Unhappy campers and big lies issue from Syria 106

According to the Syrian state media, and Western media such as the BBC that unaccountably trust information issued by Arab tyrannies, thousand of Syrians decided all at once to visit  relatives over the border in Turkey in the last few days.

Michael Weiss writes at the Telegraph:

As the Syrian city of Jisr al-Shughour emptied its streets at the weekend, with 5,000 refugees having fled to Turkey and another 6,000 sat waiting at the Syrian-Turkish border, Western audiences were treated to the following howlers by Syrian state media:

• This humanitarian crisis is really the largest spontaneous family reunion in history. Reem Haddad, the ginger stoogette of the Assad regime, told the BBC on Friday: “A lot of them find it easy to move across because their relatives are there. It’s a bit like having a problem in your street, and your mum lives in the next street, so you go and visit your mum for a bit.”

• The trip down the road to mum’s somehow coincided, says the Assadist media, with an insurrection of “armed gangs” said to have killed 120 mukhabarat agents a week earlier, thus precipitating the Syrian Army’s assault on an abandoned city that for some reason required 200 tanks, a fleet of helicopter gunships and thousands of soldiers. As for the armed gangs causing all the mischief, we now discover, courtesy of another Ba’athist tribune – Talib Ibrahim – that these were also “proxies” of Israel.

The relatives must have come to meet them and camp out with them in the fine summer weather:

Syrian refugee men walk in the new refugee tent compound in Boynuyogun, Turkey (Photo: AP)


You’d think foreign stringers and Western news anchors would have got the hang of this by now: the Syrian government-controlled media is not to be trusted. Yet I’ve lost count of the number of references in the BBC to a “restive” or “rebellious” north-western backwater where a state-perpetrated massacre of civilians has been rendered as some evenly matched struggle for political autonomy, as if we all talking about the Catalonia of the Middle East. …

State television said when Syrian forces stormed through the town early on Sunday they uncovered the graves of security men killed and buried by armed groups.

Would those be graves made by Zionist-Salafist space invaders from Mars, then? Or might they – just might they – have been filled by the security forces themselves with the corpses of defecting Syrian soldiers, just as a similar mass grave was found to have been in Deraa? …

The number of soldiers who have gone over to the side of the rebels is small and too ill equipped to mount much of a resistance.

Al Jazeera interviewed the Syrian general Hussain Harmoush, so far one of the highest-level defectors in the revolution. He said he’d put together a small unit of about 100 lightly armed anti-regime forces but that they had an exclusively defensive remit in Jisr al-Shughour: to ward off the advance of the army and shabbiha militias and to give residents time to run for the Turkish border.

Alongside this less-than-Spartan phalanx were a handful of locals – mostly young men – who volunteered to hang around their hometown to do what they could to stop a forthcoming scorched-earth campaign. According to the New York Times, some other residents of Jisr al-Shughour “ran patrols and ‘monitored the area’ with hunting rifles, sticks and binoculars.”

Hunting rifles, sticks and binoculars were meant to square off with bullets that poured down “like rain” from Assad’s helicopters.

Agence France-Presse has interviewed four AWOL conscripts in Guvecci, Turkey who give their own horrified accounts in other parts of the country:

With a blank stare in his eyes, Tahal al-Lush said the “cleansing” in Ar-Rastan, a town of 50 000 residents in the Syrian province of Homs, prompted him to desert.

“We were told that people were armed there. But when we arrived, we saw that they were ordinary civilians. We were ordered to shoot them,” said Lush, who showed his military passbook and other papers as proof of his identity.

When we entered the houses, we opened fire on everyone, the young, the old… Women were raped in front of their husbands and children,” he said, giving the number of deaths as some 700, difficult to verify as journalists are not allowed to circulate freely in Syria.

Another soldier, queried by AFP, told of how he’d seen a man stabbed through the head with a knife: “After seeing how they killed people, I realised that the regime is prepared to massacre everyone.” Hezbollah snipers, he added, had taken up positions on rooftops and been ordered to pick off any Army regulars who went weak in the knees about shooting civilians.

The AP pictures and the following report are from the Washington Post:

Syrian refugees [in Turkey] gave a bleak picture of life across the frontier.

“There are 7,000 people across the border, more and more women and children are coming toward the barbed wires,” said Abu Ali, who left Jisr al-Shughour. “Jisr is finished, it is razed.” …

A reported mutiny in Jisr al-Shughour posed one of the most serious threats to the Assad regime [reach for a pinch of salt – JB]  since protests against his rule began in mid-March. …

In an apparent anticipation of more refugees, workers of the Turkish Red Crescent, the equivalent of the Red Cross, began building a fourth tent camp Monday near the border. …

Turkey and Syria share a 520-mile (850 kilometer) border, which includes several Syrian provinces. Refugees and relatives on both sides appeared to be crossing unimpeded around the village of Guvecci.The Turkish province of Hatay has a sizable Arabic-speaking population. It gained independence from Syria in 1938 and joined Turkey in a plebiscite a year later. Families in some villages were split when the borders were finalized in 1948.

If – or rather when – the Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad falls, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, and Israel will all be affected. Just how in each case cannot be easily be predicted. Assad supports Hezbollah as a repressive force in Lebanon, and uses it as a proxy army against Israel. He has sheltered Hamas leaders in Damascus, and is a regional agent for Iran. He’s bad for his country, bad for the Middle East, but whatever succeeds his rule is not likely to be much better, though it would be hard for anything to be much worse.