Watching the news today I couldn’t help but shed a tear for the victims of yet another horrific terrorist attack – part of a seemingly unstoppable wave of Muslim Brotherhood-inspired and MI6 / CIA sustained political violence that has swept across Syria for over seven years. My sympathies go out to the families of those killed and the almost two dozen injured, some critically. The tears I shed were for the victims and their families obviously, but they were also tears caused by a despair and frustration I feel so deeply – why was this attack and its aftermath not covered by our TV news programmes? Why no mention of the atrocity on the evening bulletins of ITN or the BBC here in the UK? Why are some victims of gruesome terror undeserving of our attention?
I first heard of the tragedy via instant messenger, then I watched the aftermath online, read eyewitness accounts via Twitter and Facebook, then via email, interspersed with text messages received from friends. Feeling somewhat overwhelmed and unable to take it all in I decided to go for a walk.
Once out in the fresh early evening air I began to wonder whether it would have been possible to be in London, with our sophisticated 24-hour TV news machinery, and not hear about the gruesome attack had the victims been mostly westerners. Without doubt, that crucial fact would have merited a slot in the news schedule. We would have learned the victims’ names, seen harrowing reaction from their family and friends, heard about their hopes and dreams. Had westerners even been injured in the attack my neighbours who saw me out walking this evening would have been expressing righteous outrage rather than looking stupefied as I explained my unmistakable sadness. You see, western victims of terror are ‘worthy’ victims. In stark contrast, Syrian civilians, even women and children, are ‘unworthy’ victims especially so when their deaths and injuries are at the hands of extremists factions our government and its allies have been supporting. Like Yemen, Syria is a war ‘we’ wage but don’t see!
Al Nusra Front terrorists chose to strike at the heart of the old city, Bab Touma and Qassaa neighbourhoods, in the predominantly Christian district of Damascus. This is where I stayed on my two visits to Syria in 2016 and 2017. This is where I slept, ate and shopped, where my friends live and work, where people of all nationalities, religions and cultures come together. Sickeningly the attack took place just as children were leaving school for the afternoon. Several mortar shells fired by militants positioned in the Eastern Ghouta region struck just after 2 pm murdering nine innocent children & adults, including a 3-year-old boy, Elias Khoury. A source at Damascus police command center reported that many of the casualties occurred when a shell fell on a bus stop in the area.
Berjo Alkhouri, the aunt of one of the seriously injured children wrote:
I would like to make a special request from my heart and soul to all my friends and relatives to pray for my niece, my sister’s daughter, Christine Horani and for the Lord to heal her and to recover from her dreadful injury. She has been horrifically injured on her lower limbs by explosive missiles and bomb shells that have targeted the region of Bab Touma, Damascus, Syria while she was just going out of her school.
I also ask for prayers for her dear friend Pascal Al Khalil that has also been injured with her and I ask for God’s mercy on the blessed soul of her other friend Rita Al Eid that has sadly passed away yesterday and is a martyr of this horrific tragedy.
What kind of psychopaths deliberately target children? How is it possible that our politicians and journalists still refer to these terrorists as ‘moderate rebels’? What is moderate about cold blooded murder of innocents?
One young girl who survived the blast has had her leg amputated below the knee. She was a “lucky one”. Another young girl, Rita Eid, just 15 years old (left) was murdered. Attacks like this have been happening regularly for several years. One might be forgiven for thinking the centre of the capital is safe from such barbarity but the people of Damascus risk their lives daily. Vanessa Beeley, associate editor at 21st Century Wire, who was in Damascus at the time of the attack asks:
What did these children do? How can it ever be called a “revolution” when these monsters in East Ghouta deliberately fire mortars into an area brimming with schoolchildren. It is a systematic massacre of Syrian civilians being carried out by the terrorists the US Coalition-of-terror finance, arm & paint as “freedom fighters”.
How much longer will we passively support what our governments are inflicting upon the Syrian people?
The appalling performance of the corporate media, inadequately reporting such terrorist atrocities or in many cases failing to report at all is not an aberration – it is systemic government approved whitewashing of the crimes of our military and security services and their regional allies and proxy armies. Some news outlets have even described children blown to bits in previous atrocities as ‘government supporters’.
You see victim worthiness can be accurately and repeatedly measured in the column inches or air time afforded to the dead and injured or in the descriptions our beloved and trusted journalists bestow upon them. Our victims remain unknown and unknowable because our terrorism and the cowardly corporate media supporting it rarely permits us to learn the names and see the faces of those it kills. If we’re really astute we might glean the scale of the ongoing carnage but we’re not allowed to see the human suffering, to read of families torn apart or see entire communities destroyed.
Syria is different. She is defiant and her strength is in her people, in their warmth and friendly generous nature. Syrians will never allow themselves to be overrun by sectarian extremists. The Syrian people have and are the Syrian Arab Army and so long as they fight, Syria will be free.
Mike Raddie is co-editor of BSNews