Crimes in Syria… media coverage increases anxiety
Nour Aldeen Ramadan | Yamen Moghrabi | Khawla Hafezi
Motivated by theft, a murder in which three children and their mother were killed, was reported in Beit Sahm town in the countryside of Damascus and social media, especially when official platforms affiliated to ministries, official bodies or the government and private media outlets revealed the details of the incident.
On 30 of last June, the Syrian Ministry of Interior reported what it described as “the most horrific case of murder, rape and burning of an entire family”, through its official “Facebook” page, and listed details of the incident that was supposed to be a theft. Most of these media coverage relied on the thrill and did not respect victims’ rights to privacy and incitement to violence, which highlighted an increase in the number of crimes that can be described as “exceptional,” and the way official media dealt with these events.
These crimes shook the Syrian society, and their media coverage raise the levels of tension, anxiety and fear, and deeply dig into the psyche of the public. However, Syrian official media and platforms affiliated to ministries still reporting on their details which suggests they use them to send intended messages which Enab Baladi discussed in this file, and considers the reasons behind the high rate of crimes and their serious implications on the public.
More than one crime a day…
Organized crimes or normal impact
Enab Baladi has monitored an increase in the number of crimes last June and this month, most of which were announced by the Syrian Ministry of Interior. The number of these crimes has reached 56, where about 40 of them occurred only in June, at a rate of more than one crime a day.
Enab Baladi classified these crimes according to their types, during these two months, as follows: 11 financially motivated killings, five murders under the so-called “honor killings”, and one of the unknown causes.
As for crimes of non-murder cases, they included: 27 gangs stealing cars, furniture, sums of money and laptops, one blackmailing case and another one of intimidation, in addition to three crimes of forging university documents and money laundering, as well as two fraud crimes of expired products.
Syria is one of the countries where the crime index hits high records, as it reached 67.42 points (out of 120), according to “Numbeo“, a website specializes in monitoring the costs of living throughout the world.
Meantime, Syria also ranks second to last (162 out of 163) on the Global Peace Index (GPI), issued by “Vision of Humanity“.
Official figures show that more than 50 deaths caused by crimes were recorded in Syria within 35 days, starting from the first of last June and until 5 of July, based on what the head of the General Authority of Forensic Medicine (GAFM) in Syria, Zahir Hajo, told the local radio “Sham FM“, on 13 of July.
Hajo said that last June was the bloodiest in terms of the number of recorded crimes, considering that the positive side was when the criminal security services, judges and forensic medicine solved 50 percent of those crimes within 48 hours, while the rest was solved in a maximum of two weeks, he added.
Hajo thinks it is unnecessary to categorize these crimes under the roof of organized crimes, as he said, “In Syria, there is no such thing called “organized crime”, which means that there is no criminal mentality in society”. He also refused that the economic situation would be a hanger-on for these crimes.
Hajo added that “70 percent of the crimes occurred in areas held by militants and freed by the army, for example, most crimes in Aleppo usually occur in eastern areas that were under the control of militants, because residents have seen all sorts of crimes, to the point that they equated life with death,” as he put it.
However, the head of the Criminal Security Directorate, General Nasser Deeb, told Sputnik News Agency, on 22 July that “the internal security situation reverted back to its previous status almost completely,” while praising the efforts of the Ministry of Interior to accomplish that.
Regarding the increase in the percentage of gruesome crimes, Deeb thinks that “Syrian society, like any other, is affected by the surrounding circumstances surrounding, such as war, the economic and social conditions, and other variables.”
General Nasser Deeb commented on some murders cases which demonstrate the brutality and said “this is a reflection of the perpetrator’s social environment as well as their psychopathic mental disorder.”
He believes that these kinds of murders did not appear suddenly and occurred before in the Syrian society and other societies as well, but “with the spread of social media, such crimes carry media resonance, even if they were few, taking into account that all perpetrators get arrested and brought to justice for punishment.”
Economy first…reasons behind the increase in crimes
Based on what was monitored by Enab Baladi, the “financial motive” or poverty tops the reasons for committing crimes, where 67 percent of them are attributed to the economic conditions ravaging Syrian citizens, which also triggered popular protests despite the tight security grip Syrians live under.
In an interview with Enab Baladi, economic researcher Jalal Bakkar believes that with the disintegration of state institutions due to militia’s control of the regime over the most important joints of the state. The dominant parties created “societal imbalances” to cover up their failure to manage institutions, and this is what the regime is working on, especially after “Caesar Act” has come into force, which imposes economic sanctions on the Syrian regime and its supporters.
Bakkar pointed out that the regime has no decision-making power in Syria, and it is now at the hand of its Russian and Iranian partners. After imposing economic sanctions on the regime, the latter resorted to illegal methods at a far greater rate to secure its financial needs.
Killing by hunger
The living conditions in all societies play a large role in the spread of crime among individuals, as Syria suffers from difficult economic conditions, with the Syrian pound losing its value against the U.S. dollar, coinciding with significant hikes in the prices of food items, fuel and basic needs.
The exchange rate of the U.S. dollar against the Syrian pound is (SYP 2010), according to the website “The Syrian Pound Today”, while it has reached a high record of ( SYP 3500 per dollar) on 8 last June.
Meantime, Syria topped the list of the poorest countries in the world with 82.5 percent of people falling below the poverty line, according to statistics issued by “World By Map” last February of the current year.
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has previously warned of an unprecedented food crisis in Syria, amid expectations of an acceleration of the outbreak of the novel “Coronavirus” (COVID-19), as reported by “Reuters” news agency, on 26 of last June of the program spokesperson, Elizabeth Byers.
Byers said that nine million and 300 thousand people in Syria lack sufficient food, pointing out that the number of those who lack basic foodstuff has increased to one million and 400 thousand during the past six months.
Food prices went up by more than 200 percent in less than one year, and the WFP spokesperson has attributed this to the economic collapse in Lebanon and preventive measures taken against the novel coronavirus to curb its spread.
According to the UN’s annual report of 2019 regarding Syria’s most urgent humanitarian needs, the UN estimated the proportion of Syrians below the poverty line at 83 percent, as a result, many are no longer able to keep up with the current economic situation especially those in the most vulnerable communities in Syria.
|According to the report, 33 percent of the Syrian population suffers from food insecurity, and an estimated 11.7 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid, such as food, potable water, shelter, health services, and education.|
United Nations data indicated that the largest number of those in need of humanitarian aid are located Aleppo, followed by Rif Dimashq province, then Idlib, Data also showed that the number of those in need of assistance in hard-to-reach places is more than one million Syrians.
Last June, a month described by regime officials the bloodiest in terms of the number of crimes, demonstrations took place in As-Suwayda governorate calling for economic reforms and erupted to call for the regime’s overthrow.
Absence of value system
According to the Syrian specialist in psychological counseling, Dr. Omar al-Nimr, explained to Enab Baladi, that there are types of crimes that do not stem from what it is called “mens rea” which means “intent”, but rather they are the result of psychological disorders following being exposed to traumatic experiences or oppressive social circumstances, which perpetrators were unable to deal with.
These disorders lead to tantrums in which a person loses their reasoning ability and sometimes humanity, causing them to commit crimes against themselves like “suicide”, or against others, out fear of starvation or being subjected to indecent assault.
Al-Nimr believes that, in order to prevent these crimes, society should increase awareness of its members on the psychological level, and train them to resist stress, resolve problems and deal with traumatic psychological events.
Al-Nimr added that one of the ways to raise awareness is to train individuals to think in a logical way, and master skills of emotional intelligence to control their feelings in the correct way. In addition to other skills necessary to survive under the current difficult conditions which countries of conflict are currently facing.
For his part, social researcher Talal Mustafa believes that historically, crimes occurred in all societies of the world, and what distinguishes them from each other is the amount and types of the committed crimes.
In Syria, the regime wants to show that crimes are individual acts but is not the case. Such acts are systematic and came as a result of the regime’s practices against the Syrian people, the social researcher said.
Mustafa thinks that “the kind of war the regime waged against its people” dismantled values of the Syrian society, “as we find two brothers fighting for different parties, one with the regime and the other with an opposing party,”. He added that “there is no longer an inclusive value system that controls members of society.”
Following the end of the war in most areas inside Syria, militias started ” hijacking and ransacking” homes of civilians even in their areas of control and sometimes fought with each other, according to Talal Mustafa. He justified this by saying that whoever fights alongside the regime and kills hundreds and thousands of people, would be easier for them to kill individuals during an attempted theft.
The social researcher stresses that these crimes are a result of the economic policies of the regime, amid the prices’ hikes and the high costs of living, in the absence of sufficient income for both fighters and civilians. This led to a rise in thefts, as well as turning a blind eye on corruption, which is a major factor in committing crimes.
How does Syrian law punish perpetrators?
The “Article N 37″ of the Syrian Penal Code provides for the punishment of perpetrators of criminal offenses in Syria with five types of penalties, namely, death, life imprisonment, hard labor and temporary imprisonment.
In the “Article 65”, provides that anyone sentenced to imprisonment or house arrest is deprived of all their civil rights, including the right to assume public office and services, and the right to be a voter or elected in all state councils, community organizations and trade unions.
Law is not the problem
In an interview with Enab Baladi, the head of the “Syrian Lawyers Association”, Ghazwan Kronfol, said that laws are general in Syria or everywhere and they need updating, whether in terms of criminalization or even the punitive policy.
In the Syrian case, the real problem is not only with the law, according to Kronfol, but the problem is when perpetrators escape punishment amid the impotence of the judicial system to deliver justice. In addition to the fact that some segments in the society have some sort of immunity by the security authority which considers itself above law. The lawyer added that authority is Syria that has curbed the implementation of laws by protecting affiliated parties.
According to Kronfol, “it is normal in times of conflicts and wars, and the proliferation of weapons in the hands of militias which include criminals, drug traffickers and murderers who were released early with amnesty decrees and undertook the mission of curbing demonstrations and quelling protests to see the number of crimes increasing; as they say, when there is no punishment, people will misbehave.”
The Syrian regime provides cover for its members to attack all opposing parties, according to dissident colonel Ziyad Hajj Obaid, who explained to Enab Baladi that most of these members, especially those who work in the ranks of irregular forces, have criminal records.
Haj Obeid added that the Syrian regime’s inability to satisfy its members financially prompted the latter to unleash them. This was evident by allowing them to “hijack and ransack” areas they controlled.
The end of battles along with the recent military calm in Idlib, the last stronghold of the opposition, means that “hijack and ransack” have stopped, which constitutes a good income for members of the regime forces, which pushed them to hijack and ransack were some involved killing for.
Exploiting crimes news fueling the situation
Mass media have become “a force to be reckoned with” able to “worsen situations or mitigate them”, as they directly affect citizens, psychiatrist Dr. Omar al-Nimer said. He proceeded by saying that this leads many to lose their psychological stability, taking into account the “vague” political, security and economic conditions ravaging the country, which makes most citizens up for grabs.
In case media mishandled crime-related material, this will increases tension, anxiety and fear in society, especially with the absence of positive and good news, according to Dr. al-Nimer.
Psychological specialist, Amina al-Turk, thinks that shedding light on crimes in the media can be perceived in two different ways: positive, which includes raising awareness about the dangers of crimes’ spread, as well as the role of values, education and economic factors to fight crimes. The second way, which can be described as “useless”, especially with films or series that defend perpetrators and help indirectly to generate these ideas, especially among adolescents.
However, social researcher Talal Mustafa goes further and talks about the fact that the Syrian regime, through its media platforms, wants to portray crimes as individual acts that have nothing to do with it. But rather wants to present itself as the one protecting and defending citizens, while forgetting that these crimes are its own making in a direct or indirect way, through its policy of repression and dismantling the values of Syrian society.
Talal Mustafa agrees with an opinion poll conducted by Enab Baladi on its official website and “Facebook” page, about official media motives to cover crime news, where 72 percent of voters, whose number amounted to 750 participants, think that the regime wants to distract citizens from real crises they live, while 28 percent of them think that it only reports what is happening on the ground.
يركز الإعلام السوري الرسمي ومنصات الوزارات وقيادة الشرطة على نقل حوادث الجرائم في سوريا..
فلماذا يعتمد هذا السلوك برأيك؟
Does talking about crimes increase their rate?
Some scientific studies have shown that young people derive methods of carrying out crimes from the media. In Spain, 39 percent of juvenile delinquents received the information of their crimes from television, according to psychological research by the specialist Sami Nasr, published by the “al-Awan” organization.
According to the same researcher, this relationship between media and criminal phenomena appears in basis points. The First point through providing information about crimes by publishing their details. The second point by making people accustomed to see and hear about gruesome crimes without denouncing them. The third point through making crimes wanted, by portraying criminals as heroes or sometimes smart people.
The fourth point is imitation and simulation, the phenomenon of imitating what is shown in media, is among the direct effects on the behavior of members of society, especially children and young people, as imitation moves quickly to the level of actual practices.
The fifth point is when a family loses its role and position as a social mediator between the individual, social values, and education.
Conduct disorder and mental illness
Crimes connotations in societies
The type and quantity of crimes committed in any society deliver certain messages indicating that its members have severe conduct disorders, especially in times of crises and wars, with the local media focusing on reporting their news.
The increasing number of crimes in Syria has opened the door to the question of how these crimes affect the mental health of society itself.
The prevalence of crimes in society increases anxiety, stress, and psychological pressure, and results in misconducts by society members.
According to the specialist in psychological counseling, Dr. Omar al-Nimr, murders and robberies are increasing in the absence of laws and regulations, especially during wars and crises, as they are one of the main results of conflicts.
Al-Nimr added that the rise in crimes within society has a major impact on the psychological state of citizens, as they feel that they lack one of their basic needs, which is security.
Psychologist Amina al-Turk, believes that the spread of crimes in society generates a feeling of fear and panic, with the belief that perpetrators of these crimes are abnormal according to several scientific psychological theories. These theories confirm that crimes are related to multiple types of personalities, and therefore the disturbed personality is more violent compared to the normal one.
Committed crimes in any society are not only related to the security factor but are also fundamentally related to the behavioral and psychological factors of its members.
Dr. Omar al-Nimer explained to Enab Baladi that the link between crimes and behavior and said the spread of crime indicates the existence of “psychological diseases and behavioral disorders among criminals themselves”, in addition to the existence of appropriate grounds to carry out their crimes.
Al-Nimr added that the rise in crime indicates lack of accountability and security, and the presence of a state of concern among citizens, who are overpowered, about their affairs and their fear for themselves and their children.
According to the Italian scientist Di Tullio, criminal behavior is “based on the innate willingness of the individual to commit a crime.”
The psychological specialist, Amina al-Turk, explained Di Tullio’s theory of the criminal behavior of individuals and its relationship to the family itself as the first experiences an individual acquires are from his family. Values and behavior often reflect the education that a child has acquired at a young age.
Education, the other part of which is innate, and is the individual’s willingness to commit a crime, according to the wish of the Turk.
Among these factors, there are family disputes which push the child and the teenager to move away from the tense atmosphere and resort to “the wrong friends”, in addition to parents’ ignorance of the principles of parenting, this will of course will affect them negatively.
In addition to neglecting children, their first enemy which destroys their personal and psychological formation.
Cruel treatment by parents also plays a role in the emergence of aggressive behavior among children, as parents believe that such treatment teaches them self-reliance and makes them responsible but this is a false claim.
A social and psychological incompatibility between the spouses may push a woman to commit a crime (if her husband treats her cruelly such as beating and verbally abusing her) and she may pass it on to her children.
The results of incompatibility begin with separation and divorce and end with infidelity or committing murders or arson, and some of these crimes lead to what is described as “honor killings”, according to Amina al-Turk.
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