By Yvonne Ridley
I have no idea where the Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL or whatever name it uses came from, and I’m just as baffled by the roots of its violent ideology. While I never pretend to speak for the diverse community of Muslims living in Britain today, I reckon my views on this will be echoed by the majority who have watched with growing concern the unprecedented rise of this group.
However, just as unprecedented is the childish invective being spewed out by Islamophobes, racists and so-called terrorism experts encouraged by some sections of the British media. They have not helped at all.
While I’ve blocked most of the jack-booted trolls who patrol Twitterland demanding that anyone who is or even looks like a Muslim should launch an immediate protest march against ISIS, I’m amazed that similar rhetoric is being pushed by elements of the media.
There are many reasons why I’ve not spoken out against ISIS. For a start, I’m not sure who it is, where it came from or how it is funded. I’ve not seen such a militarily- and strategically-savvy fighting force emerge in the Middle East before, other than the highly disciplined and much feared Hezbollah. I, like many others, want to know a little bit more about ISIS before making public comments.
Secondly, why should I organise a march against ISIS? I am not responsible for its actions, just as my Jewish friends are not responsible – and nor should they be – for the actions of that other group of violent psychos in the Middle East, the Israeli military. While ISIS enforcers wield head- and limb-chopping knives, Israel drops bombs called Daisy Cutters which also decapitate and maim anyone caught in the fallout.
Thirdly, my silence over ISIS does not mean that I support the group even if some fools take my silence as a sign that I do. Only when I ask some male tweeters to apologise on behalf of rapists, on the grounds that every rapist is a man so they must all be somehow culpable, does the penny drop; occasionally I’ll get a muffled apology.
And finally, even if I jumped up and down and declared that “ISIS is the scum of the earth”, exactly what would that achieve anyway? I hardly think its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is going to lose any sleep over Yvonne Ridley’s views.
There are few certainties in the chaos that is now the Middle East. However, what I can say with authority is that the world would never have heard of ISIS had widow-makers George W Bush and Tony Blair not launched their illegal war in Iraq in 2003. The world would also never have seen ISIS develop into the full blown monster that it is if the West had, at the very least, introduced a no-fly zone in Syria after the chemical weapons were unleashed on civilians by Bashar Al-Assad’s forces exactly a year ago this week.
The question to ask is this: Who really benefits from the unfolding ISIS spectacle? The big winners are sitting within the Assad regime. It is that regime which was, by the way, suspected of capturing US journalist James Foley who went missing in north-west Syria on 12 November 2012. How on earth did he slip out of the Syrian government’s hands into those of the murderous head-chopping maniacs of ISIS?
The former head of the British Army says that the West should sit down and negotiate with Assad to get rid of ISIS, but what if ISIS was created by Assad and his ally Iran, which has members of the elite Republican Guard in parts of Syria?
As crazy as it sounds, that would explain why Nouri Al-Maliki’s Iraqi army fell away so easily in the face of ISIS leaving behind a massive arsenal of weapons for the militia to use. It is virtually inconceivable for a trained fighting force to leave all of its kit behind before doing a runner, just as it’s virtually inconceivable that a crack fighting force like ISIS could emerge from a rag tag bunch of ill-disciplined rebel fighters buoyed-up by disaffected youngsters from Europe and beyond.
Make no mistake, ISIS’s domination of Iraq is nothing short of breath-taking; it has achieved in a matter of weeks what the US and its allies failed to do in 10 years of occupation. This hasn’t happened by accident; military victories on this scale take strategic planning and inside help. So who, exactly, is behind ISIS?
This article was first published in the Middle East Monitor.
Recently in Iran, while attending a conference on Syria, Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar has said that Pakistan will not support any kind of foreign government intervention in Syria.
I agree with the decision of not involving Pakistani state but at the same time I will disagree with the govt. if they stop people to help Syrians on their own in terms of money, weapons or any other way they can.
Foreign involvement will turn the focus of movement and will likely to hijack the issue from local Syrian opposition like Iran hijacked the Bahrain movement resulting the failure of the movement. But we can see in Egypt, things are changing in positive direction.
At the same time governments should now stop supporting Assad’s brutal regime by cutting diplomatic and defense ties which is essential to remain neutral as Assad is using these things to strengthen his position in killing innocent people. At the same time I cannot oppose Syrian opposition to accept help from where ever it comes from as they are victim side and prime responsibility lies on the shoulders of Assad who initiated the brutal actions against civilian populations which includes merciless aerial bombings.
Below is an article by a Syrian journalist who has put light on the lives people of Syria are living in fear. Bashar al Asad like his father is a tyrant and he seems to be the modern version of Nazi leadership. People should raise their voices all over the world and support the freedom and justice loving people in any manner they can.
Confessions of an ‘agent’ in Syria–>DAWN News Article
by Maryam Hasan (Pen name)
Whether it’s a call on my phone or at the door, I feel scared to death. I mentally prepare myself for the worst, assuming that “they” are here to take me.
But then, when I find a friend at the door or a homeless compatriot asking for food, I realise that it is not my day yet, it is someone else’s.
Despite being unusually lucky, my nightmares don’t end. I rather prepare myself to deal with a situation when Bashar’s sleuths would come to pick me up for writing about the misery of Syrian taxpayers and democracy-lovers.
Regardless of our terrible conditions, we do greet each other daily with ‘sabah al-khair’ or good morning but with little hope for the same.
When I hear stories of torture and disfigured bodies of the missing Syrians and journalists alike, my only prayer to Allah remains, “I am ready for it but ease it on me and my people please.”
We write with pen names and log on the Internet using proxies, thinking we are safe. The reality is otherwise. My missing journalist friends and bloggers had no time to say bye to their loved ones inside the very home they were abducted from. Al-mokhabarat or intelligence agents, just plucked them away, mostly in the dark of the night.
They may discover me sooner or later but I make it a point to erase all my cell phone logs of call and text messages, clear my browser history and empty my laptop’s trash bin. Thinking that I might have forgotten something, sometimes I repeat the act many times a night.
Of late, my personal fear of being kidnapped by government sleuths has been overshadowed by a big, bloodier development. Every day, I see uploaded YouTube videos of the best of Soviet and Russian arsenal knocking down bustling neighborhoods first in Dara’a, then Hama and now Homs.
While I still fear the footsteps of sleuths on my door, I am not being searched as minutely as before.
Instead of looking out for activists and undercover journalists, Bashar’s military is wiping out entire cities from world maps, over suspicions of treason against the Alawite regime.
What started as massacre has duly transformed into genocide. My editors abroad insist on sending my stories with real names, concrete evidence and versions from both sides. I have been in double jeopardy since the first eight months of the uprising when the world only knew about Tahrir square kind of protests.
I, sometimes, wonder if the top-notch media watchdog bodies really know what a faceless and nameless journalist in Syria goes through, at the hands of sleuths as well as the very editors known as gatekeepers.
When making a phone call can risk not only yours and your families’ lives but also the person answering the phone, calling a government source is simply suicidal. Even the most naïve journalist here knows that cellular and landline phone companies are not only owned by the regime’s front-men but also bugged and monitored.
Simultaneously, Syria is a busy place for journalists where one cannot choose which story angle to focus on any given day i.e. massacres in Homs, protests in Damascus and Idlib, Russian FM’s visit to Bashar, or statements from Washington echoing only fake promises.
But in the end the choice won’t be mine! The media company decides which one suits its agenda and its geopolitical context. Mostly, the easy bet is to bank on the wire service, ignoring the at-risk on-ground journalist who for them is a mere ‘stringer’!
I felt proud of my profession when I first saw stories by foreign journalists covering Syria from their high risk abodes and makeshift media centers. Though the world would not have believed a Syrian journalist like me for the Bab Amar massacre or siege of Homs but I hope they won’t ignore the outsiders’ testimony.
The natural but tragic death of Anthony Shadid, a Lebanon-born journalist for The New York Times, weighed very heavy on Syrian people’s hearts and the battered country’s image. Syria was referred to as home of death.
Besides dozens if not hundreds of slain Syrian journalists, the uprising has claimed two French media-men, and the one and only Marie Colvin died in more familiar way. Their heartrending deaths came in solidarity with local fellow professionals whose names and faces may be known when the tyrant falls and conscience rules in Syria.
Unluckily, I have many pen names for it is hard to write with a real one. Death of Marie Colvin was personally embarrassing to me. Should I still use pen names when my star colleagues are writing with their warm blood?
I am a single woman with no liabilities except a widowed mother and siblings. One simple story with my real name appearing on an Arabic language blog or English-language website has greater probability of leading sleuths to my home.
Now even my family rarely knows which pen name I use and where in the world, my work publishes. Not that I don’t trust my family but the regime’s four decades of fear can easily cause a Freudian slip.
A year ago, I proudly showed off my byline in international dailies but now we are writing for our lives and not for pride.
I rarely get internet access good enough to open my emails and send my stories in time. I must admit that overall depressing conditions too result in my missing deadlines. Ironically, stories featuring Syrians’ bloodbath are never stale and the desk accepts them more often.
When I work on my laptop, my siblings and mother spy on me to see what I am doing or writing. My eldest sister advised me last September, “I can’t stop a journalist from writing but she should not forget the fate her younger brothers may face if they (mokhabarat) find out.”
One of my university fellows was picked up for writing a blog about a missing seven-year-old in Dara’a. Her brother went to a police station to lodge a report but never returned home. Three weeks later, their mother was asked to receive her son’s body from the same police office. She not only got the body of her 20-year-old son but also discovered the disfigured corpse of her blogger daughter.
Earlier, I hoped to change the world’s opinion with my writings but now, I am only recording testimonies of massacres and detailing current history.
Long after they have taken me to die in their dark cells, my stories will serve as credible evidence to try Bashar and his advisors for crimes against humanity.
Like journalism, we are learning survival techniques on our own, the hard way. Whenever a couple of us sit together away from our parents and the listening walls, we talk about the best ways in dealing with the worst.
I usually tell my colleagues, “Why do you think they would wait for us to admit or defend ourselves. Our charge-sheets are already there with no room for defense or discussion . . . Agents we are! . . . Agents of change!”
Maryam Hasan is a young journalist, whose family struggled against Hafiz Al-Assad’s tyrannical rule and policies. She is using a pen-name due to security reasons.