SYRIA: Christians' plight lost under mountain of propaganda
by Elizabeth Kendal
News Weekly, August 4, 2012
Without a doubt, the greatest lie being told about the Syrian conflict is that it is being waged by President Assad against “the Syrian people”. This is pure propaganda.
In December 2011, just three months into the crisis, the Qatar Foundation conducted a major poll inside Syria to assess the level of support for Assad. (This was before al-Qaeda and other international Salafi jihadists started flooding in, making the crisis worse). As an advocate of regime change in Syria, Qatar was embarrassed by the results and so buried them. When eventually leaked, the results revealed that 55 per cent of Syrians supported President Assad and 68 per cent of Syrians disapproved of Arab League sanctions.
This makes perfect sense, considering that religious minorities make up 25 per cent of Syria’s population (Christians are 10 per cent) and at least one-third of all Sunni Muslims would be nominal or secular urbanites who likewise do not want to live in an Islamic state. So the main division in Syria is not between Assad and the rest, but between Sunni fundamentalists (including foreign Salafi jihadists) and the rest, i.e., the majority of Syrians.
This is asymmetric warfare: a battle between two unequal forces. The jihadists who quickly hijacked the original protest movement are no match for the Syrian military. Consequently, this battle would have been over long ago except that forces keen to counter the Iranian-Shi’ite ascendancy by means of regime change in Syria are arming, training and funding the jihadists. These forces are the US-Saudi Arabia-Gulf Arab axis plus neo-Ottoman Turkey.
As noted by Robert D Kaplan and Kamran Bokhari (Stratfor Intelligence), Assad’s removal will doubtless hasten Syria’s (and Lebanon’s) slide into chaos, not slow it. Despite what the US-Saudi Arabia-Gulf Arab axis says, this is exactly what it intends with the aim of crippling or at least tying up Iran’s allies — the Syrian Army and Hezbollah — ahead of a military strike on Iran. The US seems to have no long-term perspective and nobody seems to care about the plight of millions of Middle Eastern Christians.
Propaganda is critical in asymmetric warfare. The weaker force (the jihadists) cannot win on their own and need to have a power stronger than the other side intervene on their behalf. To secure a “humanitarian intervention”, the weaker force will inflate and falsify civilian casualty figures, and even create civilian casualties through the use of human shields and “false flag” operations. (“False flag” operations are those in which the terrorists are disguised as elements of the other side.)
The Houla massacre has since been proved to be a “false flag” operation, committed by Free Syrian Army forces claiming to be pro-government “thugs”. The dead families were pro-government, mostly non-Sunni, civilians. US-NATO will not intervene militarily as they did when they bombed Belgrade in 1999 and Tripoli in 2011 — two cities full of civilians — unless they can make an intervention palatable to voters back home. Hence the US administration’s peddling of jihadist propaganda!
But the US must find another way to contain or engage Iran, for their present strategy necessitates the totally unacceptable sacrifice of millions of Middle Eastern Christians.
According to church sources inside Syria, Christians are increasingly being targeted and driven out of their homes and districts. Some 138,000 Christians have fled Homs, where Christians have been terrorised and churches looted and occupied by rebel forces. At least 9,000 Christians fled the neighbouring western city of Qusayr after the leaders of a rebel faction issued an ultimatum that was repeated from mosque minarets.
In areas under rebel control, intolerant, hard-line Sunni fundamentalism is making Muslim-Christian coexistence impossible. For the jihadists, neutrality is not an option, and Christians (and Muslims) refusing to support the jihad are being tortured, expelled and murdered.
In a fatwa, Sunni cleric Adnan Arour warned Syrian loyalists: “We will chop you up and feed you to the dogs.”
Elizabeth Kendal has had 14 years’ experience as a full-time international religious liberty analyst and advocate, including seven years as principal researcher and writer for the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC). This article is from the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB), no. 167, July 11, 2012.
What is really going on in Syria?
Forty per cent of Syria’s population is made up of minorities — Christians: Catholic (of various rites) and Orthodox; Muslim: Shi’a, Druze and Ismailis; and non-Arab Sunni: Kurds. Sixty per cent is Sunni Muslim.
The departure of the Assad regime, and a new government in Syria run by extremist Salafis, Al Qaeda or Muslim Brothers, is a daunting prospect for the minorities, and for a majority of the Sunni population who have flourished under the tolerance of the Alawite regime. The US State Department and the West generally are curiously not impressed by Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III’s statement that “there is more religious freedom and tolerance in Syria than in any other Arab country”.
The Syrian model of an Arab society offends extremist and closed Muslim societies. It now seems to offend the USA and its allies. If they have their way, it will disappear along with the Assad regime. That will be a sad day for the Middle East, and a worse one for the Western powers, who will have unleashed an uncertain future on millions of defenceless non-Muslims and non-extremist Muslims.
Extract from Dr Paul Stenhouse, Quadrant, Vol. 56, No. 4, April 2012.