This week the New Yorker published a long piece on Saraqib, a town in Idleb governorate in Syria.
Syria's Last Bastion of Freedom
Amid the brutal civil war, a town fought off the regime and the fundamentalists-and dared to hold an election. Can its experiment in democracy survive?
The piece tells us that, despite the fact that al-Qaeda rules Idleb since at least 2015, it is really a cradle of genuine democracy:
In the summer of 2017, for the first time anywhere in Syria since 1954, the residents of the town of Saraqib decided to seize control of their future-and hold a genuinely free election.
On the morning that polls were to open, an activist named Osama al-Hossein woke up at five o'clock, feeling anxious. He soon headed to Idlib Gate, a former department store that had been turned into a meeting hall. A small crowd was milling about: local journalists, election monitors, and suited dignitaries who, in international circles, represented the Syrian opposition. The election was meant to choose the leader of the Local Council, a civilian body that governed the town. Poll workers checked their phones for reports of air traffic: Syrian and Russian jets were known to attack public gatherings, and activists had posted sentries around the province.
We are told that this one town, Saraqib, is really standing out:
One Syrian town after another fell out of government control, and from this anarchy new horrors arose. The flags of ISIS and Al Qaeda were raised across the country. Child refugees drowned at sea; Western hostages were murdered on camera.
Somehow, Saraqib had avoided this fate. It offered an alternative history for the entire Syrian conflict-and, Hossein believed, its citizens embodied the true soul of the revolution. That evening, he imagined other tiny democracies flowering across Syria, and the rest of the world coming to understand, at last, that his country had more to offer than bloodshed and tragedy.
In reality "an alternative history" is not what happened to Saraqib, but what is presented in the New Yorker piece. It is a whitewash of a brutal international attack on Syria. A hagiography of one Osama al-Hossein, a Muslim Brotherhood 'activist', who got funding from the United States. It includes every false propaganda cliche about 'barrel bombs' and 'moderate rebels', who never were moderate, that the 'western' agencies inserted into the news stream. It is also full of stupid and nonfactual assertions. How, for example, did the New Yorker fact checkers let these 'Humvees' pass by:
The government retaliated with even greater force; on August 11, 2011, its tanks and Humvees stormed Saraqib again.
When and where did Syria buy those?
In 2017 Osama al-Hossein, over some struggle with al-Qaeda, eventually fled to Turkey. But this August the author, presumably more at ease with al-Qaeda than the Syrian 'activist', traveled to Saraqib and found it at peace:
Unlike in some other Idlib towns, there were no religious police, no Al Qaeda flags. Although Saraqib is amid one of the world's deadliest civil wars, I didn't see a single gunman or checkpoint. I bumped into Abu Traad, the leader of the Free Syrian Army faction, and even he was unarmed, wearing slacks and a T-shirt. The activists, I learned, had insisted that weapons not be carried inside the city limits, immunizing Saraqib from factional disputes and protecting the revolutionaries' rule. Occasionally, I spotted Nusra members hunched in a vehicle; though it was blazing hot, they hid behind balaclavas. Many residents, meanwhile, freely denounced the fundamentalists: one told me, "These people are a curse on God Himself." It seemed that in Saraqib, at least, people were not afraid of Nusra; Nusra was afraid of them.
Sure, Nusra was afraid of them!
That is why in June the jihadis could destroyed tombstones in Saraqib's cemetery despite the angry muttering of some locals. And Saraqib is so "immunized from factional disputes" that on August 24 Nusra, aka Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, arrested six members of another jihadi faction there. And it is so peaceful that two month later the Syrian Observatory notes a tit-for-tat execution campaign happening within the town:
[T]oday, the 7th of October 2018, an explosion in Saraqib area in the eastern countryside of Idlib, which is near the areas to be disarmed, it was caused by an explosion targeted Khattab al-Hamwi, who is an important security official in Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham of the notorious al-Iqab Prison in Saraqib area ...
It is the 'last bastion of freedom', Saraqib, that houses al-Qaeda's main prison in the area. Somehow the New Yorker piece fails to mention that.
From the early start of the war on Syria, Saraqib was one of the centers of jihadi terrorist activities. In March/April 2011 it was one of the first towns that saw violent attacks on government forces and institutions. In December 2011 the notorious terrorist group Ahrar al-Sham, headed by the long time al-Qaeda member Abu Khalid al-Suri, was founded there. In 2014 the BBC reported how al-Qaeda/Nusra/HTS ruled the town:
Abu-Qedama, al-Qaida's envoy in Saraqib, North-Eastern Syria, is Jordanian. His task is to ensure that Sharia Law is enforced.
This BBC Arabic film follows him and his fellow Islamists in Saraqib, showing how they are taking control of the city. The film-makers get inside the courts and reveal how Sharia Law is applied. We see the judge at work in the Court and issuing his judgment on the public square. For the first time, we see a public flogging before a large crowd of people, as a deterrent to others.
At some point the locals in Saraqib may have hold some sham elections. But that does not change the fact that their town was and is solidly controlled by an internationally banned terrorist group. Saraqib is only a 'bastion of freedom' when one ignores everything that happened and still happens there.
This brings up a serious question. How did the author of the New Yorker piece, Anand Gopal, manage to travel through Nusra/HTS/al-Qaeda controlled Idleb governorate, visited the jihadi infested town, and avoided to be thrown into the "notorious al-Iqab Prison in Saraqib area"?
Could it be because he was one of those who told everyone how to join the Islamists?
Could it be because he falsely insists that there was and is no U.S. regime change policy in Syria?
Could it be because he, who himself told people how to join ISIS, claimed that the sole reason that people joined it was the Syrian government's fight against the foreign fueled insurgency against it? This despite the fact that Obama and Kerry had publicly admitted that they furthered ISIS' growth?
It is sad to see that the once respectable New Yorker gives space to such a fairy tale by a recruiter of terrorists, propagandist for al-Qaeda and despicable apologist of the empire's wars.
Posted by b on December 6, 2018