I’ve seen much destruction during my years of work in conflict and war zones. But nothing like Aleppo East, the old City and Aleppo’s industrial zone. Square kilometer after kilometer of destruction – only 5-7% of it from the air, for those who want to know, the rest done by house-to-house fighting. Trillions of bullets.
I’ve seen the suffering – but also the joy – of the people in the East and those who came over to the West to get help – the only helpers present there on December 10-14 were the Red Crescent, Russian field doctors and hospitals, the Syrian Arab Army and volunteers from Aleppo’s University. Shocking.
And deeply deeply moving. Never to leave my memory.
No normal person who has seen what I saw would be able thereafter to defend war as a tool to achieve any political goal whatsoever. Decision-makers and media outside Syria simply won’t get it. Distance and psychic numbing, the shields around the corridors of power kill.
I don’t blame them for not risking their lives going there. I blame them for their colonialist mentality and their belief in their own exceptionalist moral superiority.
The next shock I experiened – perhaps due to my belief in decency and professionalism but anyhow proving naive – happened at my attempts to reach media with what I had seen.
TFF PressInfo reaches, among others, some 3000-4000 media and journalists worldwide, including many hundreds in the Nordic countries.
Not one reaction was expressive of an interest in what I had seen in a place where I was the only one from the Nordic countries and Western media had been present but had left before December 12, 2016.
But writing in safety from Beirut, Istanbul, Paris, Berlin and Washington they knew that with Aleppo’s ”fall” the next thing would be Assad’s genocide on its inhabitants – who somewhat surprisingly to them, I reported, cried of happiness to have come out from under 4,5 years of terror occupation, danced, drank and celebrated in the streets.
I talked freely with anyone in those streets and was not embedded – but did get military protection in and out of Aleppo’s war zones at a time when all the fighting had not died down yet. I was grateful for that, necessary in such a dangerous environment.
During my work in Yugoslavia’s dissolution wars, in Georgia, in Iraq – there was always some media somewhere that said: OK, he has been there, he knows about conflict analysis, he has talked with people on all sides and represents no government. He’s independent, let’s hear what he has to say.
In the case of Syria? Not so.
So, there were not even the tiniest crack in the massive media wall – media that could have seen interviewing me as a kind of scoop since they had nobody there.
Also not in my regional, leading media such as Dagens Nyheter, Sydsvenskan, Politiken, Berlingske, 24/7, Deadline – you name them. Their responses are all documented here.
And the liberal The Nation, the oldest political magazine in the US, asked me to summarise three articles they had read into one – only to tell me that they had rather suddenly “changed editorial priorities” and would, therefore, not publish my manuscript but pay me a honorarium (which I had not even asked for).
In short, there were only two kinds of responses:
No response or ”we can do an interview with you about how it is for a peace researcher to be embedded with the Syrian regime/dictator and his army” – that is, only an interest in framing. No interest in what I had seen and heard.
Has anyone ever been framed for going to the capitals of Western aggressors say Washington or Brussels?
I was framed for risking my life going to Damascus and Aleppo to try to understand that side too, the side that has not gotten a fair hearing.
So much for the free Western media – proving excellently their place as the second M in the MIMAC – the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex – that is always ready to promote violence and omit or marginalise the voices of conflict understanding and peace.