The Evil Regime: A Report From Syria


Ilhan Taner is an honorable and humane Turkish journalist. He’s the Washington correspondent for the daily Vatan and a columnist for Hürriyet Daily News. Having been told that the videos of carnage coming out of Syria were doctored or manufactured to exaggerate the scale of the catastrophe there, he decided he had an obligation to see for himself. He disguised himself as a naive Turkish restauranteur and went to Syria undercover. He was there for two weeks before being arrested and deported. He’s in Istanbul now, and I saw him last night. Physically he’s fine, but obviously, the experience was traumatic.

Here’s a column he wrote, in English, about what he saw:

Most, if not all suburbs, are holding “mudahara” protests every night. When I first witnessed a mudahara on Jan. 14, in the Damascus suburb of Qaboun, the regime’s irregular forces, the “shabihas,” attacked unarmed protestors in front of my eyes. Two or three minutes into the demonstrations, when people began chanting “hurriyet,” or “freedom,” Kalashnikovs began shooting indiscriminately into the crowd.

My friends tried to protect me by hurrying me into a car, but it was too late for us to speed away from the scene. I saw shabihas dragging one protestor, shot seconds before, into their car. I saw several others arrested and given heavy beatings. A shabiha in his mid-40s, with white hear and a clean-shaven face, let us go after our driver calmly explained that we were just passing through and had been stopped by the protestors.

This was a lifetime’s experience for me, but something protestors in Syria are going through every day.

During my stay I visited countless families who had lost their sons; saw orphaned little children who still didn’t know what happened to their fathers, uncles and relatives. The regime’s security forces sometimes randomly kill people simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But the misery doesn’t end there.

The regime’s security forces systematically arrest all the relatives of a person they just killed in order to silence them. I have heard of many arrested and tortured just because their last names are the same as somebody killed by the security forces. The al-Assad regime clearly demonstrated to me its skills in terrorizing its people.

I visited more than half a dozen different Free Syrian Army (FSA) branches in various cities and the FSA appeared much stronger than anyone described before. Except for central Damascus, every city has its own FSA organization. Some of them were recently formed and are growing fast, others are already taking over the streets during the evenings. They establish their own checkpoints in these ghettos to protect the protesters. I heard over and over again from people on the ground that their only hope is for the FSA to succeed.

We spoke for some time yesterday about the sheer horror of the situation and the way this has simply fallen off the world’s attention–as if it has become quite normal for this many people to die in Syria daily. I’m in no way diminishing the significance of what happened yesterday in Egypt, nor trying to measure suffering against suffering, but I note that it makes the front page of the mainstream news when 73 Egyptians die. It does not even seem to penetrate consciousness anymore that Syrians are being killed in these numbers regularly.

Later today, I’ll record a video interview with Ilhan and post it here. I wonder if anyone on Ricochet has any specific questions for him beforehand?

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Question: If the FSA is a non-sectarian apolitical force whose only object is to bring down the current system, what happens next – to the leaders of the FSA, to their soldiers, and to everyone else?

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Inactive

    How can the media ignore this? Surely some of the staff here at ricochet can convince Fox News producers to do a story on the latest killings in Syria, including video footage.

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive

    Here’s a few that come to mind:

    Tomorrow (February 3rd) is the 30th anniversary of the flattening of Hama by Bashar’s father. Any chance that there will be any actions from either side to commemorate this date?

    Who makes up the FSA? Is it similar to the young Egyptians that were present at Tahrir Square for January 25, with the Muslim Brotherhood waiting patiently in the wings to usurp power? Are we looking at another regime that will fall to hardline Islamism?

    How much contact with the outside world to Syrians have? They don’t appear to be as Social Media savvy as their Egyptian brothers were/are.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Inactive

    “I note that it makes the front page of the mainstream news when 73 Egyptians die. It does not even seem to penetrate consciousness anymore that Syrians are being killed in these numbers regularly.”

    In my opinion, this is because Obama is deemed to have acted correctly in Egypt, but not (yet) in Syria, and therefore vulnerable to criticism for the latter if it looks bad. Egypt is just being stubborn, you see, in resisting Obama’s micturations, while Syria might actually have required something beside the Secretary of State expressing our belief that Assad is a reformer.

    It will take third party action for there to be mainstream media dialogue about US options there.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Member

    Does he see any sign that we might be surreptitiously feeding arms and instructions to the FSA? Or, that anybody else might be supporting them? If somebody else is, I’d like to know he thinks it might be.

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  6. Profile Photo Inactive

    Media reports describing as ‘clashes’ and ‘tensions’ events that result in lopsided death tolls on one side, make genocide sound like a soccer match.

    It’s the “cult of indiscriminateness……No matter how sin­cerely you may seek to gather the facts, no matter how earnestly you may look at the evidence, no matter how disciplined you may try to be in your reasoning, your conclusion is going to be so tainted by your personal bigotries, by your upbringing, by your religion, by the color of your skin, by the nation of your great-great-great-great-great grandfa­ther’s birth; that no matter what your conclusion, it is useless”

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Inactive

    A few questions: How are the protests and deaths in Syria (as compared to Egypt) playing in the medias of Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and other Middle Eastern Countries? Is there some sense that the coverage is subdued because the governments of these other countries see the Assad regime, if not favorably, at least as still intact and “legitimate?” Meaning, to criticize Assad is to open the door to disruptions in their own nations? Has there been coverage of refugees coming across the border from Syria into Turkey, Iraq, Jorday and Lebanon? Is this developing into a humanitarian crisis that is expanding outside of Syria’s borders?

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member

    I have a question: is it true that a no-fly zone over Syria imposed by Turkey or NATO would protect the protestors from helicopter attacks, or is the threat from the regime’s helicopters overstated?

    Another question: how can the outside world assist the FSA in getting arms?

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Member

    Ask him what he would like the US gov’t to do/say.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Inactive

    I have many questions:

    The last article I read about Syria indicated that the FSA had spread their influence into the Damascus suburbs, and that the Syrian army was loosing people to defectors going over to join the FSA. Can he confirm just how much of the country is contested by the FSA?

    Are there regions that are now compleatly lost to the Assad regime…basically is there a Syrian Benghazi? Also since there is talk of Syrian army personnel joining the FSA have any more senior army mebers joined it? From what I can tell the there is no clear opposition leader in Syria, is this true, or is there in fact more coordination between FSA branches.

    I also understand that Syrian Christians are fear the fall of the Assad regime. Is there a reason to fear that the FSA and Syrian protesters are motivated by the desire to create a regime more in line with militant Islamic views.

    What of Syria’s proxies in Lebanon? Is there a chance Hezbola will come to the aid of Assad should he need more man power to maintain his regime?

    Finally what is the best English language news source on Syria.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Inactive

    Any help the US Government gives should be through a third party, a Muslim third party. And if there’s no Muslim third party willing to help, well, shame on them.

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  12. Profile Photo Inactive

    Obama has engaged in the most repulsive spin job in the middle east. He ignored the legitimate protest of the Green’s and let them be gassed, beaten and shot.

    Next he manufactored a little mercenary war in Libya won through wasting American resources by a force not in any way morally superior to Gaddafi.

    He allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to destabilize Egypt. With just a modicum of effort he could have propped up Mubarak.

    Now, finally when the results of his actions are a hideous murderer in Syria slaughtering his own people, Obama does nothing.

    The world now knows that under Obama American morality is a myth. If we can take the White House and Senate too in 2012, perhaps we can restore respect for the Red, White and Blue.

    For now Obama has dropped the flag in the mud.

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  13. Profile Photo Member

    Question for Ilhan: Would verbal support for the rebels from the Obama administration have made a difference if uttered early in the uprising?..or even today?

    And what about covert support?

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  14. Profile Photo Member

    Ilhan, what is the division of society and opinion? What proportion and classes of the population constitute and support the regime, what sectors oppose it, and who’s just caught in the middle hoping to survive? Reliable reports coming out of Syria are hard to find and poorly organized; we need some background to orient ourselves.

    My biggest question is: if the western powers were to intervene in some limited manner and the regime was overthrown, what would happen next? Who would take power?

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  15. Profile Photo Inactive

    What reasons do the Syrians believe are responsible for their plight being ignored?

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Inactive

    I’m not trying to pitch my own work, however, you would do well to look at my post on Perpetual Peace.

    Check out the concept of the “Unjust Enemy” which of course leads to a concept of the “Just War”. There are four long quotes in the article. The Unjust Enemy is covered in the third.

    • #16
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