Moadamiyeh between Assad’s media and international silence

Moadamiyeh between Assad’s media and international silence
As Syrian cities drop from mainstream narrative, viewers turn to regime media, only to be greeted by a very different reality, writes Qappani.
4 min read
27 Mar, 2017
Homs, Syria [Getty Images]

For the last six years, Moadamiyeh's expelled citizens watched the protests unfold and the relentless attacks, siege and slaughter that followed in their city through numerous media outlets. There was one exception: the media of the Assad regime.

Today, for lack of an alternative source, they once again turn to the regime's media to watch the news from Moadamiyeh. A strange alternative reality greets them, one in which the regime is bringing life back to the city after its return under Assad's control.

What is the problem, you may ask. The problem is simple. Accounts from witnesses inside the city, and those who have left it recently, once again highlight the reality behind the regime media’s lies.

"The situation on the ground has been slightly better, but we’re still suffering," said Mohammed, a former activist. 

He continued: "It's true we're not starving anymore, but we can hardly get food because it's still expensive, while most of the people are poor. Employees have not returned to their jobs, detentions have not stopped - more than 15 civilians were detained by Assad’s security forces during the last two months - and there’s still only one way out of the city, as there was before. People can't bring in all they want when they go through the same checkpoints that are still located on the only route."

None of the conditions promised by the Russian-guaranteed deal signed by the Assad regime were fulfilled. Under the terms of the agreement, the siege of the city was to be lifted, and the Assad militias were to retreat from the areas occupied. Workers were to return to their jobs, and detainees from Moadamiyeh freed. Basic utilities like electricity and water were to be restored, along with internet services, all after six years of darkness under the regime’s siege.

While the opposition, which had control of the city since 2012, fulfilled all of its obligations under the terms of the agreement, including surrendering their arms, dismantling all opposing organisations, including civic bodies and accepting the expulsion of fighters and any who opposed the so-called reconciliation, the regime has not responded in kind.

They said they would release detainees, but they added more people to their records and slaughterhouses.

Nasser Kidr, a former member of the negotiation committee says: "The Assad regime and Russia’s guarantees are always lies. They want to spread their fake propaganda of peace and safety to the silent, gullible world."

"They said they would release detainees, but they added more people to their records and slaughterhouses. They said they would retreat from our farms and homes. They said they would allow everything to be brought into the city, but they take 'taxes' on anything [brought into Moadamiyeh]. They take advantage of people’s poverty by tempting them with high wages to join their militias, not to mention buying lands and houses for buyers from Iran. Trash is all over the place, and all that you see on Russian or Assad’s TV channels are lies."

Talking to my own family members there, they said that despite the supposed end of the siege, they have been burning wood for heat, and living on a meagre diet of olives, salad and rice. 

As one of the journalists there from the start in Moadamiyeh, I know deep in my heart that I and my fellow journalists and activists did all we could to show the world the reality of the city under siege and bombardment. I know all too well that Assad and Putin's media are trying to sell their supporters a propaganda fantasy of heroism in which the people who opposed them for years have now joyously accepted Assad as their eternal president.

This has not only happened in Moadamiyeh, but also in Darya, al-Hama, Qudsaya, Aleppo, Wadi Barada and elsewhere, all being used to sell the same propaganda shaped by Assad’s criminal guarantors: Russia.

In all these locations, the regime and its allies have spent years detaining, killing, starving, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians before the names vanished from the news. Al-Waer in Homs now is on the same path.  Why does this happen?  Because those who stand up for decency, freedom and goodness will always be fought by the forces of evil in the world.

Soon there will be more "Syria peace talks" in Astana, just like there were in Geneva, and like there will undoubtedly be in some other faraway conference suite in the future. 

The talks will feature more Russian "guarantees" of reconciliation with the Syrian people, unlikely to promise more than the empty propaganda Moadamiyeh received.

Dani Qappani is a journalist and media activist, previously living and working in besieged opposition-held Damascus suburb, Moadamiyeh

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.