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 A preliminary reading in the Gouta Massacre

The Ghouta Massacre addresses two questions to those who are aware of the Syrian affair, the first being, how were some Syrians able to use Chemical Weapons agains other Syrians, and the second, how can the International community accept the use of Chemical Weapons in Syria?

The answer to either questions doesn’t at all seem easy. Here is an initial attempt to demonstrate one aspect of this topic.

Within the past two years, the Syrian regime was able to completely strip the humanitarian side off of the opposition. The regime had stopped accusing Israel and the west of funding and arming the rebels, and the opposition was transformed into Al-Qaeda. In their statements, Syrian political leaders claim the following: “There is no such thing as the Free Syrian Army, they all belong to the Nusra Front”. “They’re all Al-Qaeda”. The Syrian regime has almost completely succeeded in this process. The ‘Jihad by Marriage’, which seems to be an unprecedented invention by journalist Ghassan Ben Jiddou, played a pivotal role inside Syria, more specifically amongst minorities, and in the west, through showing areas liberated by the rebels as big brothels where young girls are being sexually exploited shamelessly by terrorists from all around the world.

Let’s consider the story of Sarah Al-Allaow. Sarah, a thirteen or nineteen year-old girl from Al-Mayadeen, was presented on Syrian state TV to declare her confessions: The Princess of the Nusra Front. A commander in Tawheed Brigades. Recruited many girls to participate in the “Jihad by marriage”. She performed sexual acts with foreign jihadists in exchange for money. She transferred explosive devices to Damascus, and she worked in a field hospital. The Syrian regime is carrying out an organised propaganda stating that all of the opposition is Nusra and Al-Qaeda, and also their children are Nusra and Qaeda. Just like that, the regime fully transgresses the environment supporting the opposition. There are no other solutions when it comes to terrorism. Sarah Al-Allaow’s case is not a slip, it’s a policy secured to demonise the hosting environment of the opposition, including its children, women, the old and the young.

These campaigns were accompanied by a vandalising role played by several parties affiliated with the opposition, such as Building The Syrian State and National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, in addition to one of the most trusted centres in the West, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Those groups managed to amplify Al-Qaeda’s role in Syria, without any evidence, and mostly based on false information.

This fear of Al-Qaeda is observed in the west, by leftists, rightists, and mainstream individuals. No one defends Assad or the Syrian regime there, but they fear Al-Qaeda far more than they fear Assad or any other dictator for that matter. This kind of fear unifies the west effectively.

This is how the Syrian conflict is laid out: there is a secular regime that has non-forgivable mistakes, but is fighting jihadi groups with Al-Qaeda ideology, who happen to be controlling sizeable Syrian lands. There are no solutions to this absurd war. In a conflict with a concept as such, Assad regime seems like a more preferable option to the west, and to some Syrians as well. In the end, Assad regime can maintain stability and prevent a medieval barbaric regime from arising in the Middle East. Even though it comes at a high price, which is taking Syria back to the 1980′s, where Syrians were ruled by a Soviet-like security system. This option, however, is always better than having a new Taliban in the area.

I suggest that demonising the Syrian Opposition and linking it to Al-Qaeda is one of the most important reasons to why some Syrians and Westerners would accept the Ghouta Massacre. But what do we do? We must immediately rethink our media and military strategies. We must immediately address four main issues.

First, we must provide accurate, tangible, and reliable evidence of the demonising campaigns, i.e. Where and how did the concept of “Jihad by Marriage” start? Who published this story for the very first time? Who adopted it? Is it evident that this Jihad is backed by a Fatwa? Also, who is Sarah Al-Allaow? When was she born? What school did she go to? When was she detained? And why? Who is Golani? Who is Baghdadi? What was the first operation Nusra Front ever carried out? What was the first operation Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ever carried out? How many fighters are there in both organisations? Where are they located?

Second, we must refrain from accusing the regime of creating Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria. There is no solution for the case of Al-Qaeda in Syria but through daily and direct coordination with Syrians in liberated areas, and through attempting to understand why part of the Syrian community is accepting their presence. All those who visit or live in liberated areas are aware of two things that must be explained, addressed, and publicised: Firstly, Al-Qaeda factions comprise only a part of the armed rebels. Most of the Free Syrian Army and Islamist brigades do not get along with Al-Qaeda’s ideology or techniques. Here, the Syrian regime is spreading false information believed by many Syrians, opposition, and westerners. This work needs to be documented according to names and areas. What are the Islamist Brigades, the Free Syrian Army Brigades, and the Al-Qaeda factions that have presence in Idlib, or Aleppo, or Daraa? What is their relationship with each other like? When were they founded? Who are their leaders and what are their orientations? Secondly, There is a limited sympathy with al-Qaeda factions in the liberated areas. We must recognise this matter as a prelude to confront it. Why do we find this sympathy? How can we reduce this phenomenon?

Third, from what’s mentioned above, we must act immediately on drawing a clear policy towards Al-Qaeda factions on the ground. After separating Islamist fighters, even the radical ones, such as Ahfad Al-Rasool and Liwa’a Al-Islam, from Nusra and ISIS, we are able to draw a detailed map of the Syrian reality. What’s required is for the westerner and the Syrian to understand this map easily, and to know what the strategy of the opposition in addressing the problem of Al-Qaeda is. I Suggested that this is accompanied by attempting to work with National Coordination Committee and those who are believed to be the secular and the leftist in the opposition, and open the door for dialogue with them in the broadest way possible. They should not be marginalised or accused of working with the regime. Those groups have a point of view that we may agree or disagree with. But they make up a significant part of the Syrian society. Why exaggerate the numbers of Al-Qaeda? Why exaggerate the number of foreign jihadists? Couldn’t we agree with them on minimising this phenomenon and attempting to reach a unified strategy?

Fourth, with regard to the West. It seems that Westerners are the main target of the organised propaganda campaign carried out by the Syrian regime and its allies. These Westerners have a real complex when it comes to Al-Qaeda. But for the majority, the other complex is the Iraq war. Millions of Westerners who generally sympathise with the Arabs seem closer today to the Assad regime than to the Syrian opposition, because of the aforementioned complexes. We may not be able to reach to all of them, but reaching the preliminary facts on the Syrian opposition and the reality on the ground on the ground will inevitably help prevent repeating the use of Chemical Weapons.

Stripping a group of people off of their humanity provides a theoretical prelude to execute them all. The Nazi propaganda focused on demonising Jews. Today, Israelis follow a similar approach with Palestinians; in the 1970′s and 1980′s, they were terrorists; today they are potential suicide bombers that would blow themselves up in any crowd of civilians for trivial reasons. In Syria, everyone in the opposition is Al-Qaeda. This is the official propaganda. There are no compromises, nor easy options in dealing with al-Qaeda. If the choice is between the secular, brutal, and repressive Assad regime, or the Talabani system, many Syrians and most Westerners will choose the Assad regime.

Therefore, it is our duty to expose this propaganda.The use of chemical weapons in Ghouta proves that we have failed to provide the true picture of what is happening in Syria, be it to the pro-regime public opinion, or to Westerners. Regardless of the reasons of failure, we must move quickly.

Iraqis and Arabs knew of massacring the Kurds, Germans also knew of Hitler’s massacres, Turks of massacring Armenians, and Israelis of massacring Palestinians. Today, Syrians are being cold-bloodedly exterminated with the clear and explicit consent from some Syrians and Westerners. No one deserves such a fate. There is a profound defect in these kinds of human extermination operations. Humanity should never be stripped off of any group of human beings, whatever the given reasons or circumstances. Giving Syrians their humanity back is the first step toward overthrowing this regime.

Odai Zoabi, The Republic.

Translation by Editorayeh

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