an old woman on his back and a child on his arm? That soldier knew he could drop as a martyr carrying this heavy load. Other soldiers fell as martyrs while they were helping civilians escape.

That number, 29 hospitals, is a lie in itself. It is more than the number of [national] hospitals available all over Syria. Do they allocate a hospital for every twenty or thirty people? This is illogical.

There is also something strange about all the field hospitals that we discovered. Saudi, Israeli and U.S. medicine was found in these hospitals. How did such medicine reach the terrorists? Did it come from underneath the ground?

And those who had been targeting Damascus and Aleppo are all of sudden depicted as angels of mercy, peace and freedom advocates calling for democracy?

It’s worth pointing out to people in the West that it has been proven that only a limited number of the fighters in armed groups came from western Europe and North America, while tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, came from other countries.

The Turkish president declares that such terrorists are free to leave Syrian territory whenever he gets upset with Europe or the U.S. Subsequently, EU countries and the U.S. get so horrified at the possibility of those terrorists returning home.

The EU countries and the U.S. do not want any of those terrorists to return. Why is it that they do not want them to come back? Are they not their own citizens? They say that such terrorists will spread terrorism, so they spread terrorism there while they plant roses and flowers here? Is it okay for terrorists to spread terror here while they’re forbidden to return to their own countries?

Briefly, these are the types of lies spread by the West.

I’m calling on each and every citizen of Western countries, as I am absolutely sure that they have pure human emotion, not to believe the Western media. I want them to be certain that their governments have participated in the killing of the Syrian people and in the killing of Syrian children. Their governments participated in the killing of Syrian women and the killing of the Syrian elderly and convinced them [Western citizens] that they were promoting something else [freedom].

 

EB | Recently, journalists from CBS and Sky News were in Idlib. I believe one of the two groups, Sky News, claimed that it was targeted by the Syrian army. Could they be reporting independently of al-Qaeda or any of the other terrorist groups in Idlib? They claim they are not [embedded] with al-Qaeda. Is this feasible? Is this realistic? 

GH | It’s a funny question. You’re a journalist. Surely, this is not the first time you have visited Syria. Have you faced any obstacles while entering Syria as a journalist? Do any Western or European countries accept the entry of foreign journalists illegally into their countries?

Sky News, the BBC, and Al Jazeera teams conduct live transmissions while embedded with armed groups — the terrorists. I wish that the mental power of the Syrian soldiers could become super advanced so that they can order shells to avoid foreign correspondents who are side by side with terrorists. The army is responding to attacks launched by terrorists — soldiers and officers of the Syrian army cannot give orders to an exploding shell to avoid this or that.

The most important question is this: What are they doing there? How did they enter? Who is in control in Idlib? Isn’t it the Nusra Front? How are they [the journalists] allowed to be there? They are there under the protection of the Nusra Front. They are under the protection of an internationally-designated terrorist organization. Their countries should hold them accountable for communicating with terrorist groups before asking why the army is targeting them.

 

EB | How can Idlib be liberated when Turkish forces occupy northern Syria and there are civilians in Idlib, in addition to the 70,000 al-Qaeda and other terrorist fighters?

GH | There were civilians and armed groups in Homs. There were civilians and armed groups in Ghouta as well. There were civilians and armed groups all over Dara`a.  All these regions have been liberated. The majority of citizens remained there while the terrorists were wiped out. Idlib is no exception. Eastern parts of the Euphrates are no exception either.

Each square centimeter of Syrian land is part and parcel of Syria as a whole. It is the duty and the right of the Syrian State to eradicate terrorism.

Unless under an invitation by the Syrian government, any foreign military presence on the Syrian territory is a force of occupation. The Syrian State is entitled to face such an occupation with every possible means.

The Syrian State has opened the door wide for reconciliation. The Syrian State trusts the wisdom of Russian and Iranian friends and relies on its relations with Turkey.

Surely each Syrian citizen, civilian or military, wishes that not even one drop of blood be spilled. This does not mean to yield to occupation in any way.

Idlib will be freed either through reconciliations or a political agreement. Otherwise, the Syrian State will find the means to liberate Idlib in the same way it liberated all other regions. I am absolutely certain — not as an officer but rather as a citizen — I know how Syrian citizens think; they believe that Idlib will be freed, as will each and every inch of the Syrian territory.

The presence of U.S., Turkish, or any other occupation force does not mean such a force is a destiny that cannot be faced. As long as we [the Syrian State] spare no effort or means — whether military, political, economic or diplomatic —  to win this war [against terrorism] by God’s will, and I hope it is not going to be through military action. But if things reach a dead-end, Idlib will not remain under occupation.

 

EB | Can you speak to the importance of liberating Idlib, not only for Syria’s territorial integrity but also for the villages in Northern Hama that are affected by terrorists in Idlib? The media is not talking about Mahardeh, Sqailbiyeh and other places being attacked by terrorists.

GH | When Mhardeh and Sqailbiyeh are targeted, as a Syrian citizen, I do not see these two towns as less important than Damascus. Likewise when the neighborhoods of Homs were targeted.

All areas inhabited by Syrian citizens under the control of the Syrian State have been targets for those armed terrorist groups that are supported by the West, which claims it is standing by human rights and cares about the interests of the Syrian people.

For Syrian citizens, the liberation of each centimeter, or rather each grain of sand, is as important as the liberation of Idlib. Of course, the existence of armed groups in Idlib leads to abnormal circumstances that cause dysfunction in citizens’ daily lives. Thus, it is important to liberate Idlib to guarantee the return of normal life in Mahardeh, Sqailbiyeh and other areas.

At the same time, it is important to end the occupation by the U.S. and its allies.

I hope that each European or American citizen will ask: Why do Syrian citizens return to areas that have been liberated? Why do citizens welcome the army? Why do citizens — except those who are held hostage by terrorists — flee from areas under the control of terrorist groups?

The civilians residing in terrorist-held areas are helpless hostages. A year ago all of the neighborhoods in eastern Ghouta were populated by terrorists. If the Syrian army had been shelling civilians in the past, why not do now? Why are people now living in peace there?

These are questions that I put forward to people living in the West. I hope they are human enough to ask [themselves] these questions.

 

EB | Regarding misinformation from international media on the Syrian Arab Army, portraying them as murderers and rapists. Can you speak about the sacrifices of the Syrian Arab Army throughout these eight years of war?

GH | I will answer your question with a question. Syria is an area of 185,000 square kilometers. According to United Nations documents, 360,000 armed terrorists infiltrated Syrian territory.

I would like to draw an example other than Syria. I’ll give the U.S., the superpower of the world, as an example. Let’s suppose that 36,000, rather than 360,000, terrorists infiltrate any state of the United States. That’s 10 percent of the number of terrorists who made their way into Syria. Let’s also suppose that such terrorists are supported by world powers. What would have happened to the U.S.?

The achievements of the Syrian Arab Army are not ordinary; these achievements are miraculous accomplishments.

The two greatest armies in modern history have failed to achieve what the Syrian Army has accomplished. In Afghanistan, fewer than 10 percent of the number of terrorists in Syria were able to defeat two armies: the Red Soviet Army and the U.S. Army.

But, the Syrian Army defeated such terrorism. According to military theory, any fight between an army and terrorist militia of armed gangs will end with the armed gangs winning. This has been evident throughout military history.

For the first time in the history of humankind, a traditional army has defeated armies of militant groups. The Syrian Army fought battles that can be classified as new in military science. The Syrian Army fought above ground and underground battles in addition to their battles against the media war, intelligence war, information war, economic war, gang and street-to-street wars. Despite all of that, the Syrian Army achieved victory. Therefore, can we imagine the magnitude of the sacrifices made in this respect by the Syrian Army?

In the first months of this war, the Syrian leadership realized that the terrorists wanted Syrians to be used to seeing blood everywhere. So, soldiers were forbidden from carrying weapons, even handguns, when they went to areas of so-called demonstrations to prevent demonstrators from destroying infrastructure.

For months the soldiers confronted the militants knowing that they could be martyred. However, the discipline of the Syrian army pushed the soldiers to do their missions without carrying a weapon.

Let any Western citizen imagine how it would be for a soldier with no weapons facing armed militants to stop them from destroying infrastructure and targeting civilians.

This is the Syrian army. The Syrian army cleared most of the Syrian regions occupied by the fiercest types of terrorism ever witnessed in the history of mankind.

 

EB |  Thank you very much for your time and for the interview in general.

GH |  I also would like to thank you all for what you’ve done so far and for all of the questions you raised. I kindly request that you share my replies with foreign readers.

Personally, I think your role as an objective journalist transcends the traditional role of journalism. It reflects an ethical responsibility of telling the truth about what you’ve seen. If you want to help the Syrian people, the greatest help you can offer the Syrian people is to tell the truth you have seen with your own eyes, not just what is said all over the internet.

Again, anyone can look up Abu Saqr al-Souri and see how he ate the heart of a dead soldier. He was a member of the so-called peaceful group of the Free Syrian Army, when he was killed — he was with the Nusra Front. This can be enough to convey the message.

INTERVIEW ON LAST AMERICAN VAGABOND: RUKBAN CAMP (SYRIA)

In Gaza – Eva Bartlett

Ryan Cristian of The Last American Vagabond had me on his show to discuss Syria & Palestine.
“In this interview we go over the US-run al-Rukban internment camp in Syria and what these people have been forced to endure even as the MSM ignores their plight, as well as some of what Eva saw while living in Palestine, the parallels between the two atrocities, and the governmental ties that bind them.”
*Note: As I update (July 25), Ryan informed me that Youtube has demonitized this particular upload on his channel.Consider supporting Ryan on his Patreon account.

Links Related to Things Discussed:

LONDON’S ‘MEDIA FREEDOM’ CONFERENCE SMACKS OF IRONY: CRITICS BARRED, NO MENTION OF JAILED ASSANGE

In Gaza

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Kirill Vyshinsky: Imprisoned over 1 year in Ukraine, a journalist who *should* have been highlighted at the “Media Freedom” conference but was not.

July 15, 2019, RT.com
Irony is the word which comes to mind at the mention of the “Global Conference for Media Freedom” co-hosted by the UK and Canadian foreign ministers. Everything about this twilight zone gathering smacked of irony.

Irony that governments which support terrorists in Syria and whitewash Israeli murders of Palestinian journalists have the gall to hold a conference feigning concern for journalists’ rights and media freedom.

Irony that journalists actually suffering persecution and unjust imprisonment –like Kirill Vyshinsky and Julian Assange – were not the focus of the conference, with Assange only mentioned in passing, and Vyshinsky, presumably, not at all.

Irony most of all that a conference — according to Global Affairs Canada, an “international campaign to shine a global spotlight on media freedom…”– refused participation of two major and sought-out media outlets, both Russian: RT and Sputnik.

Organizers apparently tried to claim the reason for the exclusion was simply that they’d met their quota of journalists attending. But they didn’t maintain the lie to Western media, RT London correspondent Polly Boiko noted:

Behind our backs other news channels got a very different message: ‘We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their active role in spreading disinformation.’”

Former Guardian Chief Foreign Correspondent Jonathan Steele called the exclusion of RT and Sputnik a “disgrace”, also stating:

I think they’re trying to isolate RT and imply that it’s not a genuine broadcaster in the hope that British people and others around the world who watched RT International won’t continue to watch it.

The irony –yet again– is that Russia isn’t doing the same, isn’t isolating Western media.

Russia-based journalist Bryan MacDonald tweeted:

It’s like the world has turned on its head. Moscow is literally paying people to translate Western media into Russian (see @RT_InoTV). But the UK is in a panic about Russian outlets, even running covert operations, such as “Integrity Initiative,” to “combat” a perceived threat.”

Even the Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern at the UK’s exclusion of RT and Sputnik.

From the feedback on the UK Foreign Office tweet featuring CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about

reporting the truth”, it was refreshing to see that many saw this charade for what it was, calling it Orwellian, and noting that Britain is “torturing journalist Julian Assange as it uses @CAmanpour to produce propaganda claiming it cares about media freedom.

I couldn’t help chiming in, noting Amanpour’s exploitation of a Syrian child in order to demonize Russia.

Eva Bartlett

@EvaKBartlett

Theatre of the absurd. Truthful? Amanpour waved photo of Omran Daqneesh in face of Lavrov & essentially accused Russia of airstriking boy’s home. Boy’s dad told me no airstrike. It was fake news. https://www.mintpressnews.com/mintpress-meets-father-iconic-aleppo-boy-says-media-lied-son/228722/ 
Did Amanpour bother apologizing for her propaganda? Nope. https://twitter.com/foreignoffice/status/1148864435194347520 

MintPress Meets The Father Of Iconic Aleppo Boy, Who Says Media Lied About His Son

MintPress sat down with the father of the now-infamous Aleppo boy, Omran Daqneesh. Omran’s father, Mohammad Daqneesh, says his son was exploited by Syrian rebels and the media for political gain.,…

mintpressnews.com

Foreign Office 🇬🇧

@foreignoffice

‘Our job is to report the truth. It is not to be neutral, it is to be truthful’ @camanpour explains the vital role that journalists play in society. #DefendMediaFreedom

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The UK conference isn’t the first example of an international event hosting regime-change media while excluding critical media.

Earlier this year, when the Lima Group was meeting in Canada to discuss the self-proclaimed non-president, Juan Guaido, Canada likewise denied accreditation to Telesur and Russian media.

Global Affairs Canada alleged at the time there would be “reciprocal action against Canadian media in Russia.

However, Bryan MacDonald told me: “Any that wish can operate in Russia. There are no restrictions.”

Indeed, a perusal of the Twitter accounts of CBC and Radio Canada journalists shows they’ve continued reporting from Russia months since Canada’s allegation of reciprocal action.

Which outlets did Canada give access to during the Lima meeting? CNN, Univision, Voice of America, Al Jazeera, CBC, CTV, Global, and La Presse, among other regime-change networks.

Telesur noted at the time of the Canadian block:

The government did not provide any reasoning for the denial of Lima Group meeting access, but has recently been called out for limiting press freedom within the country based on the preferences of its government.

Sound familiar?

A regime change conference

The UK conference seems to have been a who’s who of terrorist and extremist supporters and journalists who whitewash their crimes. Or, as a Canadian journalist who attended put it, the conference was:

Meetings behind closed doors. Barring certain people from a press conference. Letting only hand-picked journalists ask questions. Here’s how Canada’s “media freedom” conference went down.

Andrew Lawton

@AndrewLawton

Meetings behind closed doors. Barring certain people from a press conference. Letting only hand-picked journalists ask questions. Here’s how Canada’s “media freedom” conference went down. https://tnc.news/2019/07/11/lawton-media-freedom-conference-pays-lip-service-to-press-freedom/ 

LAWTON: Media freedom conference pays lip service to press freedom – True North News

Canadian and British governments demonstrated they’re more interested in a glossy show of support for press freedom without conducting themselves in a way that fosters it.

tnc.news

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That same journalist noted,
only two pre-selected Canadian journalists were permitted to ask questions of Freeland and Hunt at a brief media availability on the first day of the conference. Media were not allowed in the room for what may have been the most consequential part of the conference, a session with government representatives from around the world on “how to sustain the impact of the (Defend Media Freedom) campaign after the conference.

Present were the BBC, CNN, and CBC, among others. Although these outlets have all systematically churned out disinformation on Syria and Russia, they were presented as truthful authorities on ‘media freedom.’

The BBC dubs itself “the most trusted international news broadcaster.” This lofty claim is easily debunked when looking at the BBC’s history of war propaganda on Syria, including its 2013, “Saving Syria’s Children”, a report which Robert Stuart has doggedly investigated, revealing its falsehoods.

Or the time the BBC used Italian photojournalist Marco Di Lauro‘s photo from Iraq to claim it was Houla, Syria.

beeb

As I wrote before, “Upon demand of the aghast journalist, the claim was later retracted and corrected, an “accident”…but who was listening by that point?”

Or that time the BBC’s Middle East specialist asserted a viral video was in a “regime” area of Syria –because of the “Syrian army flag” painted on a barrel– when the clip was filmed in Malta by Norwegians, and the barrel was painted with an out-of-sequence attempt at replicating Syria’s flag.

expert

But more telling about the BBC’s trustworthiness is the fact that, according to the Canary, “The UK Conservative government appoints the chair of the BBC board and its four national directors.”

Pegged as a Venezuelan investigative reporter, Luz Mely Reyes was invited to the conference. Reyes advocates for non-president Juan Guaido and is cheer-led by Western media gatekeepers like TIME and the Guardian. She was thus, indeed, a perfect guest for the regime-change conference.

Syrian participants included exclusively pro-regime-change journalists, such as:

-Karam Nachar, a “cyber-activist working with Syrian protesters via social media platforms,” according to his bio on Democracy Now, where, as with other regime-change supporters, he has appeared frequently arguing the case for western intervention.

-Wa’ad Al Khatib, promoted before Aleppo’s liberation in 2016 as an independent filmmaker. Her clips were featured by none other than the UK’s Channel 4, one of the worst offenders in war propaganda on Syria.

The irony is that Wa’ad al-Khatib was slated to speak about the role of local journalists with respect to international media coverage of areas. But she,like so many other darlings of Western corporate media, reported fully embedded in terrorist areas, clearly with the permission and approval of terrorists.

Chairing panels on safety and protection of journalists was none other than Sky News’ Alex Crawford. In June, Crawford was seen embedded with al-Qaeda in Idlib, as were CBS journalists, both teams presumably having entered Syria illegally.

One could muse that Crawford’s safety advice was: pay up to al-Qaeda and you’ll be fine moving alongside terrorists.

A panel on “Navigating Disinformation” was chaired by Chrystia Freeland – known for her allegiances to the Ukrainian authorities and the bloody coup that brought them to power, to the Venezuelan coup-plotters and to the White Helmets of al-Qaeda– not exactly the most neutral or balanced person to moderate.

Fake Concern For Journalists; No Mention Of Assange, Kirill Vyshinsky

Glaringly absent from the agenda was the issue of Julian Assange, held at Belmarsh prison a short drive away.

John McEvoy@jmcevoy_2

This is the distance between the UK’s ‘defend media freedom’ event and Belmarsh prison. Julian Assange can probably smell the hypocrisy from his cell.

View image on Twitter
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the UK conference is happening at the same time that Julian Assange’s extradition papers are being signed by the UK.

On July 10, the first day of the conference, Hunt stated that countries that restrict media freedom must be made to pay a diplomatic price, saying:

If we act together we can shine a spotlight on abuses and impose a diplomatic price on those who’d harm journalists or lock them up for doing their jobs.

This from the Foreign Secretary of a government which is

holding journalist Julian Assange behind bars pending a US extradition hearing for exposing American war crimes.

When challenged by Ruptly journalist Barnaby Nerberka on Assange, in contrast to his lofty words on the previous day, Hunt said nothing.

Barnaby Nerberka@barnabynerberka

Jeremy Hunt refuses to answer my questions on the plight of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the banning of Russian media from the ‘media freedom conference’

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Ukrainian-Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky was not featured in spite of having been unjustlydetained by Ukraine for 14 months now, a glaring violation of media freedom.

Russia in Canada

@RussianEmbassyC

🇷🇺 journalist Kirill Vyshinsky is imprisoned in accused of “high treason” for doing his job

🇨🇦 🇬🇧 so-called forum ignores his show trial & similar cases of attacks on , incl. @OSCE_RFoM condemned ban on Russian journalists accreditation

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter
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Likewise, certainly absent was mention of Syrian journalist Khaled al-Khatib, killed in 2017 by ISIS (IS/Islamic State, formerly ISIL), or of any of theSyrian and allied journalists murdered by jihadists before he was.

The UK Foreign Office made the mistake of tweeting about the risk of “torture, disappearances and death,” in Eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian journalist Sergey Belous, kidnapped by Ukrainian armed forces in 2014, corrected him.

Foreign Office 🇬🇧

@foreignoffice

In the non-government controlled areas of Eastern Ukraine, journalists risk torture, disappearances and death.

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Sergey Belous@Belous_SR

Ha-ha-ha! Where you’ve been when I (war reporter, working as stringer for Ukrainian 112 chanel) was kidnapped by Ukrainian armed forces in 2014? Hypocrites! Stop spreading lies! What’s about or , for example?

See Sergey Belous’s other Tweets
Likewise, Mark Sleboda called BS, noting the over 20 journalist killed by “the militant forces & brownshirt paramilitary ‘batallions’ of the new regime.”

Clearly, the grandiose words of foreign ministers Hunt and Freeland apply only to journalists supporting regime change, not those targeted by allied governments and their terrorists.

After the Censorship  Conference

On Saturday, I read that a popular Ukrainian TV channel was attacked with a grenade launcher on the day an Oliver Stone documentary on Ukraine was to be aired.

Ivan Katchanovski@I_Katchanovski

It would be revealing reaction of new president @ZelenskyyUa to such undemocratic and illiberal actions of political appointees of Poroshenko regime and far right against US documentary that they have not seen and against freedom of the press & expression in .

Ivan Katchanovski@I_Katchanovski

Popular TV channel is shelled from grenade launcher in order to prevent its broadcast today of US by @TheOliverStone. It would reveal involvement of snipers in Maidan massacre. Would there be any reaction from US government? https://112.ua/glavnye-novosti/v-noch-na-13-myulya-dvoe-neizvestnyh-iz-granatometa-obstrelyali-zdanie-112-kanala-499728.html 

Здание телеканала 112 Украина обстреляли из гранатомета

Полицейские квалифицируют происшествие как террористический акт

112.ua

295 people are talking about this

“Any reaction from so-called ‘Global Media Freedom’ conference co-hosts Freeland & Hunt, or those who pledged to ‘shine a light on violations & abuses of media freedom, bringing them to the attention of global public and working towards accountability’”.

My question was of course rhetorical, not honestly expecting those governmental representatives who signed a pledge “to work together to protect media freedom” to actually do that.

Their pledge entailed committing to “shine a light on violations and abuses of media freedom, bringing them to the attention of the global public and working towards accountability.” How ironic.

RELATED LINKS:

“They Just Want Me in Prison”: MintPress Interviews Jailed Ukrainian Journalist Kirill Vyshinsky

‘They know that we know they are liars, they keep lying’: West’s war propaganda on Ghouta crescendos

FAKE NEWS WEEK: Why Channel 4 “News” Owes an Apology to Syria

Exploitation of children in propaganda war against Syria continues

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

US exceptionalism: Exploiting certain Syrians, ignoring others

By Eva Bartlett

June 21, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –  Syria and Russia have been evacuating civilians from yet another region starved by its Western-backed terrorists. But Western corporate media ignore this and instead continue spinning nightmarish war propaganda on Syria.

Predictably, copy-paste Syrian reports emanate from Western governments and corporate media feign concern for civilians in Idlib while negating to mention that the Idlib governorate is an Al-Qaeda hotbed.

Back in Syria again, over the ‘Eid holidays, I spoke with residents about life in Damascus now, and highlighted the peace which exists – having been absent for many years prior when terrorists’ mortars rained down on the city.

But I was also interested in highlighting another issue: the evacuation of southeastern Syria’s Rukban Camp which has been under way for months; civilians have been plucked from starvation and intolerable conditions, and delivered to safety with access to food and medical care.

In February, Russia and Syria set up humanitarian corridors to start evacuating civilians to safe areas where they could receive medical treatment and resettle in their home areas or elsewhere.

In June, 2019, I travelled to a point where I could interview evacuees of the Rukban, the unbearable camp near the US-occupied Al-Tanf base.

United States of hypocrisy occupies & places blame on others

Rukban also lies on the border with Jordan. Over the years, it has become a hell on earth, with residents starving due to a lack of accessible food. In November 2018, there were around 50,000 refugees in the camp.

Most Western reporting on the situation in Rukban has blamed Syria and Russia for the scarcity of food in the camp. Surprisingly, a June 2018 article by US think tank the Century Foundation highlighted US control over the camp and surrounding areas.

“The Tanf–Rukban zone is patrolled by Coalition forces and their chosen Syrian partner, Maghawir al-Thawra… Also present are 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.”

The US 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 US administration logic, convoys should have dropped their Rukban-specific aid in areas controlled by terrorist groups and just hoped for the best.

Even if the US intentions were good, experience has shown that when terrorist groups occupying an area have access to aid, they keep it for themselves, civilians don’t see it unless they pay a high price.When eastern areas of Aleppo were liberated in December 2016, even Reuters had to report that civilians blamed so-called ‘rebels’ for hoarding food they desperately needed.

When Madaya, heavily propagandized about in early 2016, was restored to safety in 2017, I travelled there and spoke to residents who again solely blamed terrorists for their starvation. Same in eastern Ghouta, where residentsspoke of starvation and executions, by terrorists.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that if Americans at al-Tanf could get supplies from Iraq and Jordan, they could have also brought in humanitarian aid for Rukban civilians, were they actually so concerned.

Unsurprisingly, in Syria’s and Russia’s eyes, the US is holding civilians in Rukban hostage. This became more apparent when America refused to shut down the camp, quite clearly preferring to have a raison d’être for continuing their illegal occupation of southeastern Syria.

Even the Middle East director for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Amin Awad, said that civilians in Rukban were being held against their will, as “human shields”“deprived of basic services,”according to Sputnik News.

Awad pointed the finger at traders in the camp bearing responsibility for the suffering of civilians in Rukban, but civilians I spoke to also included America in their blame.

Rukban’s displaced speak out

On a stretch of road between the Rukban camp and the Homs refugee centre they were headed to on June 12, I met some of the roughly 900 Syrians evacuated that day on 18 buses. Another convoy of trucks carried their tattered personal belongings.

I approached many with questions about life in the camp, moving from bus to bus to speak with them.

An old woman sitting on the floor of one bus said she’d been in the camp for four years, that everything was expensive and they were hungry all the time. She gave the example of being charged 1,000 Syrian pounds (around US$2) for five potatoes.

Mahmoud Saleh, a young man from Homs governorate, told me he’d fled home five years ago. When I asked who was in control in Rukban, he replied without hesitation: “The Americans.”

An older man from Palmyra, four years in the camp, spoke of “armed gangs,” paid in US dollars, being the only ones able to eat properly.

“The armed gangs were living while the rest of the people were dead. Those who wanted fruit had to pay in US dollars. The armed groups were the only ones who could do so.”

I asked about access to medical care.

“Medical services! There is no medicine at all.” He pointed to a young woman behind him who he said had lost two babies because she couldn’t get a C-section.

In another bus, a shepherd who had spent three years in Rukban blamed “terrorists” for not being able to leave. He also blamed the US. “Those controlling Tanf wouldn’t let us leave, the Americans wouldn’t let us leave.”

Many others who I spoke to said they had wanted to leave before but believed the fearmongering from terrorists who told them they would be “slaughtered by the regime,” a claim floated in corporate media when Aleppo was being liberated.

The Russian Reconciliation Centre reports that some Rukban residents had to pay as much as US$1000 to “militants controlled by the US side” in order to leave.

As of June 13, Russia’s Ministry of Defence reports that 14,347 people, mostly children and women, have been evacuated from Rukban since February 23.

International media & their dubious sources

As evacuations of civilians from Rukban have unfolded, any Western corporate media that bothers to report on them has spun them as ‘forced displacement’ to ‘regime areas’ where civilians will be ‘imprisoned and tortured.’

Yeah, Syria and Russia are simply hell-bent on finding any way to torture Syrian civilians, to the extent that they will waste considerable amounts of money and time to so, or at least, that’s what corporate media would have you believe.

And just as Western corporate media relied on the words of “media activists” and “unnamed sources” in their warpropaganda prior to and during the liberation of eastern Aleppo and eastern Ghouta, hostile media are again relyingon such sources for reporting on Rukban.

Canada’s Globe and Mail went as far as to cite the utterly non-credible, Qatar-based, Syrian Network for Human Rights in a recent article claiming that thousands of Syrians who have returned home have been arrested.

As journalist Max Blumenthal humorously pointed out in his investigation into this Qatar-influenced body, “citing the Syrian Network for Human Rights as an independent and credible source is the journalistic equivalent of sourcing statistics on head trauma to a research front created by the National Football League, or turning to tobacco industry lobbyists for information on the connection between smoking and lung cancer.”

Contrasting the claims, Syrian authorities have stated that UN representatives have permission to visit the refugee centres. The Russian Reconciliation Centre stated that UN bodies, including the UNHCR, visited the shelters.

As of June 16, the Russian Reconciliation Centre reports that “1,299,977 IDPs have returned back to their homes”in Syria since September 30, 2015, and that since July 2018, “175 medical and 863 educational organizations have been recovered.”

Those are some odd statistics given that Western media and politicians would have us believe that the Syrian and Russian governments are terrorizing civilians and gleefully destroying infrastructure in Syria.

Or perhaps what Western media, governments, and lobby groups are spouting is just more, unoriginal, war propaganda.

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 Palestine (where she lived for nearly four years).

This article was originally published by “RT” –

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