The Syrian conflict has created the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Half the country’s pre-war population — more than 11 million people — have been killed or forced to flee their homes.
I just watched the documentary Salam neighbor about Syrian refugees in Jordan’s Za’atari camp. The documentary is part of a campaign, SalamNeighbor.org, to help Syrian refugees. While the people making the documentary, Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci, seem to be genuinely moved by a humanitarian interest in the refugees, the underlying premise, that out of thin air one day the Syrian Government decided to rain hell on their own people is unsettling. The war on Syria is neither madness of her own government, nor a natural disaster that cannot be stopped. It is manufactured mayhem explicitly engineered to destroy Syria.
I have been following the war on Syria since 2012. The experience has made me aware of how difficult it is to get unbiased information about World affairs. Despite uncontroversial and widely available evidence that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United States, Turkey, Israel are financing and logistically supporting the war against Syria, the crisis is portrayed in the Media as a civil war provoked and fueled by the Syrian government. The Wall Street Journal, for example, has reported that Israeli authorities have provided significant amounts of cash, food, fuel and medical supplies to Sunni rebels fighting against Bashar al-Assad’s government.
In 2012, while the Media was reporting violent Syrian government repression of peaceful demonstrations, Syrians themselves were witnessing armed insurrection. One morning in August 2012, renowned Syrian photographer Issa Touma saw young men lugging sandbags into his street. It turned out to be the start of the Syrian uprising in the city of Aleppo. Touma grabbed his camera and spent nine days holed up in his apartment, recording what was happening outside.
A YouGov Siraj poll on Syria commissioned by The Doha Debates in 2012, funded by the Qatar Foundation. Qatar’s royal family has taken one of the most hawkish lines against Assad – the emir has just called for Arab troops to intervene – . The key finding was that, 55% of Syrians wanted Assad to stay.
Presidential elections were held in Syria on 3 June 2014. It was the first multi-candidate election in decades since the Ba’ath party came to power in a coup. In late April 2014, Bashar al-Assad announced he would run for a third term in Syria’s first multi-candidate direct presidential election.
As a result of the ongoing Syrian Civil War since March 2011, Syria has the largest refugee population in the world, and voting for refugees in certain foreign countries began at Syrian embassies several days before voting took place in Syria itself. Domestic and foreign-based Syrian opposition groups boycotted the election, and the vote did not take place in large parts of Syria under rebel control. The areas under Kurdish militia control also did not allow voting due to the refusal of the government to recognize their regional autonomy, though some people still traveled to the government–controlled areas to vote.
Some rebel groups vowed to disrupt the elections in any way possible, including bombing and shelling polling stations and government-controlled areas. Another statement, issued by the Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union, the Sham Corps, the Army of Mujahedeen, and the Islamic Front, said they would not target voters but warned people to stay at home in case the Syrian government did”. There were 50 reported deaths from the shelling by the rebels.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was re-elected in a landslide. Syria’s parliament speaker, Jihad Lahan, announced the results, saying Assad garnered 10,319,723 votes, or 88.7%. Laham said Assad’s two challengers, Hassan al-Nouri and Maher Hajjar, won 4.3% and 3.2% respectively. The Syrian supreme constitutional court put turnout at 73.42%.
While the anti-Assad position of the Media is almost universal, there are a few dissenting voices. Canadian independent journalist Eva Bartlett became well recognized after a press conference at the United Nations during which she debunked the information provided by the major western media about the war in Syria and the sources on which they rely. Bartlett and the controversy about the White Helmets is an example of how difficult is to find unbiased information about the Syrian crisis. While there is ample support for the White Helmets, there is an Oscar-winning documentary about them, and any criticism is dismissed as propaganda, there is video footage that undermine those claims.
Among the reports I find most compelling, are those of the catholic church, in particular the testimony of sister Maria Guadalupe Rodrigo. Sr. Guadalupe has been a missionary in the Middle East for nearly 20 years. During her time in the community of Aleppo, violent conflicts, which were especially anti-Christian, broke out in Syria. In an interview, she joyfully explains the change that the Christian community experienced due to this religious persecution; from more or less lukewarm Christians, they’ve awoken to the reality of their faith and the real possibility of martyrdom. Now, in the Western world, Sr. Guadalupe longs for the joy and passion for the Gospel, which is so alive in the persecuted Church.
While refugees must be protected and helped, it is better if there were no refugees in the first place. I live in a country with a corrupt ineffective government that once in a while commits atrocities, but under no circumstances I want foreign powers to come and destroy my country to liberate me. The billions spend in the destruction of Syria could be used to build a better world for everybody. Why not?