Published in the Peace Newsletter 7-2012
On May 28th, 2012 Bassel Al Shahade was killed by explosives while filming in the city of Homs, Syria. Bassel was a Fulbright Scholar at SU pursuing a master of fine arts degree in film but returned to Syria to work as a citizen journalist. He taught filming and editing to activists, and documented repression and violence. On June 4th friends and supporters of Bassel gathered for a silent vigil on the steps of Hendricks Chapel. They denounced the Assad government, but do not support foreign intervention. Bassel remained committed to peaceful activism despite the violence and chaos surrounding him. From his film “Singing to Freedom”: “If your intuition is that non-violence works you're right...it’s the most reliable source of change in the world...we find that having an armed wing doesn’t help movements and can actually reduce the level of participation that he movement has already built up.”
Like most Syrians, Bassel was an opponent of foreign intervention. The Local Coordination Committees1, National Coordination Committee2, the Popular Front3 are opposition groups that stand against foreign intervention. Yet not all opponents of the Assad government are advocating non-violence and non-intervention. The Syrian National Council is calling for foreign intervention, as well as military aid to the Free Syrian Army, the umbrella name for the multitude of armed groups operating in Syria. This internationally-based organization has been presented as the official representative of Syria by the U.S.
Syrian opposition blogger Yazan Badran writes “Members of the ‘opposition’ that have been embraced by the ‘West’ and the Gulf, especially the Syrian National Council (SNC), have failed and they do not represent me. These groups have fabricated events, exaggerated incidents, spoken in sectarian terms, have promised to end certain political relationships to attract supporters, and have been thuggish with other oppositional groups who do not tow the same line.”4
The situation is Syria is complex with many players promoting their own agendas and analyses. It can be hard to differentiate between fact and propaganda. The violence of insurgent groups in Syria was documented by the Arab League mission5, and, more recently, by UN observers6,7. Favored groups have received millions in military aid from the US, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab nations8,9. Some have been responsible for kidnapping, torture, attacks on civilians, and bombings10.
Massacres purportedly committed by the army may have actually been perpetrated by insurgents seeking to embarrass the government. One example is the May 27th massacre in Houla. The western media first claimed that the killings were the result of artillery shelling by the army, but now blame militias loyal to Assad. It is possible that the Assad government is waging a proxy terror campaign through militias.
On the other hand Germany’s leading daily the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Syria’s ANNA network have published eyewitness accounts blaming opposition terrorists who are attempting bring about a military intervention11.
As unbelievable as tactics such as these may seem, this strategy has been employed by the US including the gulf of Tonkin incident used as a pretext for war in Vietnam, Operation AJAX used to rally religious leaders around the coup in Iran, and the proposed Operation Northwoods plan to provide a pretext for invading Cuba.
A program of proxy violence was implemented by John Negroponte in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua12. In 2004 Negroponte, and Robert Ford trained Shia militias to target the Sunni resistance inside Iraq and across the border into Syria. It is no coincidence that Robert Ford served as ambassador to Syria in 2011. It appears that the US is seeking to use the pretext of humanitarian intervention to install the Syrian National Council as their puppet government.
In a 12/29/11 interview on Democracy Now! Bassel calls for more observers to stop the repression. “The killing is continuing where there is no observers. But it stopped where the observers are there. The problem with the size of the delegations, like there is 20 persons only in Homs…we all agree we need some kind of protection, some kind of observers and journalism. We need press to come here and be free to move, this is the protection we need”13 Unfortunately the UN observer mission was prematurely canceled due to the violence.
Bassel’s death should not be used as a pretext to supply military aid or justify a foreign intervention. Let us respect the will of the peaceful Syrian opposition by: resisting all calls for military intervention, denouncing the illegitimate Syrian National Council, denouncing military aid to all armed groups, and calling for observers to re-establish a presence in Syria.
1- Local Coordination Committees 11-5-11
2- ncsyria.com 12-8-11
3- Uprooted Palestinians blog 8-10-11
4- Yazan 12-27-11
5- League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria
6- Syrian Arab News Agency 5-21-12
UN Press conference 5-1-12
8- NY Times 4-1-12
9- Washington Post 4-17-11
10- Human Rights Watch Syria 3-20-12
11- National Review 6-9-12
12- Final Report of the Iran/Contra Special Prosecutor
13- Democracy Now! 12-29-11
For links, visit peacecouncil.net/pnl/index.htm.
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