Robin Yassin-Kassab

To Kill, and to Walk in the Funeral Procession

with 7 comments

photo by Razan Ghazzawi

Updated with a postscript noting Robert Fisk’s obscene pro-regime propaganda while embedded with the regime army in Daraya, and the response of the LCCs to Fisk’s nonsense.

The Syrian regime is now perpetrating crimes against humanity at a pace to match its crimes in Hama in 1982 and at the Tel Za’atar Palestinian camp in 1976. All of Syria is a burning hell. Savage aerial bombardment (such as that causing the apocalypse here in Kafranbel, which held such beautifully creative demonstrations) and continuous massacres have raised the average daily death toll to well above two hundred, most of them in Damascus and its suburbs. The other day 440 people were murdered in twenty four hours.

The worst hit area has been the working class suburb of Daraya. I visited people in Darayya some years ago, and once bought a bedroom set for a friend’s wedding in the town. I remember it as a lively, friendly, youthful place. Last year Daraya became a cultural centre of the revolution. Ghiath Matar and others developed wonderful methods of non-violent protest there. When security forces arrived to repress demonstrations, Darayya’s residents handed the soldiers flowers and glasses of water. But Matar was murdered, and Daraya has been repeatedly raided, its young men detained and tortured, its women and children shot and bombed. Nevertheless, for some months the regime was kept out of Daraya. The town ruled itself in a civilised manner, successfully keeping a lid on crime and sectarianism.

The recent pattern is already well established (remember the massacre at Houla), but this time has played out on a larger scale. The regime bombed Daraya for days, mainly from artillery stationed on the mountains overlooking Damascus. Once any armed resistance had retreated, soldiers and shabeeha militia moved in, with knives and guns. This stage reminds one of Sabra and Shatila. It seems there was a list of suspected activists and resistance sympathisers, but the field executions included old men, women and children. About three hundred bodies have been counted so far, found in the street or in basements or in family homes.

The next stage is to mock the victims. The film below is the al-Dunya (a regime propaganda channel) report on the massacre. The actress/journalist (not a good actress, for she mistakes the scene; while waxing poetic and prettily outraged, she forgets to simulate fear and horror) shows the viewers what the ‘terrorists’ have done. She interviews a wounded woman. The wounded woman responds as if she’s facing interrogation, which of course she is. Terrified women in the back of a pick-up praise the regime army. The reporter is accompanied by the army that has just murdered the women’s neighbours. From 4.20 the reporter compounds the trauma of a little girl who is lying terrified beside her dead mother. It is perhaps the most disgusting thing you’ll ever see.

Postscript. The appalling Robert Fisk (for a while he’s been an awful journalist – self-obsessed, ignorant, fawning over warlords or their wives, pretending to speak Arabic when he obviously doesn’t) has done his own version of the al-Dunya propaganda in Daraya. Admittedly, his report isn’t quite as obscene as al-Dunya’s, or rather it exists within a tradition which is slightly less obscene than al-Dunya’s. But it’s still obscene. Here it is. (A few days before, Fisk fawningly interviewed the criminal Walid Muallem. Muallem whined about anti-Syrian conspiracy, and Fisk, instead of using his access to say “But surely the revolution is motivated and mobilised by regime repression?” asked, “But isn’t it all about Iran?” In other words he believes the regime propaganda, and the blanket thinkers, and is entirely ignorant about what happens on the ground in Syria, just as he’s been ignorant about Lebanon for many years. What else can we expect from an area ‘expert’ who thinks the Arabic word umma (nation or community) means ‘mother’?)

Anyway, the Local Coordination Committees, who understand the requirements of ethical journalism much more than the Independent, have responded, very politely, to this shambles of a journalist. Here is the response:

Daraya Coordination Committee

Press Release

Robert Fisk’s report about the massacre of Saturday 25/08/2012

On Wednesday 29 August 2012, Mr. Robert Fisk of The Independent wrote a report on the Daraya Massacre that was perpetrated only 4 days earlier. Mr. Fisk is a world-famous journalist known for his balanced opinion pieces and ground-breaking reports especially from the Middle East. The people of Syria especially remember Fisk for being the first foreign reporter to enter the city of Hama after the 1982 massacre and relate to the world the horrors he saw there. Thus, we were absolutely astonished by the above-mentioned report and would like to make sure that certain points in it are not left uncorrected. We do this out of respect to the fallen heroes and to make sure the voice of the victims is heard.

Anyone who watched the infamous and insolent report made by the state-favored Addounia TV, would notice the obvious similarities between the two reports.

One major concern that would invalidate any statement taken from the victims is the presence of army personnel as admitted by Mr. Fisk himself. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the Syrian regime would know the degree of intimidation this would incur in the hearts and minds of witnesses. The army does not need to spoon-feed the statements to the witnesses as fear is more than enough to make them repeat the narrative propagated by the government about armed militias and radical Islamists.

Moreover, the article is headlined and predicated on the government’s unbelievable prisoner-swap story. The question that begs to be asked is the following: Even if there was a prisoner exchange and it failed, does the Assad regime have any grounds at all for this level of retaliation? Were there similar failed rounds of negotiation before the massacres of Muaddamiya, Saqba etc. In fact, what has been happening in the towns of the Damascus Countryside Governorate, and indeed all of Syria, follows a similar scenario that begins with shelling and ends with massacres of civilians.

A seemingly strong point in Mr. Fisk’s report is his mentioning of real names of people telling their real stories. However, the Coordination Committee of Daraya has been in touch with some of these people and the following corrections need to be made.

1- The story of Hamdi Khreitem’s parents. The witness must have been too intimidated to identify his parents’ killers. Our reliable sources from the field hospital of Daraya confirm that both of them were targeted by a sniper (from the Assad army of course).

2- The story of Khaled Yahya Zukari. The witness was actually in a car with his brother and their wives and children. They were shot at by government forces and his wife and daughter (Leen) were hit. The baby girl’s head was almost split in half and a bullet penetrated the mother’s chest. The mother became hysterical as a result of the shock. Later she died as the field hospital had to be evacuated prior to an army raid. The Assad army told the people that the FSA raped and killed the woman.

The fear and intimidation of witnesses is reflected sometimes in their refusal to name a guilty side. Moreover, Mr. Fisk should know better than reporting conjecture such as this: ‘Another man said that, although he had not seen the dead in the graveyard, he believed that most were related to the government’s army and included several off-duty conscripts.’ The implicit accusation is of course directed against the FSA and this method of reporting resembles Syrian state propaganda par excellence, something that we wish Mr. Fisk had not done.

The revolution committee would finally like to stress also that Mr. Fisk did not meet any member of the opposition in Daraya and that he merely depended on the narrative of his ‘tour guides’ in reporting on such a horrific massacre, the ugliest Syria has seen in the 17 months of the revolution.

Update April 2018: If you’d trust the LCCs version more if it were backed up by a known western correspondent, please read Janine di Giovanni’s book The Morning They Came For Us. Di Giovanni went into Daraya with civilians, not the Assad forces. For reporting honestly what she discovered her Syrian visa was withdrawn. She’s never had one since, but Fisk (unlike the OPCW) has just been let into Douma…

This article gives a much fuller critique of Fisk’s distortions.

And please read this on what happened to Daraya next.

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

August 28, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Syria

Tagged with ,

7 Responses

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  1. Not disgusting ! Epouvantable ! My hair stands straight. What is that woman ? A robot ?


    August 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm

  2. […] by AmalHanano To Kill, and to Walk in the Funeral Procession: https://qunfuz.com/2012/08/28/to-kill-and-to-walk-in-the-funeral-procession/. #Daraya, Ghiath Matar & #AdduniaLies by Robin Yasin Kassab. #Syria #RT […]

  3. […] media to place the blame for these acts on the Free Syrian Army. As Robin Yassin-Kassab puts it in his incisive blog, it is a case of the murderer demanding sole speakers’ rights at the funeral. Where it goes […]

    Depravity | TerraNullius

    August 29, 2012 at 8:57 am

  4. Robert Fisk has become old and past it – and he doesn’t have the grace to quit. It’s a sad spectacle.

    He remains good at turning out elegant phrases and writing vividly, but his pieces these days are empty of wisdom, analytical thinking and insights.

    His writing on Syria has been a disaster. Contradictory, confused and often ill-informed.

    He should shut up and stop destroying his earlier reputation.

    I heard loud warning bells when I saw he was impressed by Rifaat Assad’s sleazy son Ribal.

    I want to remember him when he used to be worth reading, not as a has-been in decline.

    PS Please challenge him as publicly and frequently as you can. He has earnt it.


    August 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm

  5. Fisk, whom I used to admire almost unconditionally, was just as bad today, interviewing four prisoners hand-picked for him by the regime to corroborate their scenario of the revolution: foreign “jihadis” and a mentally unstable young Syrian influenced by a dubious sheikh. Let us just imagine the Fisk we knew interviewing Palestinian prisoners selected for him by the Israelis whose profiles exactly matched Israeli propaganda without even posing a question about this choice.

    umm nuwâs

    September 2, 2012 at 9:19 am

  6. […] Of course I will expect Tharappel and his ilk to reply that the FSA massacred their own families, and base this on a report by embedded “journalist” Robert Fisk, who rode into the town with Assad army units and “questioned” residents. While anyone with a brain would see that this was equivalent to riding into a Jewish death camp on a Nazi tank as far as validity of research goes, the fact that this low point for Fisk has been taken seriously by anyone is indicative of how low some of the standards of “journalism” have fallen with regard to Syria. Here is a good response to Fisk’s disastrous degeneration: https://qunfuz.com/2012/08/28/to-kill-and-to-walk-in-the-funeral-procession/ […]

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