Written just after my return from Syria:
I just watched Ben Griffin’s speech at the Don’t Bomb Syria demo. Last Monday, when I was told there was another demonstration to protest the air strikes (UK/US/France strikes on April 14th) I stood in central Damascus at what I calculated was the time of the London demo, and held up my Veterans For Peace UK card on which is written: ‘war is not the solution to the problems we face in the 21st century’.
Damascus citizens walked past and looked at the card though I doubt many could read the English words. If I’d thought about it I would have asked a Syrian friend to write it in Arabic.
The area I was standing in was made safe only a few days previously by the SAA victory in Douma and East Ghouta as a whole. Under the surrender terms Jaysh al Islam agreed to release all their kidnapped civilians, a number believed to be around 5000. All the families of these disappeared turned up hoping to be reunited with them, but only 200 people emerged from the tunnels. The others had all been killed. These families who had been full of hope were left in utter devastation, and they then had to watch as the terrorists who had murdered their loved ones were bussed out of East Ghouta to Idlib, This was the deal brokered by the Russians to end the fighting. Hard terms for these families but this was the price of peace for East Ghouta and Damascus.
The Russians are welcomed with open arms by the Syrian people who recognise their crucial role in preventing Syria from being destroyed by the western powers. I heard no-one at the first demo state that Russia is, unlike our forces, in Syria legallly, in full alignment with international law, having been invited in by the sovereign government. The two nations are allies, and are acting as such. And whatever you think of Putin, and beware the shitstorm of propaganda you’re subjected to on that score,think of the young Russian soldiers, mostly 18-21 years old who have de-mined swathes of Syrian territory. Twice they did this in Palmyra, Incredibly dangerous work. No wonder Syrians have begun giving their newborn children Russian names.
I keep hearing how much people care about ‘the Syrian people’, but until we accept what the Syrian people actually think and want, and stop ignoring what does not fit our own agenda, then all that fine rhetoric is meaningless. The Syrian people, firstly, overwhelmingly support their president. How many at Stop The War accept this fact? They may not like it but it’s true, and denying it is a slap in the face for ‘the Syrian people’. They don’t just support Bashar, they love him. I’ve been to Syria twice now and I can tell you this is stone cold fact. Even a NATO report estimated he has 70 percent support.
Secondly, ‘the Syrian people’ love their army. Because the army is made up of, as I have said before, the fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters of ‘the Syrian people’. They welcome liberation from our Jihadist proxies by their army and no amount of lying and distortion by the corporate media can change this fact. To deny this truth is also a slap in the face for ‘the Syrian people’.
So, the anti-war movement needs to start discerning truth from propaganda, and not be afraid to challenge the ‘Assad apologist’ brigade who actualy care nothing for the wishes of ‘the Syrian people’. The ones who are too afraid to step foot on Syrian soil and meet the actual ‘Syrian people’ face to face, for fear their ‘conspiracy theorists’ narrative will crumble into the Syrian dust. The best thing you can do for ‘the Syrian people’ is to listen to them.
Alison Banville is co-editor of BSNews