The Local Coordination Committees’ in Daraya Respond to Mr. Robert Fisk
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 8:42pm ·
Daraya Coordination Committee
Robert Fisk’s report about the massacre of Saturday 25/08/2012
On Wednesday 29 August 2012, Mr. Robert Fisk of The Independent wrote a report on the Daraya Massacre that was perpetrated only 4 days earlier. Mr. Fisk is a world-famous journalist known for his balanced opinion pieces and ground-breaking reports especially from the Middle East. The people of Syria especially remember Fisk for being the first foreign reporter to enter the city of Hama after the 1982 massacre and relate to the world the horrors he saw there. Thus, we were absolutely astonished by the above-mentioned report and would like to make sure that certain points in it are not left uncorrected. We do this out of respect to the fallen heroes and to make sure the voice of the victims is heard.
Anyone who watched the infamous and insolent report made by the state-favored Addounia TV, would notice the obvious similarities between the two reports.
One major concern that would invalidate any statement taken from the victims is the presence of army personnel as admitted by Mr. Fisk himself. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the Syrian regime would know the degree of intimidation this would incur in the hearts and minds of witnesses. The army does not need to spoon-feed the statements to the witnesses as fear is more than enough to make them repeat the narrative propagated by the government about armed militias and radical Islamists.
Moreover, the article is headlined and predicated on the government’s unbelievable prisoner-swap story. The question that begs to be asked is the following: Even if there was a prisoner exchange and it failed, does the Assad regime have any grounds at all for this level of retaliation? Were there similar failed rounds of negotiation before the massacres of Muaddamiya, Saqba etc. In fact, what has been happening in the towns of the Damascus Countryside Governorate, and indeed all of Syria, follows a similar scenario that begins with shelling and ends with massacres of civilians.
A seemingly strong point in Mr. Fisk’s report is his mentioning of real names of people telling their real stories. However, the Coordination Committee of Daraya has been in touch with some of these people and the following corrections need to be made.
1- The story of Hamdi Khreitem’s parents. The witness must have been too intimidated to identify his parents’ killers. Our reliable sources from the field hospital of Daraya confirm that both of them were targeted by a sniper (from the Assad army of course).
2- The story of Khaled Yahya Zukari. The witness was actually in a car with his brother and their wives and children. They were shot at by government forces and his wife and daughter (Leen) were hit. The baby girl’s head was almost split in half and a bullet penetrated the mother’s chest. The mother became hysterical as a result of the shock. Later she died as the field hospital had to be evacuated prior to an army raid. The Assad army told the people that the FSA raped and killed the woman.
The fear and intimidation of witnesses is reflected sometimes in their refusal to name a guilty side. Moreover, Mr. Fisk should know better than reporting conjecture such as this: ‘Another man said that, although he had not seen the dead in the graveyard, he believed that most were related to the government’s army and included several off-duty conscripts.’ The implicit accusation is of course directed against the FSA and this method of reporting resembles Syrian state propaganda par excellence, something that we wish Mr. Fisk had not done.
The revolution committee would finally like to stress also that Mr. Fisk did not meet any member of the opposition in Daraya and that he merely depended on the narrative of his ‘tour guides’ in reporting on such a horrific massacre, the ugliest Syria has seen in the 17 months of the revolution.
Robert Fisk: Inside Daraya - how a failed prisoner swap turned into a massacre
Exclusive: The first Western journalist to enter the town that felt Assad's fury hears witness accounts of Syria's bloodiest episode
Wednesday 29 August 2012
The massacre town of Daraya is a place of ghosts and questions. It echoed to the roar of mortar explosions and the crackle of gunfire yesterday, its few returning citizens talking of death and assault, of foreign ‘terrorists’, its cemetery of slaughter haunted by snipers. But the men and women to whom we could talk, two of whom had lost their loved ones on Daraya’s day of infamy four days ago, told a story quite different from the popular version that has gone round the world: theirs was a tale of hostage-taking by the Free Syria Army and desperate prisoner-exchange negotiations between the armed opponents of the regime and the Syrian army, before Bashar al-Assad’s government decided to storm into the town and seize it back from rebel control.
Officially, no word of such talks between sworn enemies has leaked out. But senior Syrian officers spoke to The Independent about how they had “exhausted all possibilities of reconciliation” with those holding the town, while citizens of Daraya told us that there had been an attempt by both sides to arrange a swap of civilians and off-duty soldiers in the town – apparently kidnapped by rebels because of their family connections with the government army – with prisoners in the army’s custody. When these talks broke down, the army advanced into Daraya, only six miles from the centre of Damascus.
Being the first western eyewitness into the town yesterday was as frustrating as it was dangerous. The bodies of men, women and children had, of course, been moved from the cemetery where many of them were found; and when we arrived in the company of Syrian troops at the Sunni Muslim graveyard – divided by the main road through Daraya – snipers opened fire at the soldiers, hitting the back of the ancient armoured vehicle in which we made our escape. Yet we could talk to civilians out of earshot of Syrian officials – in two cases in the security of their own homes – and their narrative of last Saturday’s mass killing of 245 men, women and children suggested that the atrocities were far more widespread than supposed. More...