Original content provided by: Abboud Al-Thelab
“How is the weather?”
“Very hot this past week. We have to pick up water from the store later today. We are-”
The phone line is cut as electricity is restricted for the day in the city of Damascus.
The above script of my phone call with a cousin in Syria is not at all unique. At any given point in time, there are people sitting in compounds dissecting every detail of most likely every call in Syria in order to accumulate intelligence. These centers are not just run by the government, but by so-called rebel groups like the “Free Syrian Army” and extremist Islamic groups like the so-called “Islamic State.” Each attempting to forecast each others movements based on information that could be pulled from a concise phone call, which happens to be coded.
As far as espionage is concerned, coding might be the most basic utility. We are able to say one thing and have it refer to a context far from imaginable for the person eavesdropping, thus giving ourselves camouflage from potential assailants. We protect ourselves not because we are spies, soldiers, nor conspirators but because we are Christians.
Before 2011, Syria was one of three nations in the Middle East that largely accepted the faiths of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism (the others being Jordan and Lebanon.) By “largely accepted,” I mean that no one was persecuted or treated differently for their faith when finding a job, going to university, or simply existing. This is due to the father of Bashar al-Assad, Hafez al-Assad. Having been a member of the Syrian Air Force, he served for eight years from 1950 until 1958 when he and the highest ranking members of the military decided to throw a successful coup against the then President Nazim al-Kudsi in 1963 (after a small failed coup in 1962.) Al-Assad rose to president by strong arming his way through more coups and aggressive maneuvers and found himself sitting as president in November of 1970. It is over the next thirty years that be brought together branches of Islam, specifically Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Alawites (his family’s respective factor.) And in doing so, he brought religious peace (not defined as just the absence of violence but as harmony among all) to Syria.
But Hafez did not get to the top without opposition from forces outside of Syria. In 1982, al- Assad ordered the bombing of Hama, a city in the northwest. By using jets to conduct fire bombing raids of the city, some ten to forty thousand people died over three weeks. Media outside of Syria covered this as a genocide on his own people. But by targeting the select districts in Hama, those jets bombarded the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni extremist group still operating in the Middle East and North Africa today.
By slaughtering those tens of thousands of innocent people, he ended what most likely would have been an aggressive assault on the government by the radical group and their followers. A complete hijacking of Syria was at stake and he did effectively prevent it. Do not twist my words, I am not justifying the killing of these people as this sort of behavior, to an extent, is transpiring in Syria today.
As Hafez died in 2000, his son Bashar assumed role of president, amongst great controversy of voting. A number of citizens, mostly Sunni and more conservative Muslims, were not unhappy because they wanted to see a democratic system take proper control but because it was not their branch of religion taking the throne (as the Assad family is Alawite). But this did not deter Syria from keeping religious peace amongst itself. Sunnis still lived alongside Shi’ites the same as Christians and the Muslim population.
Between 2010 and 2011 is when western media started to put Syria on CNN and other major networks. Headlines started covering events like protests and uprisings among rebel groups. They started to paint Bashar al-Assad as a gruesome dictator (he is indeed a dictator as he has essentially refused to leave power) and as a president who bombs his own people with chemicals and shrapnel. These rebels were no Syrians. A vast majority of the people at these protests were mercenaries paid by a number of countries in order to ignite a keg full of political gunpowder. I cannot give title to any country on the basis of media but I can write that it was countries like Saudi Arabia who, for one instance, released 3.500 prisoners from their jails, armed them, paid them, and shipped them to Syria. Another country blatantly guilty of attacking Syria is Turkey. They allowed groups like the so-called “Islamic State” to train and operate out of southern Turkey and slip into northern Syria in order to wage war on Assad. And they have been successful. The Syrian government has been bombing its own cities but not to the breadth nor range that western media has described. They have been dropping strikes on these mercenaries and groups in order to keep Syria what it was before it was waged war on.
Is it possible that Assad has used chemical weapons? Yes, I’m positive that almost any military has the capabilities to drop mustard gas on its people. Is it likely? Absolutely not. Syria would not risk severing ties with Russia on the basis of total ignorance for human rights.
If it were not for Vladimir Putin and the Russian state, Syria would have likely fallen three years ago. Russia has been keeping Syria protected by arming them with military planes, ammunition, small arms, and personnel. They do this not for some kind gesture of good faith but because they have several military bases on the coast in Latakia and Tartus. These bases give Russia a level of dominance over the United States in the Middle East by docking warships and fighter jets. Should Syria fall, these bases would fall prey to extremist groups or western control.
It is here that I must share to what degree my family has suffered during these past several years. I also cannot tell every detail, such as names, dates, or cities as I do not know who will read this article. Nor is Abboud al-Thelab my real name, as my name may put my family overseas in direct line execution by a fanatical Islamic “rebel”.
These people are not the rebels you think of when referring back to your civil studies. They are not fighting for democracy. They are not fighting for religious freedom. They are not fighting for freedom at all. They fight because they are paid. And quite often, they are paid to abduct and torture people for ransoms. This instills fear in the populations they occupy and brings in a massive amount of revenue for their group. But just as often, ransoms are brought forward, and they kill their captives for the sake of killing them. Like butchered animals, two of my cousins were dropped off in bags at what was their front door. Because they were Christian.
Because one of my cousins is a Christian teacher, her and her class were a target for a rocket propelled grenade.
If it were not for the Assad family and their allies, my family, along with millions of others, would have been forced out of Syria generations ago. No one should have to fathom what genocide truly looks like. And the examples I have given are merely two of half a dozen family members now buried.
I write this this to tell others that we as a human race are supporting groups like the so-called “Islamic State” by following what we are told.
The next time you watch a broadcast on any news network, I want you to understand that you are being told what a government wants you to think. While this is not always a wrong way to approach ‘educating’ the masses, it certainly can be deadly for those on receiving end of the barrel. Do not support random social media videos blindly because you see a child and a desert. Do not always assume that what you are learning in university and beyond is always in accordance with fact. Try to outsource your media to corporations and nations who have no bias in the respective topic. This world is filled to the brim with evil, do your part by bringing truth and light to everyone you can.