The complaint letter to the ABC (see page 1) ended:
ABC’s Ms Sophie McNeill Spruiks a Nebulous UK, US, French, and Israeli Backed ‘Revolution’
McNeill’s and Adam’s inferred support for groups such as Ahrar al-Sham gives credence to a ‘jihad’ that has attracted some Sunni Australians to an extreme form of Islam. Such an unequivocal advocacy for the so-called revolution on ABC’s LNL makes it exceedingly difficult for impartial and informed points of view to be expressed by other mainstream Australians journalists or politicians. It quashes serious discussion about Syria both within the ABC and on the ABC. It also helps maintain an Australian foreign policy that continues to follow the US lead and continues to inflict great harm on people in Syria through the imposition of sanctions.
Moreover, the unquestioning support for US foreign policy on Syria puts ADF personnel on the side of ‘rebels’ and their caliphate and against a secular state and Syrians that support freedoms and rights comparable to those women and religious groups enjoy in Australia. It undermines the moral and ethical stands Australians want to take in wars and more generally on the world stage_______________________________________________________________________
Ahrar al Sham, the Revolution and Sophie McNeill
Central to McNeill’s support for the ‘revolution’ is Syrian nurse Khalid Naanaa, someone McNeill views as a good friend. (Ref: Australia Story – The Road from Damascus, first broadcast on 22 Nov 2016 and available to view until 26 May 2030). In the LNL interview with McNeil, Phillip Adams remarked that Naanaa should be made Australian of the Year.
Dr Jeremy Salt, author of ‘The Unmaking of the Middle East: A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands’, wrote a letter of complaint to ABC’s Australian Story. Naanaa had left Damascus to join the ‘revolution’ in the town of Madaya. Salt writes, ..the ‘rebels’ holding Madaya …… are members of one of the most violent takfiri/jihadist groups in Syria, Ahrar al Sham.
The Salafist Roots of the Syrian Uprising, by William Van Wagenen, April 28, 2020
The above well-referenced and lengthy article puts flesh onto the ‘revolution’ that Sophie McNeill and, by extension, the ABC promotes. It also refers to Ahrar al-Sham, the group Naanaa presumably joined or at least supported by going to live and work in Madaya.
According to Hassan Aboud, the leader of the Salafi militant group the “Islamic Movement of the Free Men of the Levant” (Ahrar al-Sham), the group’s underground cells participated in organizing the initial anti-government demonstrations in Syria, and also engaged in combat against Syrian security forces as early as May 2011. Rania Abouzeid of Time Magazine similarly reported that according to one fighter from Ahrar al-Sham, the group “started working on forming brigades ‘after the Egyptian revolution . . . well before March 15, 2011, when the Syrian revolution kicked off with protests in the southern agricultural city of Dara’a.”
Prominent Saudi Sheikh in Syria for the ‘Revolution’
On the ABC and in mainstream media outlets such as the Sydney Morning Herald, Sophie McNeill is not questioned in any serious way about the ‘revolution’ she supports. The simple reason for this might be that the ‘rebels’ she has befriended are supporting foreign policy objectives of Australia’s allies.
French, British and American overt and covert undermining of Syrian governments
A 20th Century Timeline
- June1920: Yusuf al-‘Azma, Syria’s minister of war led a force to confront the French advance into Syrian territory
• Oct 1925: French aerial and artillery bombardment of sections of the old city of Damascus
• March 1926: French forced bombed Damascus for 48 hours
•. 1925-1927: The Great Syrian Revolt; To weaken Arab nationalism, France divided Syria into states based to some extent on the sectarian make-up of regions. Most Syrians opposed the French mandate and the division into states, so there were revolts in all the Syrian states
• May 1945: (Free) French troops shelled the Syrian parliament and attempted to arrest government leaders; around 500 people were killed
• 1949: The CIA organized its first successful military coup in Syria; a key CIA agent involved was Miles Copeland Jnr
•. March 1956: British Secret Intelligence Service mounted Operation Straggle to “establish in Syria a Government more friendly to the West”, using covert operations which included staged border incidents in Turkey, the mobilization of various rural tribes, the use of right-wing guerrillas, and even perhaps the Iraqi military; the Iraqi government gave financial support to ‘opposition’(Ref: Bonnie Saunders)
• 1957: The CIA and MI6 planned to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria’s pro-western neighbours and then to ‘eliminate’ three leading figures in Damascus. This was in response to concerns that Syria was pro-Soviet and the fact that Syria had ‘control of one of the main oil arteries of the Middle East, the pipeline which connected pro-western Iraq’s oilfields to Turkey’. (Ref: Macmillan backed Syria assassination plot, by Bed Fenton, The Guardian 27 Sep 2003)
• Aug 12 1957: The Syrian government announced the discovery of an American-engineered coup attempt. Syrian army surrounded the U.S. embassy in Damascus; “the U.S., along with Turkey and Iraq, was considering an action that could have escalated into a full-scale, Soviet-U.S. confrontation” (See Wikipedia: The Syrian Crisis of 1957)
Former French Foreign Minister on UK and French Plans to Overthrow Syrian Government in 21st Century
Former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas: West was preparing attack on Syria before crisis started, July 2, 2013, Global Research
Dumas stressed that there’s massive propaganda being spread regarding events in Syria, with all news, reports and images coming from one source, causing the French public which sees these images every day to form a terrible impression that there are “bad guys” represented by the Syrian government who are killing the people as they allege, and on the other side there are “good guys” represented by the armed groups, causing them to think that the bad guys must go and the good guys must stay, adding “but one day, the truth will come out.”
American Support for The ‘Revolution’
The images below are screenshots of a video compilation that was on the Eretz Zen channel, a source of valuable primary material related to the war in Syria. Unfortunately, Youtube terminated the channel.
The images point to:
(1) the support US administrations have given the ‘revolution’ in Syria. Former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford features due to the direct support he provided ‘rebels’. In 2011, Ford was accused of recruiting ‘death squads’ for Syria. (Between 2004 – 2006, Ford was ‘political counsellor’ at the US embassy in Iraq working under ambassador John Negroponte, who had a ‘dark past‘ when he was US ambassador to Honduras.)
(2) the links that extend from Robert Ford to the then leader of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ to Jabhat al-Nusra (a group then affiliated with al-Qaeda), and on to the Islamic State ( or ISIS).
At a US House of Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in 2018, Robert Ford acknowledged that various arms of the US Administration had committed billions of dollars in efforts to topple the Syrian government.
Israeli PM Netanyahu Supports ‘Revolution’
Ref: Syrian rebel leader thanks PM for standing by wounded https://www.timesofisrael.com/syrian-rebel-leader-thanks-pm-for-standing-by-wounded/
‘Bandar Bush’ and the ‘Revolution’
Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud (sometimes referred to as ‘Bandar Bush’ because of his close friendship with the George Bush family) played important supporting roles in US ‘exploits’ abroad. As well as Syria, they included Afghanistan and Nicaragua. (Ref: Democracy Now, ‘Iran-Contra Redux? Prince Bandar Heads Secret Saudi-CIA Effort to Aid Syrian Rebels, Topple Assad‘, September 6, 2013)
Prominent Egyptian Cleric on Al-Jazeera Spruiks the ‘Revolution’
Another key player in the war in Syria has been 93-year-old Egyptian Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi based in Qatar, who would have been hugely influential recruiting foreign fighters for the ‘revolution’ because of the program he presents (or presented?) on Al-Jazeera. From the start of the crisis in Syria, he was issuing fatwas against the ‘heretical Syrian regime’.
A fatwa he issued in 2013 approved the killing of civilians and ‘religious scholars’ if they ‘worked’ with the ‘regime’. ( The video is currently available on Youtube at this link.)
Victims of Lethal ‘Rebel’ Mortar Attacks on Syrian Cities
BBC report, 12 Nov 2013 VIDEO: Damascus mortar attack Children and bus driver buried
In Sept-Oct 2015, a former chief political commentator of The Daily Telegraph (UK), Peter Oborne, spent 2 weeks in Damascus when lethal mortars were raining down on the city. He presented the views of Syrians in his article, The siege of Damascus: Everyday life in Syria’s savage war
Syrian swimmer and her 12-year-old brother killed by shelling in Aleppo, The Independent, 1 Oct 2016
Mortar attack on University of Damascus , The Washington Post, 28 March 2013
Women – Victims of War and the ‘Revolution‘
In wars, women are almost inevitably victims of brutality, including rape. The truth about the violence inflicted on Syrian women since the start of the war has rarely if ever been impartiality investigated in the West. As noted in the complaint letter to the ABC, it cannot be assumed that the UN acts impartially and with professionalism when it comes to Syria, particularly when former British politicians such as Baroness Amos, a supporter of the war in Iraq, have held key UN positions.
See below extract from the document on this website: Critical Flaws in UN Report on Syria, 16 August 2013
The fact that there are no allegations of rape made against the ‘anti-government armed forces’, which include tens of thousands of foreign fighters, raises questions regarding the selection of interviewees (by the UN investigative team). Did any of the people interviewed present claims against ‘anti-government armed forces’?
An article on a pro-government website in April 2013 quotes ‘eyewitnesses’ who reported rapes of Christians committed by Jabhat al-Nusra fighters. Should such accounts be given the same weight as the claims of those anonymous interviewees for this UN study?
The story of Mariam, a young Christian girl raped by at least 15 insurgents in Qusair was published in Agenzia Fides on 2/7/2013. This demanded investigation.
Mariam was a 15-year-old Christian from Qusair, a city of the governorate in Homs… While her family was able to escape, Mariam was taken and forced into an Islamic marriage …..The commander of the battalion “Jabhat al-Nusra” in Qusair took Mariam, married and raped her. Then he repudiated her. The next day the young woman was forced to marry another Islamic militant. He also raped her and then repudiated her. The same trend was repeated for 15 days, and Mariam was raped by 15 different men. This psychologically destabilized her and made her insane. Mariam, became mentally unstable and was eventually killed.
In April 2013, a period covered by the UN investigation, there were reports of fatwas by extremist clerics condoning the rape of women. Early in 2013, Sheik Qaradawi, one of the most prominent clerics in the Middle East, condoned the killing of civilians who support the Syrian government. There is evidence that extremist clerics who incite violence in Syria have no regard for the lives of people who do not support the anti-government armed forces.
If a regular army soldier commits rape, it is a crime, without a doubt. However, in Syria, there are thousands of fighters who support an extremist ideology. They include Takfiris, Salafi jihadists as well as mercenaries from other war zones. How many of them would believe the rape of women who support the ‘regime’ is not in fact a ‘crime’? Could this ideology colour the views of any interviewees when reporting on cases of rape? This is one ‘challenge’ the investigators did not list.
There have been reports of what is termed ‘sexual jihad’ in Syria. This is when a woman makes herself available for ‘marriage’ to any number of jihadists. For those men and women involved, it would not be classified as rape, but if not rape, at best it is a serious exploitation of impressionable young women and it deserves the attention of UN investigators. In July, it was reported that women in Ain Tarma, a Damascus suburb allegedly affected by the chemical weapons attack, had been involved in ‘sexual jihad’. A recent report in a Tunisian newspaper details the problems young Tunisian women have encountered after participating in ‘sexual jihad’; many return home pregnant and others have AIDS. Their futures are very uncertain.
In March 2013, a Channel 4 documentary exposed the exploitation and abuse of Syrian women and girls who live in refugee camps: “Syrian women fear sham marriages and rape”. Yet, this exploitation is not touched on by the COI. Instead, the COI UN report determines that only the Syrian army and ‘pro-government armed forces’ have committed abuses against women based on claims of their interviewees (96 to 100).
However, in July 2012, veteran US investigative journalist Russ Baker did examine accusations of mass rape being committed by pro-government forces in Syria.
A growing refrain out of Syria is that widespread rape is taking place—and sanctioned by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
But when WhoWhatWhy examined the allegations, it found that well-intentioned women’s groups trying to document and prevent such abuses may be falling victim to a deliberate disinformation campaign intent on rallying public support for toppling Assad.
American Journalists on the ‘Revolution’
Foley & Sotloff’s Reporting Show Why the US Should Stop Its Proxy War on Syria, by Rick Sterling, CounterPunch, 5 September 2014
Steven Sotloff, In Aleppo, Bread Lines and Disenchantment with the FSA
Sharqi, a 46-year-old plumber, was one of many Aleppines who welcomed the rebels when the local Tawhid Brigade arrived in the besieged city in July.
“We organized food deliveries for them at the front,” he says. “We were so happy to finally be doing something for the revolution. But after a few months, we saw who these people really were.”
What he saw were bands of villagers from the countryside pilfering cars and stripping buildings. Others complain of being financially extorted by FSA units.
James Foley, 16 Oct, 2012: Syria: Rebels losing support among civilians in Aleppo
It was July in the small town of Anadan, about 10 miles from Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Anadan was a ghost town, deserted except for the Free Syrian Army and the sounds of the near constant barrage of regime shelling.
The junior commander, an illiterate 24-year old, joked that while the war raged all around it, the people of Aleppo were only concerned about their barbecues. He swore the rebels scrabbling through the countryside would soon make their way to Aleppo. He promised Aleppo would burn.
Three months later, Aleppo is on fire. The 1,000-year-old market has been gutted, and the rebel-controlled west lies in ruins. Last week’s massive suicide car bombings, which leveled blocks of the government center, left craters some 10 feet deep.
American journalist imprisoned for nearly 2 years by Jabhat al-Nusra presents his views on the ‘Revolution’
6 May 2020, on Twitter, Theo Padnos, who had been help prisoner for some time in a hospital in Aleppo, responded critically to an article in The New York Times. (See the Padnos’s Twitter thread on the subject of bombing and hospitals here.)
Murder and Mayhem at the Start of the ‘Arab Spring’ and the Genocidal Hatred of the ‘Revolution’
Although I find no evidence that US academic Joshua Landis spoke in mainstream media interviews about the violence of anti-government forces from the beginning of the ‘Arab Spring’ in Syria, he did write about it on his his blog ‘Syria Comment’. In an article (Ref: Monthly Review Online, 14 April 2011) titled Disinformation about Syria in Western Media, Landis writes about the shooting deaths of Syrian soldiers, the misreporting of the Western media and the instructions that Syrian soldiers had received not to shoot unless they were shot at first.
Another account of the violence of anti-government forces from the start of the ‘Arab Spring’ in Syria came from a Dutch priest, Father Frans Van der Lugt, who stayed in Homs during the worst of the violence there.
Father Frans wrote:
From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.Ref: An Eyewitness to the Syrian Rebellion: Father Frans in His Own Words, by John Rosenthal, 2014
In October 2012, a young Syrian Australian, Samir Sulman, told an SBS Insight audience about the murder of his uncle in Syria. Like Nidal Jannoud, Samir’s uncle and his two friends – farmers taking produce to a market – were murdered in April 2011 by an armed group. The farmers were in a van whose number plates indicated they came from a predominantly Alawite area.
In 2011, I recorded an interview with Samir about his uncle’s murder. The interview is at this link. As well as telling his uncle’s story, Samir says:
Syrians have to live together, Christians, Muslims of different sects, even the Jewish people in Syria. Syria is for all; not just for strict Muslims who want to take the country backwards. Syria is not only for those people. We are all Syrians. There are people from many different backgrounds. To be Syrian means to live with people from different religious backgrounds. We have to live together and accept the other.
Prices are going up, and people are taking advantage of the crisis to exploit the situation (carpet-baggers?). People are scared to travel because of the killings, which means they are not able to earn a living. When we accept the other, we understand the problems, we understand what Europe, America, and Gulf countries are trying to do in Syria. It’s no good. We are all brothers in Syria, and ..what they are trying to do is create a religious war. We never thought ‘what is your religion’. At university in Syria, I never asked someone about their religion. It was not like Lebanon.
But now many people are getting killed because they are with the government or because they are a different religion. It is complicated and disgusting to talk like this. If we want this problem to end, we have to accept the other. We have to love each other.
Genocidal Hatred Expressed on Al-Jazeera
VIDEO: Should we kill all Alawites? Al-Jazeera Arabic, May 8, 2015 Video link here
The images above are screenshots from a mainstream Al-Jazeera program from 2015. (See link to video below images.) The genocidal hatred expressed in the program prompted this writer to send a complaint to the then Australian minister for communications, Malcolm Turnbull.
Note the Disenchantment with Al-Jazeera and its biased coverage on Syria
Massacre and Abduction of Alawites – August 2013
Below are extracts from a Human Rights Watch Report into a massacre of around 200 people, mostly women and children, and the abduction of the same number. The killing and abductions occurred in Alawite villages in Latakia province. Some of those killed were university students home for the summer holidays. Armed groups, from the Free Syrian Army, Al-Nusra (then the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria) to the Islamic State, took part in the coordinated attack on the villages.
The investigation found that at least 20 distinct armed opposition groups participated in the operation they termed the “Campaign of the Descendants of Aisha the Mother of Believers,” the “Barouda Offensive,” or the “Operation to Liberate the Coast,” which lasted from August 4-August 18. It is not clear however whether all or most of these groups were present in the villages on August 4 when the evidence Human Rights Watch has collected suggests the vast majority of the abuses took place. Five groups however, who were the keyfundraisers, organizers, planners, and executors of the attacks were clearly present from the outset of the operation on August 4. These are:
– Ahrar al-Sham
– Islamic State of Iraq and Sham
– Jabhat al-Nusra
– Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar
– Suquor al-Izz
My mom was here in the house with me. She came out of the house first, and I was behind her. We saw the three fighters just in front of us, and then we fled on foot down behind the house and into the valley. The three fighters that I saw were all dressed in black. They were shooting at us from two different directions. They had machine guns and were using snipers. My older brother came down and hid with us as well. We hid, but my dad stayed in the house. He was killed in his bed. My aunt, she is an 80 year old blind woman, was also killed in her room. Her name is Nassiba.
Fighting for an ‘Islamic Bloc‘
The former Guantanamo Bay prisoner: MI5, Syria, Amnesty International and the ‘Revolution’
Another influential voice for the ‘revolution’ is Pakistani British citizen Moazzam Begg a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, who, in a 2012 interview with Julian Assange, expressed support for an Islamic bloc that would encompass countries across the Muslim world. (See video at 14:50 mins)
Moazzam Begg was in contact with MI5 about his Syria visits, papers show The Guardian, 3 Oct 2015
The terrorism case against former Guantánamo inmate Moazzam Begg collapsed after MI5 belatedly gave police and prosecutors a series of documents that detailed the agency’s extensive contacts with him before and after his trips to Syria, the Guardian has learned.