What NYT Journalists Did Not See on Their Syria 8-day Visit
By Mansour Omari
Syrian journalist and rights defender
In their 2750-word story: “What ‘Victory’ Looks Like: A Journey Through Shattered Syria”, 3 NYT journalists were on “an eight-day visit” after given “rare access” to Syria to “find ruin, grief and generosity”. What the NYT journalists said they missed was “Young men and a middle class”.
The NYT story that started from Douma, the city that was gassed by Assad in 2013, ended by Hummus, Mutabbal, barbecued chicken, and lamb kebab, and was published at the same day when 6 years ago “the world awoke to the horrors caused by the Assad regime’s use of sarin nerve agent in an attack on a town controlled by the Syrian opposition”, as described by US ambassador Kenneth D. Ward.
Not a word was said in the story about this century’s most horrific Douma chemical attack, that killed 1400 Syrians in few hours, and led to Obama’s famous red line and stripping Assad regime of its chemical weapons, after which Assad carried hundreds of chemical attacks sweeping the rebel-controlled lands.
In the story’s title, “victory” was placed between quotation marks to distance the journalists from the concept that Assad has won. However, in the body of the report they make their argument that Assad has really won, and provide all signs to that:
“After eight years of civil war, the Syrian government now controls much of the country, and on Tuesday it appeared closer than ever to seizing control of Idlib, the last of the rebels’ territory.” And: “Whether President Bashar al-Assad will win has not been in doubt for some time. We — three journalists with The New York Times — had come to Syria to see what his victory looked like.”
Reading the 3 journalists’ description of “what is victory looked like”, all you get is a definite belief by NYT journalists themselves that Assad “will preside over what comes next”. As well as a clear sense of Assad’s strong control, and his “powerful intelligence apparatus” aka the Torture Archipelago. This is exactly what some wants to see in Syria: Controlling the people, a fearful and reliable man making the country safe again, to get refugees back and curb the terrorist threat from there.
Only the facts on the ground, and what Assad did not want NYT journalists and the world to see and report, is that he is too vulnerable, and does not control even his own personal guards.
The Assad-victory argument is also not well presented, compared to facts. The situation in Idlib is much more complicated and disastrous than to be described as “on Tuesday it appeared closer than ever to seizing control of Idlib”, referring to a news report describing a very different city, which is Khan Sheikhoun.
There are more than three million in Idlib, half of them were displaced by Assad from around Syria, refusing to live under his control, and ready to die for that.
What the NYT journalists did not see in Syria
On an 8-day visit, “NYT journalists given rare access to Syria found ruin, grief and generosity”. They also conveyed to the world through the worldwide influence and readership newspaper the New York Times, the destruction and suffering of people after war, that was reported and known to everyone. In addition to that the conveyed that Assad is in total control, justifications of Assad government, resilience and strength of Assad’s stronghold and the no-use of US sanctions.
On the other hand, the NYT journalists did not see the Iranian Islamic Shiite expansion to give the supreme leader of Iran more control on Syria society. In addition to its tens of thousands of troops, that takes their orders directly from Tehran, not from Assad.
They did not see Hezbollah and affiliates, and their drug trade even in schools, and its long arm and control on several Syrian cities and towns, including Bosra, and Al-Qusayr.
They did not see the corpses and blood of Syrians mixed with Douma’s soil they were stepping on, nor the carnage buried under.
They did not see, the Russian “white man” in Syria, the rising control of Russia, not only on the political and military levels, including it is own 5th and 6th army corps, but also in schools, and on Syrian children. As well as the total control of Russia on Syria’s resources and economy including, on gas, oil, phosphate, and ports.
The NYT journalists saw there were “few young men” because they “had died in the war, been thrown in prison or scattered far beyond Syria’s borders”, but failed to see the main concern of Syrian males: Being recruited in Assad army, or hiding from that.
Well, the first very simple fact we all know that a country after a war will be devastated, and you will not see people orgasming in the streets joyfully.
What is the news in this story? The scoop? The New York Times special reporting? The unique idea or event that NYT provided to any person with a common sense? Like Isobel Yeung in her revealing “What Syria looks like after 6 years of war” story.
Before any Syrian under Assad thinks of a question asked by a foreign journalist, this what goes in his/her mind:
I will be arrested. I will be tortured, starved, I will be raped, denied all means to living, and then if I did not die in detention, I will be executed summarily, and my body will disappear. My family will spend the rest of their lives struggling to have a paper that I am dead.
All of Um Khalil talk was from behind torture and rape filters.
Another misinformation was placed in this story is that: “Many non-Alawites assume the Alawites have been richly rewarded for their loyalty.” Well, sorry, this is not the case, almost every Syrian knows that Assad soldiers and families are never awarded, but humiliated.
Syrians know that those who sacrificed everything for Assad are being neglected, and marginalized. It has even become an issue of dark humour among Syrians, that when an Assad fighter gets killed, his family gets a clock, or biscuits, or oranges.
Another Syrian could not control herself and said things to the journalists she “should not be saying”. “Rana led her into the kitchen, where I could hear raised voices”. Um Ahmad “was quiet when she came back.”
The NYT journalist said she later “complained to the information minister about the profusion of chaperones”. She complained to the same minister who was fired by Assad because he said publicly that he does not have enough budget to buy dresses for the Syrian TV anchors!
Now, would we ever know what will happen to Um Ahmad? Raped, tortured, killed, by the victorious Assad’s “powerful intelligence apparatus”?
No, dear NYT journalists, Assad is not in control of Syria, and nope! He did not win; he lost the country to Russia and Iran. It is actually a victory for Russia and Iran, over the US, EU, democracies and human rights-oriented governments in the world.