Amir Tibon writes: In my conversations with the refugees [at a camp in Serbia] last month, I asked them about some of these lies as if they were well-established truths. Not because I believe them — but rather, because so many people, all over the world, hear and read these lies every day that it’s impossible to ignore them.
It felt dumb, for instance, to ask a family — father, mother, three children aged 12 to 3 — who had just escaped from the burning city of Aleppo, what they thought about “Russia’s bombing campaign against ISIS.” Of course, there is no such thing. Russia isn’t focusing its effort on bombing ISIS, but rather on trying to kill the people I was talking to, who are Syrian civilians. Yet conducting the interview without treating this big lie as if it is simply an alternate explanation of events would be considered “biased reporting.” So, I ask the question and get looks of disbelief, and worse.
Nadia, the mother of this family, told me that “the Russians are the worst thing that happened to us. We survived everything before them, but when they came in to help Bashar, we said — enough. They bomb schools, hospitals, refugee camps, buses carrying people to the border.” What specifically did their involvement mean, I asked her. Her reply: “I would ask myself every morning — how are the Russians going to try to kill my children today?”
Her husband, Yasser, a merchant who owned two stores in the city, disagrees with this analysis — he thinks Shiite militias supported by Iran are an even greater danger than Putin’s air force. “We ran away from the city because we know that after the Russians will finish it, the Iranians will come in. The Iranians are sending people to kill us for Assad.”
These militias, which are entering Syria from neighboring Iraq, have quite a reputation when it comes to killing. “They are just like ISIS, only difference is they are Shi’a and they talk Farsi,” says Yasser. “Tell me — why isn’t anyone bombing them? Why is the entire world only talking about ISIS? The Iranians in Syria burn people alive, burn children and women. Where is the world?” The couple then apologized, explaining they had much more to say, but their youngest daughter started crying, and anyway, they had to leave for the bus. They have six more days on the road ahead of them before reaching Germany.
The biggest lie of them all is that Bashar al-Assad, even more than Vladimir Putin, wants to defeat ISIS. The civil war in Syria, we are told more and more as of late, is actually a choice between Assad and ISIS. Framing the conflict in such terms makes it legitimate and acceptable to cooperate with Assad, a man who is responsible for the deaths of over a quarter of a million people. I tried to ask each and every Syrian I talked to one simple and “neutral” question that has to do with this falsehood. The question was — “Who are you running away from?” The vast majority of people didn’t choose Assad or ISIS — they said they are running away from both.
“The world needs to understand that Assad and ISIS are not enemies — they are partners in destroying our lives,” explained Muhammad, 24, from Aleppo, who stayed in the bombarded city for the last five years because he wanted to complete his university studies before getting out. “It’s like a coin that has two bad sides to it. Doesn’t matter which way you flip it, you’ll end up dead. As long as there is Assad, there will be ISIS. His violence against the Sunni people in Syria is what created ISIS in the first place.”
One man in his 50s, who presented himself in perfect English as a university professor from Aleppo, added: “I’m running away from Da’esh (the Arabic name for ISIS), but there are many different kinds of Da’esh operating in Syria today. There is Da’esh-Da’esh, the people who cut off heads and burn prisoners in cages. There is also Da’esh-Assad, which is actually much worse, and Da’esh-Iran, the Iranian militias who rape and murder women in front of their children’s eyes. They have much more money and capabilities, and they don’t film themselves while doing their atrocities. They are smart enough to hide it from the world. In addition to all these, there is also Da’esh-Putin. I’m coming from Aleppo; I’ve seen the results of his bombings. It’s a massacre. People are killed like cockroaches under a shoe. And then there is Da’esh-the West, which I think is the worst! I mean the civilized world, doing nothing to stop all of this.” [Continue reading…]