One rainy day in Damascus, Syrian comedian Treka Zn / Treka and I met up to speak about Syria. The man is not only funny, but incredibly informative. Do watch.
In the last year, the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Madaya have become familiar to the international community as they have become subjects of heavy propaganda amid corporate media coverage to justify a so-called “humanitarian” war. Another area used in the war propaganda was al-Waer, a district of Homs occupied by the Western armed and financed “moderates” of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria), Ahrar al-Sham, and terrorists showing allegiance to Daesh (ISIS).
When I again visited Syria in June 2017, Aleppo, Madaya and al-Waer had been restored to peace, following the evacuation of these armed groups. I was able to visit these areas and speak to residents about the reality of life under the rule of these factions.
In Part I of my coverage August 2017 article focused on Aleppo and the life of civilians there under “rebel” occupation — which included many dangers, deprivations, and horrors, not the least of which was susceptibility to extra-judicial trials and executions.
Here, I look at Madaya and al-Waer, again from on the ground, to give a voice to Syrians who have been marginalized by the Western corporate media, which has instead glorified the insurgency.
We had the honor to interview Eva Karene Bartlett. She is well known 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). She documented the 2008/9 and 2012 Israeli war crimes and attacks on Gaza while riding in ambulances and reporting from hospitals.
Since April 2014, she has visited Syria 6 times, including two months in summer 2016 and once month in Oct/Nov 2016. Her early visits included interviewing residents of the Old City of Homs, which had just been secured from militants, and visiting historic Maaloula after the Aramaic village had been liberated of militants. In December 2015, Eva returned to old Homs to find life returning, small shops opened, some of the damaged historic churches holding worship anew, and citizens preparing to celebrate Christmas once again.
On her 5th visit in June-August 2016, she went twice to Aleppo, also visiting Palmyra, Masyaf, Jableh, Tartous, and Barzeh district of Damascus, as well as returning again to Maaloula and Latakia. On her sixth visit to Syria, in October and November, she visited Aleppo twice more, as well as areas around Damascus. The testimonies Eva gathered in Aleppo starkly contrasted narratives corporate media had been asserting. Many of her published Syria writings, videos, photos can be found at this link.
GLOBAL CIR: You come from Canada, a country which is in relation to the US a symbol peacefulness and regulated country. What was the decisive influence for you to begin with the social activism and independent journalism in the most turbulent and bloodiest part of the world, the Middle East?
-Actually, while Canada is portrayed as a benevolent and peaceful country, not many people realize the extent to which Canada has: supported the Zionists’ ethnic cleansing of Palestinians while also turning a blind eye to the murder of Palestinians; taken part in the NATO alliance war on Syria; sold weapons to the despotic Saudi regime (latest deal: US$11 billion), including anti-tank cannons and combat vehicles with machine guns; and ethnically-cleansed and slaughtered the indigenous people.
With regard to Canada’s role in the war on Syria, it includes imposing criminal and crippling sanctions on Syria; supporting and funding (millions of dollars) the so-called armed ‘opposition’ in Syria and their propagandists; closing Syrian embassies in Canada; demonizing the legitimate Syrian government and Syrian army; and legitimizing the illegitimate, Saudi-backed, so-called ‘Syrian National Council’.
Growing up in Canada, I was completely ignorant to world politics. In my late twenties I started to become aware of some of the most basic continuing atrocities, like the Zionist colonization of Palestine, and was moved to learn more first-hand. I did so as a solidarity activist and volunteer in occupied Palestine, seeing over a period of six years some of the worst crimes by Zionist soldiers and colonists against Palestinian civilians, including children.
When the criminal war on Syria physically began in early 2011, I was equally ignorant about that country, and was at that time living in the Gaza Strip. However, very quickly I became suspicious of what corporate media was alleging was happening in Syria, and began researching via independent sources, ultimately going to the country to see for myself.
I used to think that Palestine was one of the most difficult issues to talk about, with so much media distortion and whitewashing in the favour of Israel. However, I now believe that getting the truth out on Syria is one of the most difficult things to do, as nearly all in the Western world, as well as the Gulf states and all corporate media, have conspired to lie about events in Syria and about the will of the Syrian people.
Canadian state and corporate media is as guilty of war propaganda as American, British, and Gulf media. Canada’s politicians and corporate media have Syrian blood on their hands.
*In the old city of Homs, June 2014, speaking with Zeinat and Aymen al-Akhras who endured years of hell under the rule of militant factions. In May 2014, an agreement saw the reportedly 1,200 militants bussed out of Homs (as recently happened in Aleppo), bringing peace to the neighbourhoods they’d occupied and terrorized. Excerpt from my article on this visit and interviewing residents of the old city of Homs: “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…”
“We were twelve siblings with eight houses in the area, and the family house. We all had stores of food.”
“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 al-Akhras. Read: Liberated Homs Residents Challenge Notion of “Revolution”
Since it is a theme that those who report differently than the MSM war propaganda on Syria must therefore work for either/both Syria or Russia, I’ll address that in this brief post, drawing on some interviews and related material, since I continue to be incredibly busy.
“Some people have taken issue with the things I said because I was basically criticizing much of the corporate media reporting on Syria, and instead of actually digesting what I said and criticizing the details of what I said, people have gone to the usual tactic of trying to smear who I am and imply that I am an agent of either or both Syria and Russia,” Bartlett said, adding that it’s been openly implied she is on the payroll of the Syrian and Russian governments. The fact that she is an active contributor to RT’s op-edge section has also been jumped all over.
“The fact that I do contribute to the RT op-edge section apparently, in some people’s eyes, makes me compromised. I began contributing to the RT op-edge section when I lived in Gaza, and this was not an issue for people who then appreciated my writing,” she stated.
“What I am writing, and what I’m reporting, and who I am citing are Syrian civilians whom I’ve encountered in Syria.
“If people do not wish to hear the voices of Syrian civilians and if they want to maintain their narrative which is in line with the NATO narrative – which is in line with destabilizing Syria and vilifying the government of Syria and ignoring the overwhelming wishes of the people of Syria – then they do this by accusing me of spreading propaganda,” the journalist stressed.
“The fact that my writing is in line with the Syrian people… in some respect aligns with Russian media reports, does not mean that I’m reporting Russian propaganda, and it does not mean that what Russian media is reporting is propaganda. It happened to be that I report the truth as I see it on the ground, and some Russian media happen to report the truth as they see it on the ground.
“Why do we not see these accusations when a BBC journalist goes to Syria and reports what I often believe to be not the full story? Why are they not accused of working for the State of England? Why are Al Jazeera journalists not accused of working for Qatar?”
*Please note, I do not have ‘my own blog’ on RT, as written in the RT overview of an interview I gave to the site (and as also alleged by a factually-challenged ‘fact check’ by Channel 4 News, the debunking of which will be out soon). In fact, the RT disclaimer at the bottom of Op-Edge contributions is clear: “The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.” How did the fact checkers at Channel 4 miss that?
© Eva Bartlett
Since 2013, September has for the historic village of Maaloula been a month of tragic anniversaries. Crimes and atrocities committed by Western, Gulf, Turkish and Zionist-backed terrorists there in September alone include murders, maimings, kidnappings, and the beginning of what would be the vast destruction and looting of Maaloula’s rich and unique ancient heritage.
On September 4, 2013, a Jordanian suicide-bomber exploded his truck at the Syrian army checkpoint at the arched gate outside the village. This was immediately followed by attacks on Syrian soldiers nearby, mainly by al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) terrorists—including Chechens, Uighurs, Turkestanis, Libyans, and Saudis, as well as locals.
Gate at the outskirts of Maaloula, where on September 4, 2013, al-Nusra and other terrorists carried out a series of coordinated attacks on Syrian soldiers, the start of the battle for Maaloula. © Eva Bartlett
On September 7, 2013, terrorists point-blank assassinated three unarmed Maaloula men after they refused to convert to Islam, critically injuring one of the men’s sisters.
On September 13, 2013, a group of roughly twenty Syrians, including a Maaloula local, climbed the mountains above the town in an attempt to observe the never-interrupted, nearly 1,700 year old, annual traditions of the Festival of the Holy Cross. Terrorists attacked the men, killing roughly half of them and abducting the others (1).
Although since March 2013 al-Nusra and FSA, among other terrorist factions, had occupied areas of the cliffs above and beyond the over 4,000 year old village, the September 4th attack began what would be an eight month battle by Maaloula’s defence forces, the Syrian Arab Army, and Hezbollah to liberate the village from terrorists who bombed, burned, looted, and in any way possible attempted to destroy the heritage of Maaloula.
According to Maaloula local defence soldiers, between September 4, 2013 and April 14, 2014, at least 200 soldiers of the Syrian army were killed in the battles to liberate Maaloula, including at least four who were savagely beheaded in the initial terrorist attacks. Their honourable sacrifices will not be forgotten.
The less-recognized heroes in Maaloula’s fight against terrorism were those villagers who defied terrorists’ commands or with arms resisted them, and continue to do so now.
In July 2016, I returned to Maaloula to see how life had improved since April 2014, and to hear the accounts of Maaloula’s heroic defenders and of a woman left for dead.
**As the Syrian Arab Army and allies continue to fight western-sponsored terrorism in Syria, it is important to recall the victory of places like Ma’loula, whose local defenders, and the SAA, faced the west’s **absolutely** non-“moderates” for 8 months before victory.
By Eva Bartlett
As Syrian and allied Resistance forces fight NATO’s death squads in the outskirts of Damascus, Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, I re-visit the story of the formerly-terrorized ancient village of Ma’loula, which I visited in June 2014, two months after it had been liberated. Although no longer beset by terrorism, the story of Ma’loula is very much a current story, a case study of the senseless destruction, looting, and killing by Western-sponsored terrorists throughout Syria.
When I visited in June 2014, a calm prevailed. One seemingly random observation that stood out was the sound of peeping birds, which just months earlier would have been lost in the tumult of terrorist bombings and gunfire. There was the expected destruction from battles waged by and on the terrorists. There was further—clearly-intentional—destruction meted out systematically by the al-Qaeda death squads—particularly on Christian, cultural, and heritage sites.
In Ma’loula, terrorists likewise took great apparent pleasure in destroying and desecrating Christian relics, to the extent of gauging out the eyes from icons and mosaics and shooting down the large clifftop Jesus and Mary statues which had overlooked the village. They likewise burned, robbed and vandalized churches and homes.
Russia Today correspondent Maria Finoshina has reported numerous times from Ma’loula, visiting the village prior to its devastation, during its occupation, and post-liberation. Video footage from a pre-destruction visit shows children singing in Aramaic inside the then-intact and lovely church in St. Thekla convent.
In April 2014, during an Easter celebration at a Bab Touma (Thomas Gate) district restaurant in Damascus’ Old City, I met a stunning young woman, Diala. During a pause in the pro-Syria and pro-President al-Assad songs blasting all evening, she’d stood up and beautifully sung in a cappella. As it happened, she was from Ma’loula; many of Ma’loula’s displaced residents have temporarily re-settled in the Bab Touma district.
We spoke briefly, curtailed by the raging party. Her words echoed reports on Ma’loula. “We were living happily, no one bothered us, but when the terrorists came, they destroyed, slaughtered, kidnapped, and stole. They destroyed the holy churches, stole icons…” CONTINUE READING