Sham Votes

We should soon be getting the results of Syria’s referendum on Bashar al-Assad’s draft constitution. This is a big day. Yes, the Syrian Army spent the weekend shelling Homs and Idlib, and yes, the opposition(s) called for a boycott of the vote, but I feel the results will be revealing, one way or another.

I’ll update this page with results as they are available, and some abbreviated commentary. In the meantime, in case you’re interested in what this new constitution is all about, the only primer I’ve been able to find in the 5 minutes I have allotted for non-dissertation work today is this Q&A piece at Al-Jazeera English. Among the revelations (according to the lawyer they interviewed):

  • While the Constitution creates a multi-party system, each political party is only allowed to have a budget of around $35,000. [See below]
  • Bashar gets to run again (twice)
  • The security services continue to enjoy immunity and can detain people at will
  • No one who has spent the last 10 years out of Syria can run for president (that means all the exiled politicos are ineligible)
  • The President can fire the Prime Minister without parliamentary approval
  • Muslim Brotherhood (and any other religious party, like a Syrian version of Hizbullah for example) remains illegal

If anyone else can find a good discussion of the draft constitution, please stick it in the comment section and I’ll put it up on the main page. I’d like to have more insight on this document besides a single piece from AJ.

Update: Courtesy of Rime Allaf is this citizen’s amusing recipe for a tabkha dusturiyyeh, prepared by a committee of chefs in a pressure cooker… (This guy has a career on Bab al-7aarah…)

Update: Syrian state media (SANA) is reporting 89.4% approval of the draft constitution. Total number of votes cast: 8,376,447 out of 14,589,954, or 57.4%

Update: I’m grateful to reader Parviziyi (who likes to set me straight on all matters Syrian) for pointing out that the business about each political party’s budget not exceeding $35,000 per year is complete nonsense. In fact, the new political parties law stipulates that individual donations cannot exceed $35,000 per person, per year. I’m all in favor of that, and I wish Lebanon would follow suit.

Here’s a link to an English translation of the Constitution.

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255 thoughts on “Sham Votes

  1. mo; it appears that the death of “others” is inconsequential. No need to make light of things Mr. HA man. Your false leader who resides in a hole somewhere is leading your tribe to another destructive path. Making light of Syrian atrocities is not befitting even for a brainwashed HA follower like yourself. BTW so those were the farsi speaking “gents” who were guiding your team of merry men…
    lally a few years back I was at a hearing of special committee regarding Genocides; under the auspices of the federal government. One of the members of a Jewish organization dared to compare the uniqueness of the Holocaust vs. the Rwandan Genocide. Please be careful to sound as pathetic as that lady!

    Posted by danny | March 6, 2012, 3:19 pm
  2. ***please be careful NOT to sound…..

    Posted by danny | March 6, 2012, 3:21 pm
  3. @193

    Your assertion that “no one is being let into Homs” is false. The only part of Homs that is currently restricted is Bab Amro and only the ICRC has been temporarily prevented from going their so that explosives and booby traps left by the armed insurgents can be safely removed. I am sure that if ICRC aid workers entered Bab Amro and began roving around without any control and if some of those ICRC members were injured or killed by IEDs the Syrian government would not be blamed for those deaths right? All other parts of Homs are fully open and accessible to the ICRC and all other aid agencies.

    The argument that often accompanies the one above (either implied or explictly stated) that Bab Amro or other parts of Homs have been “cut off” as part of some kind of collective punishment despite the complete lack of any evidence of this is easily disproved by footage shot in Bab Amro showing Syrian Red Crescent workers, people returning to their homes and people freely walking on the streets.

    Your assertion that reporters are “mainly confined to Damascus” is also misleading. For just one of many examples, the RT correspondent in Syria recently visited Daraa, Zabadani, and the Lebanese border. The Syrian government has frequently organizes trips to take foreign journalists to various parts of the country.

    Your argument that “reporters should be let into conflict zones” is one I agree with. However, by simple logic, if those reporters immediately join armed rebels who they than travel with when those armed rebels engage in attacks on government forces, the Syrian government cannot reasonably be expected to protect those reporters. And one only needs to look at the false propaganda that was spread following the death of the journalist in Homs a few months ago who was killed by the FSA when they opened fire on a peaceful demonstration to understand why the Syrian government wants to prevent those kinds of incidents from happening in the future.

    Posted by Jim Steel | March 6, 2012, 4:35 pm
  4. Jim

    I’m sure that the Syrian government is happily letting the RT correspondents in. But why are we not seeing datelines from major media organizations (not Russia’s equivalent of SANA) in places like Homs? Why is everyone from the BBC to Reuters to NPR etc. having to file their stories from Beirut? Why did Anthony Shadid have to enter Syria clandestinely on horseback via Turkey, if Homs is “fully open and accessible”?

    The vast majority of stories about Syria are being written by journalists outside Syria. I know an awful many foreign correspondents and Middle East-based freelancers. They’re a pretty game bunch, willing to take their risks in order to cover a story. Most of them spent plenty of time in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen to cover the uprisings there. Very very very few of them have been permitted to enter Syria.

    Explain that.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 6, 2012, 5:29 pm
  5. Mo,

    You did not claim that attacks on Homs are not happening.

    And I never claimed that you claimed that the attacks are not happening.

    We are talking about the videos, the exaggerations etc. You seem focused on the lies, deception angle. I simply stated there is another equally interesting angle to the story….

    Why, despite the fact that undoubtedly there must be casualties in Homs, there is such apparent lack of videos that don’t:

    1) Recycle actors (once a doctor, once a victim, once a …): Your observation #145

    2) Plays soundtracks of gunfire. Your observation #168

    3) Paints a baby’s face (Parviziyi’s observation)

    You are not saying that there are no attacks on Homs. But neither are you commenting on what must be patently so obvious in this case, and which is something that is eerily spectacular: Information control must be so absolute that well, we’ve ended up with strangely with nothing but theatrics in Youtube videos.

    This is not the 1900s. It is not the 50’s. We are in the 21st century. If Hariri-lads are helping arm the “Opposition” with weapons through Lebanon’s borders with Syria, then why did these chaps not think of maybe slipping in a few IPhones, or a few outdated Nokias, so that the Opposition can snap a few shots.

    Posted by Gabriel | March 6, 2012, 6:13 pm
  6. #191:

    Dexter Morgan.

    For the love of Vishnu, Krishna, Allah, Issa, Bhudda.

    I don’t really know what the correlation between a ‘Nail in the head’, and an IED is. How do I know that there was not a nail lying around when a bomb hit wherever the journalist was sitting, and ended up flying out and getting into her head?

    You may be an explosives expert. A forensics expert. An everything Syria expert.

    But if you are trying to make a point with me, you have to dumb it down to a level that I can understand it.

    Posted by Gabriel | March 6, 2012, 6:19 pm
  7. Gabriel

    Homemade IEDs typically use things like nails to create the destructive shrapnel that does most of the damage.

    The Syrian Army does not need to rely on nails in its explosive devices because it has tank shells.

    That’s Parviziyi’s point.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 6, 2012, 6:27 pm
  8. QN:

    I know what Parvizyi was trying to get at. But I don’t think this is some form of conclusive irrefutable physical explanation- even if it turned out that a nail did end up in the journalist’s head.

    Posted by Gabriel | March 6, 2012, 6:35 pm
  9. Gabriel,
    What info control are you talking about man? We have lots of videos on you tube and cnn from Homs and other parts of Syria so the Syrians dont even seem to be blocking internet access. Thats the point. Videos are available and we see them all the time so why the need for the fakery?

    Posted by mo | March 6, 2012, 6:51 pm
  10. Mo:

    Perhaps I should put some context.

    Unlike yourself and QN, and other esteemed members of these forums, I get my ME fix by coming here, and getting educated by everyone’s views. Independently, I read a few papers I find somewhat respectable.

    I haven’t watched all the videos. I am not a recipients of a stream of tweets. Only what has been posted on these forums.

    So based on this, every time someone has posted something related to some atrocity, all I’ve seen as a consequence is someone or another trying to invalidate it.

    So if there are lots of valid “Opposition” videos out there that you accept. Then I take back the question. Accept most humbly my apologies.

    I, for one, have yet to see a single video which we can all agree represents an honest reporting of something bad done by the Syrian state.

    Posted by Gabriel | March 6, 2012, 7:10 pm
  11. Gabriel said: ” I get my ME fix by coming here, and getting educated by everyone’s views…”

    الله يساعدك

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 6, 2012, 7:21 pm
  12. Gabriel,
    الله يساعدك or God help you indeed…Perhaps you should find a site with more neutral views…what am I saying, this is the ME there are no neutral views.

    Im not sure if there are any videos that all agree represent something bad done by the state but there are certainly many videos that have shown demonstrations, fsa soldiers etc, that are clearly taken in opposition held areas and are making it to the www.

    And if your corteous, reasoned debating style requires an apology then we are all doomed.

    Posted by mo | March 6, 2012, 7:28 pm
  13. 14 Dec 2011. Mohamed El-Sayed, an Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Al-Ahram Newspaper, the largest newspaper in Egypt, visited Daraa city and said “we thought that there will be killed and injured people in the streets and that there will be terrorists chasing us, but we saw nothing of that.”

    31 dec 2011. Members of an Algerian media team from the government owned Algerian News Agency, TV and Radio, visited Daraa and affirmed that life in the city is normal and that the reports of biased sattleite channels contradicts facts on the ground. They also met the Governor of Daraa. The Algerian delegation consists of eight members including editors, journalists, photographers and technicians.

    10 jan 2012. Spanish, Japanese and Italian Media Delegations tour Daraa city and meet with the governor of Daraa Mohammad Khaled al-Hanous.

    20 jan 2012. European, Russian and US journalists who are on a visit to Daraa said that the situation in the governorate is normal and shopping and traffic proceed as usual. ,

    21 jan 2012. A media team consisting of representatives of Italian, Cuban, Spanish and Brazilian mass media establishments toured the city of Daraa on Saturday, stressing that life in the city is normal and that the claims of some satellite channels on events in Syria contradict reality. They also met with the governor of Daraa.

    29 jan 2012. A British, Spanish and Norwegian media teams inspected daily life in Daraa City and toured some damaged places in it. They also met with the governor of Daraa Mohammad Khaled al-Hanous. As usual, the Governor patiently explained that life is predominantly normal in the city with some attempts by terrorists or armed rebels to destabilize the public security through planting explosive devices and attacking people.

    6 feb 2012. The delegation comprised of journalists and photographers from the RussiaTV (Rossiya 1), the Swedish TV, a Cypriot newspaper, the Austrian Oesterreich Journal, the Spain La Razon newspaper, the Czech Pravo daily newspaper, the German Neues Deutschland newspaper, the Chinese TV and Xinhua news agency, and Radio France visit and meet Governor of Daraa. The journalists found the life in the city to be normal.

    15 feb 2012. Journalists and photographers from Russia, Sweden and the UK visit the city of Daraa and meet the governor, who gave them a review of the history of the events in the city since March 2011.

    22 feb 2012. Foreign journalists from Russia and Italy visit Daraa and are briefed by the governor.

    1 mar 2012. A joint delegation of Russian and Spanish journalists, who are touring Syria together visit Daraa and meet the governor. The governor told them Syria is facing a global media war and conspiracy led by the US, France and England and some of the Arab countries.

    6 feb 2012. “During Xinhua reporters’ tour of the streets of central and suburban Daraa, they saw no large presence of troops, armored vehicles or tanks. Only a handful of army posts with fully-armed soldiers on the streets were standing behind sandbag bunkers, while some policemen were guarding the public facilities. Most shops and restaurants on the streets were open, attracting the strolling people. However, a sense of gloom and tension was still noticeable. The governor of Daraa, Mohammed Al-Hanous, confirmed the occasional violent incidents which he blamed on “armed gangs,” saying that “there are masked gunmen on the ground shooting at law-enforcement forces. They hit and run, and rarely confront.” ”

    Comment by me: To repeat, on 14 Dec 2011 an Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Egypt’s Al-Ahram Newspaper, Mohamed El-Sayed, visited Daraa city and said “we thought that there will be killed and injured people in the streets and that there will be terrorists chasing us, but we saw nothing of that.” He and his newspaper should be ashamed for having let themselves be so misinformed. They should be ashamed that they didn’t send Al-Ahram journalists to Syria before now to find out for themselves what was really happening. They sourced their news about Syria from Western news agancies. They should be ashamed that they relied on the Western news agencies who were barred from being in Syria, whose sources were both unreliable and unverifiable, and who were barred for the good reason that they are profoundly bigoted against the Syrian Establishment. Al-Ahram is a disgrace in my eyes and ought to be a disgrace in their own eyes.

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 6, 2012, 8:18 pm
  14. I didn’t want to jump-in again in the debate… will try a last (probably useless) incursion.

    Atrocities like in any fight are on both sides and have almost no limits. Using superlatives is ridiculous and discredits any argumentation. The difference is in the means and limitations of what can be done. I don’t think that the rebelsand their fighters are better than the Syrian Army (none of them needs lessons in barbarism and if rebels do need such lesson, they already lost.. that’s unfortunately what wars are about).

    Things need to be put in context and people should try to avoid being sentimental when trying to build a balanced understanding (being objective is impossible)… Fallujah, Jenine, Hama and now Homs have minor differences only because the context, means and tactics employed were different but all were “normal” i.e. barbaric act of wars (ethical clean wars don’t exist and no one killed as many civilians than the Western Powers during the last 10, 20, etc. -name it- years).

    Images and news and propaganda are just details, playing on your feelings rather than your rational…. analysis and critical thinking (at all levels) should prevail i.e. avoid reading and giving too much importance to information and try to think about consequences and fundamentals of wars, fight and struggle for power and take past history to project “truth”/future and try to avoid “cliches”. Complaining is not acting and reading and watching people being killed (or not watching) doesn’t change what’s happening and what will happen… it has no impact whatsoever on history unless you want to use the info to push for international intervention or to enroll fighters (of course, it could also be a nice topic for discussion at dinner with friends “gauche caviar et attitude bourgeoise” “il est de bon ton”).

    While we have been writing on this board, more people died in Irak than in Syria, more people died in many African countries than in Syria, etc. what is important is not violence or deaths or what’s bad or good or what journalists with or without propaganda are reporting but facts (hard to know) and above all what could be done and what the future outcome could be… what could be such outcome on the long run if (a) no international intervention happens and no arming of the Rebels or (b) we arm Rebels and push for international intervention.

    case (a)… hard to predict if the weakened regime will be able to fully rebuild… it could lead to a perestroika kind of change or we could go back to square one (no one can seriously predict)… the only certain thing is that unless the majority of people in Syria is willing to fight, such option will lead to Baath party staying into power but for what period?? I think that the Baath has lost a lot already and that changes in such context will be inescapable.

    case (b)… many more people will die, destruction will be huge and Syria will probably lose its unity (cf. search for Libya news today)… Syria will probably become a mix of Irak-Libya for many years… after the Baath collapse, people will probably be executed in masses (people seeking for power are mainly guided by Revenge if not by power abuse (dictator)).

    Nothing is carved in stone and things could end up being very different but a sure thing is that the way the Syrian army is killing people, the quantity and the narratives will only prove valuable in option (a) to push the regime out but if it’s being used to justify arming rebels and asking for international intervention; then, the worse is yet to come (and make no mistake, it will be from both sides).

    “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” (George Orwell)

    Posted by mabboud | March 6, 2012, 8:44 pm
  15. Parviziyi

    Thank you for all of your efforts in assembling these press reports from SANA.

    It’s very puzzling for me to encounter all these statements of normalcy in places like Daraa. Why aren’t these Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish, US, UK reporters going home and writing stories about the calm and relaxed situation in Daraa? Why are we reading reports from Jordan about refugees coming from Daraa and saying that there is still fighting going on? Take this one for example, which dates to the same period:

    I’m genuinely interested in your response. If the regime is letting in droves of reporters, then why are they not writing stories about the peaceful situation?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 6, 2012, 9:00 pm
  16. Most consumers of news in foreign countries have never heard of Daraa. The “news” that Daraa is largely peaceful is not something that foreign news consumers consider to be news. On 19 and 20 Jan 2012 Daraa was visited by a delegation of foreign journalists comprised of over 25 reporters and photographers from some of the world’s best-known TV news outlets — including the German ARD TV (one of the world’s largest news organizations), Dutch State TV, the English and Spanish-language editions of Russia Today TV Channel, the US NBC TV, the Dutch RTL private TV, and BBC News. The delegation met the Governor of Daraa, Mohammad Khaled al-Hanous, who briefed them on the situation in the governorate and told them that the city and province of Daraa has been marred by sabotage acts, killings, mutilation of bodies, blocking roads and robbery by armed terrorist groups since March 18, 2011, which necessitated the interference of the Syrian army as requested by the natives. The army is still present on the ground in smallish numbers. However, the foreign visitors on 19 and 20 Jan 2012 found the situation in Daraa governorate and Daraa city to be normal, with shopping and traffic to be proceeding uneventfully. That’s no news of a kind that their consumers would buy. ,

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 7, 2012, 5:39 am
  17. #216:

    I read BBC quite religiously. I must have missed the news report about Daraa, dated around 19, 20 January 2012.

    Can you post a link to the article?

    Posted by Gabriel | March 7, 2012, 8:32 am
  18. The following is the report of a Western journalist who recently visited Daraa, met with the governor of Daraa, and got the tour of the public buildings destroyed by armed rebels. Went to Daraa from Damascus by public bus. The public bus service is functioning normally throughout Syria except in a few narrowly defined “hot spot” neighborhoods. His report of his visit is mostly a rehash of the narrative that the governor Daraa gives to journalists. His report is worth your while if you’re unfamiliar with that narrative.

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 8, 2012, 3:25 pm
  19. Parviziyi:

    Still waiting for the BBC report!

    Posted by Gabriel | March 8, 2012, 4:38 pm
  20. @ Gabriel: I intermittently visit NEWS.BBC.CO.UK to read English soccer results. I do not and I would never in any future read it for anything about Syria. Last March 2011 the BBC’s coverage out of Syria wasn’t too bad as I saw it then. By May 2011 it had become unforgivably atrocious. No matter whether it apoligizes and cleans up it’s act or not, I will never read it again.

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 8, 2012, 5:23 pm
  21. mabboud,
    Are you sure that you are not Hitchens reincarnated? ( I have always been a strong fan of Why Orwell Matters).

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 8, 2012, 5:39 pm
  22. Parviziyi,

    I should warn you about getting your facts about the Premier League from the BBC. There are rumors circulated that Qatari petro dollars are influencing the editors. Sucks, especially if you’re a Man Utd fan.

    Posted by Maverick | March 8, 2012, 5:48 pm
  23. Parviziyi.

    In #216, you stated that over 25 reporters and photographers visited Daraa, amongst which were BBC staff.

    I asked you where their report was.

    Now you tell me you don’t trust them.

    Did the BBC go or not go?

    If they went….

    Who in the BBC went?

    Did they write a report?

    Where is their report/observations? I have to assume that if you brought them up, they must have written a favorable report.

    If they didn’t go…

    Why did you state they went?

    Posted by Gabriel | March 8, 2012, 8:15 pm
  24. @ Gabriel: I gave the link to my source for that info at #216. I included the same link at #213 also.

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 4:42 am
  25. Parviziyi…

    The link repeats what you wrote. There is no references to who went from the bbc, our their report!

    How am I supposed to verify the statement?

    Posted by Gabriel | March 9, 2012, 8:39 am
  26. 225

    You are not. just take his word for it. It is in the constitution. 😛

    Posted by danny | March 9, 2012, 10:42 am
  27. @ Gabriel #225: I just did a search at NEWS.BBC.CO.UK and found the following report and video from Daraa dated 19 jan 2011. It is headlined: “Inside Deraa: Town at centre of Syria uprising”. . You ought to be embarassed that you couldn’t have done that on your own two wheels, imo.

    That BBC report does not reflect the true situation in Daraa. The true situation has now been reported by many fair-minded outside observers. The true situation is normality, with commerce and traffic proceeding as usual, but with occasional events of sabotage and terrorism. During the past couple of months SANA has reported the death of one or more security men in Daraa province roughly about three times a week (my vague impression, from daily reading at SANA). Despite the fatalities, the security situation in manageable. The first and foremost fundamental in Daraa is that the majority of the local population supports the forces of law and order and rejects the rebels. By the way, the BBC’s video begins with footage of the Syrian army manning a road checkpoint. The number of such checkpoints is smallish overall in Daraa city and Daraa province.

    Moving now to a completely different subject, at #113 I said “Pat Conroy is a damn liar.” At #114 danny said “kindly enlighten us as to why Conroy would lie?” The following is a possibility about why. Since it’s only a possibility, I discourage you from spending your time reading it unless you’re strongly interested in the question.

    Abdel Hakim Belhadj is or was a member of an Islamic terrorist organization that fought against the Libyan government in the 1990s. After defeat in Libya in the late 1990s, Belhadj moved to Afghanistan. In late 2001 he was arrested in Pakistan and handed over to the US CIA in Afghanistan, who held him under arrest for two months in Afghanistan. In 2004, Belhadj was again held under arrest by the CIA in Bangkok. The CIA arrested him in 2004 at Bangkok airport as he was on an airplane flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok. The CIA in 2004 was acting on information supplied by Britain’s M16 operatives in Kuala Lumpur, who believed he was a member of an Islamic terrorist organization. Subsequently in 2004 the CIA handed him over to the Libyan government. A Libyan national, Abdel Hakim Belhadj was jailed in Libya from 2004 to 2010 as an Islamic terrorist. . In December 2011 Belhadj commenced legal proceedings against the British government for M16’s role in his arrest in 2004 in southeast Asia. As part of his legal suit he seeks an admission by the British authorities that in 2004 he had no links to al Qaeda; and that the Islamic group he was a member of was focused only on overthrowing Gaddafi in Libya. Mr Belhadj also wants an acknowledgement of regret by the British government that he and his wife were tortured at the hands of the Americans in 2004. . According to a recent report — but this is unverified — Belhadj was and still is a member of Al-Qaeda:

    At the following page you can see Abdel Hakim Belhadj photographed in Libya in 2011 with Paul Conroy. Paul Conroy is “a photographer for the London Times newspaper”: . On the basis of this photograph, Paul Conroy must be suspected as being an employee of Britain’s M16 Secret Intelligence Service.
    If Conroy were an employee of M16 then the false reports that Conroy recently publicly made about Homs Bab Amr would be explainable in terms of an M16 secret agent protecting his access and trustworthiness to whatever contacts he made among violent insurgents in Homs, and potentially also protecting the cover of other M16 secret agents in Syria. If Conroy is an M16 agent, his objective in publicly telling his tale on his return from Bab Amr wouldn’t be as a journalist to report the truth, but rather to strengthen the spying powers of M16.

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 11:29 am
  28. My typing mistake at #227: I said 19 jan 2011 but meant to say 19 jan 2012 for the date of the report from Daraa by BBC.

    At #213 I gave a list of foreign reporters who have gone to Dara city over the past few months. Here are two more to add to the list:

    5 Mar 2012. An Iranian media delegation, which included journalists from Mehr News Agency and the Iranian Information Ministry, visited Daraa and met the Governor of Daraa. They found that life in Daraa is normal and the situation is stable in spite of the terrorists’ attempts to stoke a crisis — .
    7 mar 2012. A delegation from Tunisia including both politicians and journalists visited Daraa —

    The BBC’s claim on 19 jan 2012 that Daraa is on the verge of a civil war has no basis in facts. A reporter called Alexander Clark who visited Daraa on 1 Mar 2012 summarized what he saw as follows: “The city itself was functioning normal. All shops open, lots of people on the street and the usual traffic jams. I had the opportunity to talk with some local ordinary people. They assured me that the city was safe now thanks to the intervention of the Syrian national army. Isolated incidents by terrorist groups in the vicinity of the city do still sometimes occur but the army and police is fully capable to deal with these situations.”

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 3:21 pm
  29. Parviziyi

    The problem with your argument about media delegations is the following: it depends entirely on what SANA says. The whole point of going on a media delegation is to go back and write about what you saw, heard, learned, etc. Can you provide some links to stories written by the various delegations who supposedly visited Syria? Where are all the stories that corroborate what SANA says these delegations learned about the relaxed situation? The very few articles you can ever point to that are not on SANA — a regime propaganda outfit — are either on kooky conspiracy theory websites (like the thing about Paul Conroy) or random wordpress blogs.

    If the Syrian regime has indeed demonstrated to multiple delegations of credible journalists that the areas that the United Nations, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, the BBC, CNN, the New York Times, and thousands of Syrian refugees all say are humanitarian disasters, then why aren’t these credible journalists writing about it? Why aren’t they taking pictures showing normal city life?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 9, 2012, 3:29 pm
  30. American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is a big TV station in the USA. ABC News sent their reporter Alexander Marquardt to Daraa in early December 2011 and he filed a report you can read at:

    Here are some comments I wrote in December about that report from Daraa by Alexander Marquardt.

    Alexander Marquardt went to Daraa city and spent nearly a whole day walking around the city looking for people with anti-regime sentiment. Result: he says he could find only two people who were willing to speak against the regime. I myself knew that anti-regime sentiment in Daraa city was generally low, because there has been very little street protesting in Daraa city for many many months now, (which you can verify from street protest videos at youtube). I’m pleased to hear from Alexander Marquardt that the number with anti-regime sentiment may be even lower than I thought it was.

    It reminds me of the CNN News reporter who went to Aleppo last summer and spent the whole day walking about the streets looking for people with anti-regime sentiment to speak into his camera and couldn’t find even one (except for one weirdo who said he was politically against Assad but he refused to speak his mind to the camera).

    It is 100% legal to have anti-government political opinion (provided it doesn’t go as far as advocacy of violent rebellion). ABC News’s Alexander Marquardt couldn’t find anybody saying the government is at fault for the shortage of jobs, or at fault for not repealing the Emergency Law years ago, or for excessive use of force in Deraaa in March 2011 (which the government itself has said may possibly be true), or for any other faults. Alexander Marquardt suggests, stupidly, that this is because people are afraid of being arrested by the police for having criticisms that are 100% legal, criticisms which the government itself says are valid. I could have told Marquardt that one of the key underlying factors behind this phenomenon is that there exists serious peer-pressure, i.e. pressure from widely shared community values. Peer pressure to not bad-mouth the Syrian government into American TV cameras at the present time, even though such bad-mouthing doesn’t amount to treasonous behaviour.

    At the end of his day in Daraa, Alexander Marquardt asserts: “No one wants to talk”. I don’t believe that at all. I believe it’s a lie or a misstatement. I’d believe it’d be the truth if what he meant to assert was “No one wants to talk against the regime”. The one person Marquardt could find who talked against the regime told Marquardt that “around thirty percent of Daraa supports Assad” and Marquardt adds that at the very moment he said it “another man just passed us and said loudly, “God, Syria, Bashar only.”” The pro-regimers in Syria are very proud of their pro-regime stance. They are not at all shy about talking about it. Countlessly many times this year I’ve seen Syrian people eagerly pushing themselves to get themselves on camera to say “God, Syria, Bashar only”. Here’s an example I kept from from Deir Ezzor where people at a pro-regime rally are fighting to grab a hold of the TV microphone so that they can proclaim their support for Bashar: . The same pride can be found in Daraa, and the percentage of Bashar supporters in Daraa is a lot bigger than 30%. The idea that no one in Daraa wants to talk for the regime and for law and order is just not plausible. That’s why I believe Marquardt’s claim is a lie or a misstatement.

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 7:30 pm
  31. This post may be a duplicate. Sorry if so.

    @ Qifa Nabki: I linked to Xinhua’s report from Daraa at #213 above. You can find similar reports from Russia Today, who’ve sent a reporter and camera man to Daraa at least twice in year 2012.

    Here’s footage of the normal retail street scenes of Daraa city recorded on 6 Mar 2012 and broadcast on 6 Mar 2012 on Syrian State TV:

    Here’s the same banalities of retail commerce and inner city traffic in Daraa recorded on 1 Mar 2012 and broadcast on Syrian State TV:

    Here’s more of the same stuff recorded on 29 Feb 2012:

    More normality on view in Daraa city on 19 Feb 2012:

    More normality on view in Daraa city recorded on 31 Jan 2012. Please notice from time 0:27 to time 1:27 that you can’t find a parking spot anywhere along these commercial streets because they’re all taken by people going about their civilized business:

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 7:33 pm
  32. I’ll have a look at the ABC report.

    But a report in Russia Today or Xinhua raises eyebrows. These are press agencies that are official outlets of the Russian and Chinese governments, not even independent agencies “with ties to the authorities”.

    Would you trust a report about the perfectly normal situation in Afghanistan published by the US State Dept? Come on. At least try to maintain some degree of intellectual honesty in these examples.

    You say about Marqardt’s report:

    “At the end of his day in Daraa, Alexander Marquardt asserts: “No one wants to talk”. I don’t believe that at all. I believe it’s a lie or a misstatement. I’d believe it’d be the truth if what he meant to assert was “No one wants to talk against the regime”.

    Have you spent any significant time in Syria, Parvizyi? I currently live in the United States, and every time I get into a taxi with a Syrian cabbie, I make a point of trying to talk politics. (I’ve done this for years). It’s like pulling teeth. Until this year, Syrians as a rule have been terrified of expressing any kind of dissent. You assume that this is because everyone loves Bashar. But you’re mistaken. How much time have you spent in Syria (or Lebanon during the Syrian presence there)?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 9, 2012, 7:42 pm
  33. @ Qifa Nabki: I don’t need to spend any time whatsoever on Syrian soil to know that pro-regime Syrians are very pround and vocal about being pro-regime. I’ve see it over and over and over and over on Addounia TV, Al-Ikhbaria TV and Syrian State TV all this past year. Anyone who thinks that the people on those channels don’t represent real Syrians is badly out of touch — I don’t need to be in Syria to know that too. I have never said “everyone loves Bashar”. But you should look at some pro-regime videos, like the one I linked to at #231

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 7:55 pm
  34. Sorry when I referred to #231 my numbering may be off because I have a comment awaiting moderation. It’s probably numbered #230 on your view.

    Please take a look at the youtube videos I linked to showing normality in Daraa. I assert that those videos represent what is dominant in Daraa. Youtube also contains videos of rebellious protests or violence in Daraa by they don’t respresent what is dominant in Daraa.

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 8:00 pm
  35. @ Qifa Nabki: What about the pro-regime guy in Daraa who shouted “God, Syria, Bashar, that’s all” when Marqardt was in Daraa? Marqardt says nobody wants to talk but he says that guy what shouting his support for the regime? Why didn’t Marquardt talk to him?

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 8:09 pm
  36. Here’s a video of a bunch of cars stuck in a traffic jam (probably connecte to a security checkpoint manned by the army). A reporter and camera man goes up to the cars and asks about politics. Does nobody want to talk? On the contrary, the people in the cars are eager to talk. All their talk is pro-regime, but that’s not surprising because the editor is Syrian State TV. The point is, they’re eager to talk. I have seen this over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 8:21 pm
  37. Pariviziyi:

    Embarrassed doesn’t begin to describe how I feel :).

    I blame google for not popping out the result. But more still I blame you for misleading me with the spelling of this wonderful town. I looked for Daraa, when really, I should have looked for Deraa!

    So I watched the video, and as expected, and as you’d later warned, it doesn’t quite agree with your version of events.

    So what are we to make of this? Is this why the media are not allowed in- not allowed in unless they report as they are being told?

    Posted by Gabriel | March 9, 2012, 8:42 pm
  38. Hopeless…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 9, 2012, 8:59 pm
  39. Search at youtube for اراء الشارع السوري and see whether “it’s like pulling teeth” as Qifa Nabki says or whether people speak their mind confidently and fluently as I say.

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 9:06 pm
  40. UN Humanitarian chief, on Homs:

    “I was able to visit Homs and parts of the suburb of Baba Amr, with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, so that I could see for myself the impact of the fighting. I was horrified by the destruction I saw. Almost all the buildings had been destroyed and there were hardly any people left there. I am extremely concerned as to the whereabouts of the people who have been displaced from Baba Amr.

    “In Damascus, I met the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, and other government ministers, and I raised my concerns regarding the humanitarian situation with them. We have agreed on a joint preliminary humanitarian assessment mission to areas where people urgently need assistance.

    “While this is a necessary first step, it remains essential that a robust and regular arrangement be put in place, which allows humanitarian organizations unhindered access to evacuate the wounded and deliver desperately needed supplies. A proposal has been submitted to the government of Syria and I ask them to consider this matter with the utmost urgency.”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 9, 2012, 9:26 pm
  41. More coverage from inside Syria… no press delegations this time:

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 9, 2012, 9:29 pm
  42. Regarding CNN’s coverage from inside Syria. Listen to what CNN’s reporter says from time 1:50 to time 2:10 (and forget about the rest of the video):
    Then see the truth from time 10:40 to 10:55 (and forget about the rest):

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 9:44 pm
  43. The Syrian government is very well able to handle the displaced people of Bab Amr without any of those pig ignorant UN bigots. I wish the UN would fuck off and don’t butt into something that they can do nothing useful in, something that is none of their business.

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 9:50 pm
  44. Parviziyi #243

    The video you posted in response to the CNN clip was uploaded by Alikhbariya al-Souriyya, which is a government owned station.

    Find another source if you’d like to be taken seriously.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 9, 2012, 10:24 pm
  45. If you don’t take government sources seriously that’s your problem. If you don’t take me seriously because I take government sources seriously, I will quit this blog right now. This is my last post. Goodbye.

    Posted by Parviziyi | March 9, 2012, 10:28 pm
  46. Notice Parviziyi’s eye for detail……nit picking is an understatement.

    In article # of the constitution……In newspaper article # dated #……In video # the truth is between 03:45 and 04:28.

    freakish much?

    ” what did you see Clarise, what did you see?”

    Posted by Maverick | March 9, 2012, 10:31 pm
  47. It’s shouldn’t be that hard to understand why the official and unofficial media outlets of any government (let alone an authoritarian government that has a decades-old record of stifling freedom of speech) should be regarded with considerable skepticism.

    Secondary school children are taught to question the narratives and biases of media organizations. Why is it so unreasonable to ask you to do the same? 🙂

    Even my most pro-regime friends have no problem admitting that SANA, Addouniya, al-Ikhbariyya al-Souriyya, etc. are fundamentally propaganda outlets. You’re the only person I know who takes what they say as the gospel truth. Very odd.

    So yes, if you’d like for your arguments to be taken seriously, you should find evidence that does not come from Assad regime media outlets.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 9, 2012, 10:39 pm
  48. Gotta say the CNN documentary has way too much fluff.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 9, 2012, 10:44 pm
  49. In Part 3, I believe they meet that doctor that Parviziyi claimed was an actor.

    The guy on the stretcher looks pretty seriously injured, not wearing ketchup.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 9, 2012, 10:54 pm
  50. Maverick:

    I actually quite appreciate Parviziyi’s nit-picking and attention to detail, grossly lopsided though it may be.

    The bit in the CNN video about the punched out holes being there because, well people couldn’t escape any other way was a little over the top, and as though they have no strategic military benefit (to the insurgency) a bit much.

    And whatever else one may say, there is enough sensational footage to see in the destruction wrought on Bab Amr, that adding that little extra cherry is hardly befitting of a news agency like CNN.

    Posted by Gabriel | March 9, 2012, 11:08 pm
  51. … Sorry I take back that comment on CNN. It’s actually some very very good footage.

    Posted by Gabriel | March 9, 2012, 11:21 pm
  52. Gabriel,

    I know. One must have an eye for detail, but not literally one eye! This has been the problem with many since the onset of the Syrian uprising. Pvz takes it a step further and dissects something better than a surgeon but only when it suits his views which are by now, very obviously and extremely biased and quiet pathetic.
    Anything pro-regime or has an inkling of support for the regime is kosher, while anything that is against, is either fabricated, exaggerated or wrong.
    Fine, you can find plenty of videos and articles that are biased against the regime but so what? you’re arguing the finer details of the dimensions in the room while the Elephant sits smirking at you. You have given him the benefit of the doubt on many occasions, but I dont know whether he believes in the things he says or he is trying hard to convince people but it has become satirical.

    Posted by Maverick | March 9, 2012, 11:25 pm
  53. Parviziyi:

    I know you’re not a big fan of those people trying to bring down the House of Assad.

    And you’ve noted previously the deaths of civilians doesn’t bear too heavily on your conscience.

    But don’t you feel just a little choked up watching those clips?

    Posted by Gabriel | March 9, 2012, 11:39 pm
  54. “One must have an eye for detail, but not literally one eye! ”

    LooL. Touche.

    Posted by Gabriel | March 9, 2012, 11:41 pm

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