Stories of Aleppo

Social media has recently been flooded by stories of atrocities being committed by Syrian and Russian troops in East Aleppo.  It has been reported that Syrian troops have been going from door to door murdering civilians and that women have been committing suicide rather than be raped by Syrian troops.  We have also seen “last message” videos from people purporting to be innocent civilians in besieged East Aleppo.  These stories are being propagated widely and uncritically both in the main stream media and in the social media.

It has always been the case that conflicting reports emerge from war zones but gone are the days, if ever they existed, when journalists could be relied on to verify their sources.  It’s hard to find sources of information in Syria that are reliable.  Until recently, the mainstream media correspondents have been reporting from Lebanon or Turkey and there are only three people I have found who have actually been on the ground in Syria recently: two independent journalists, Vanessa Beeley, who is in Allepo right now and Eva Bartlett, who just came back from there a few weeks ago and a Church of England minister, the Reverend Andrew Ashdown, who has been a frequent visitor to Syria and is also in Aleppo right now. His Facebook page is being constantly updated and it’s worth a visit.

What are we to make then of reports of Syrian troops murdering innocent civilians?  This story has been reported by the United Nations as well as by the media.  Given that there have been no correspondents or NGOs operating on the ground in East Aleppo, one must ask  who their sources are and whether or not they are credible.  It would appear that their sources are “activists”and the now discredited “White Helmets”.  The one thing that we can say about these “activists” with a degree of certainty, since they haven’t already fled East Aleppo, is that they are not pro-Assad activists!  So they are certainly not unbiased sources.

Stories of women committing suicide are being put about by Aljazeera, again hardly an unbiased source as it is owned by Qatar, a country that’s funding jihadists in Syria.  The senior script editor of Aljazeera, incidentally, signally failed to answer a request for a credible independent source for his propaganda on this Facebook thread.

The “final message” videos certainly appeal to the heartstrings but exhibit a degree of polish one would not expect in the circumstances. The makers of these videos include anti-regime activists @Mr.Alhamdo, @Linashamy (English/Syrian), “independent journalist” Bilal Abdul Kareem, who appears to enjoy unfettered access to Islamist groups and a seven year old girl with a remarkable command of English. This video has the details.

Events have overtaken me since I started to write this and convoys are now taking fighters and civilians to the rebel-held town of Khan Touman.  The mainstream media would have us believe that these fighters are democracy loving freedom fighters but it is common knowledge that at least several thousands of them are Jabhat Fateh al-Sham( formerly al-Nusra Front) or other Islamist factions.  One has to wonder how fond they are of democracy when they are happy to fight alongside jihadists.

We have seen dancing in the  streets of Aleppo celebrating the defeat of the rebels – at least those of us who do not rely totally on the mainstream media for information have seen it.  Have we  also been led a merry dance by corporate media with their own or rather America’s agenda or is it just the case that checking your sources is no longer a journalistic requirement?  Whatever the case, it’s very worrying when Members of Parliament are demanding action on the basis of misinformation.   We have been down that road before.



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