The French Syria specialist Frédéric Pichon:
” I have seen in Syria how on Easter the imam from the neighboring mosque will come to visit the church in order to present his best wishes to the priest. And vice-versa: the priest will visit the imam”
The French Syria specialist Frédéric Pichon accuses the Western media of irresponsibility in its treatment of the Syria crisis: of being ignorant about the region and its history, neglecting to verify sources, blithely parroting activist talking points–in short, of “refusing to deal with the reality.” After completing a first degree in Arabic, Pichon lived for many years as a teacher in Beirut, before returning to France, where he completed a doctoral thesis on the Christian minority in Syria. His most recent book is a co-authored volume on “The Geopolitics of the Middle East and North Africa” (Presses Universitaires de France, 2012)
In a recent interview he said that “SOHR has a name that is very reassuring. It is reassuring, notably, for the media. I have experienced this personally in speaking with a journalist from one of France’s leading news channels. When I raised some questions about the organization, the journalist replied, “Really? But it’s got ‘human rights’ in the name!” So, from the point of view of marketing, the name is obviously well-chosen.But the problem is precisely that so little is known about the SOHR and yet the media continue to use it as source without asking any questions about the accuracy of the casualty numbers it reports or whether all the civilians reported killed were in fact civilians. What we know for sure about the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is that it is not based in Syria. It is based in London. The president of the organization is named Rami Abdel Rahman. But it would appear that no such person even exists. In mid-2011, a few journalists worthy of the name first raised doubts about the matter.
The confirmation did not come from pro-regime sources, but rather from the SOHR itself. In January of this year, the SOHR published a notice on its website acknowledging that Rami Abdel Rahman does not exist and explaining that the name is a pseudonym used by various collaborators of the organization. But this has not stopped the AFP, Reuters and other news agencies from continuing to cite “Rami Abdel Rahman, president of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” to this very day!
By the way, the choice of the pseudonym could provide a clue about the group’s orientation. “Abdel Rahman” is a name that has a very definite resonance in Arabic. It means “servant of the Merciful”–“the Merciful” being one of the names given to Allah in the Quran. So, in other words, the name means “servant of Allah .” All the chapters of the Quran begin with the invocation of “Allah, the Merciful.” Muslims will have this invocation engraved in their memory”. Asked about the observers’missions he said:”Why has the report of the Arab League mission received so little attention? It was, after all, readily available–not only in Arabic, but also in English and in French–by the end of January. It is true that the report reveals certain picaresque aspects of the mission itself. It would appear that some of the observers preferred to stay in their hotel in Damascus, rather than to venture out onto the terrain, as they were supposed to do. But the report also revealed the presence in Syria of what are described as “armed groups” possessing not only light weaponry, but also heavy weaponry, including “armour-piercing projectiles.” All of this is difficult to reconcile with the romantic vision that was prevalent in the Western media at the time and that depicted the opposition as being essentially unarmed. The report likewise found that the French journalist Gilles Jacquier, who was killed in Homs on January 11, was killed by opposition mortar fire, not by Syrian government forces. Perhaps it is because Saudi Arabia unilaterally declared the mission to have been a “failure” that we have heard so little about it.”About Daraa at the beginning of events,Pichon said:”Deraa is a city that is known for its ties to Islamic radicalism, just across the border from Jordan, where, it should be recalled, the Muslim Brotherhood is a major political force. Numerous jihadists who fought in Iraq are known to have came from Deraa. It is also notable that Deraa is a kind of Sunni enclave in a region where the majority is Druze. There were no protests in the other towns in the area.
As concerns the involvement of armed Islamist groups, recent terror attacks in Damascus and Aleppo obviously bear the hallmark of al-Qaeda.Last summer,around late August, early September, some of Syria’s regional neighbors–above all, Saudi Arabia and Qatar–got involved. Libya appears also to have been involved. Several sources have spoken of jihadists and weaponry reaching Syria via Turkey from the Libyan port of Misrata.
Behind all of this, one has to see the role being played by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have been attempting to exercise a kind of leadership over the Sunni Arab world in an effort to counter the rising power of Iran.
I have spent a lot of time visiting Christian communities in Syria. There have been reports of violence against religious minorities in areas controlled by the Syrian opposition: against Alawis, but also against Christians.
It was perhaps in order to defuse such reports that in January of this year, the Free Syrian Army published an official text providing assurances that the rights of minorities would be respected. The text cited the famous Pact of Umar, a decree that was supposedly issued by the Caliph Umar in the 8th century and that is traditionally cited to demonstrate the protected status that religious minorities or dhimmi enjoy in Islam. The pact, by the way, is a forgery that was written later. All historians agree on this.There is in fact nothing in the pact that should be reassuring for minorities or, in particular, for Christians. The spirit of the document is entirely medieval!Under Assad father and now the son’ rule there has really been a sort of “Syrian exception” in the Middle East in this respect: not only with regard to Christians, but also with regards to other religious minorities–the Alawis, of course, but also the Druze. Since the 1970s, the regime succeeded in developing a Syrian national consciousness that makes no confessional distinctions. It is true that this civic consciousness was, in a sense, imposed from above. Every form of confessional politics was associated with “fitna”–“disunion” or “discord”–and was repressed. “Fitna” is originally an Islamic concept, but here it was given a secular usage. I have witnessed the results myself. I have seen in Syria how on Easter the imam from the neighboring mosque will come to visit the church in order to present his best wishes to the priest. And vice-versa: the priest will visit the imam.”translated from French by Syrian Democratic Future
:Il ricercatore francese Frédéric Pichon ha fatto presente che Arabia Saudita e Qatar stanno istigando contro la stabilità della Siria, invitando ad inviare armi e ribelli.
Pichon, docente di storia contemporanea ed esperto di Siria, in un articolo ha scritto che il suo paese ha abusato per molto tempo delle intenzioni dell’opposizione siriana armata e sostenuta dai regimi arabi, guidati dal Qatar, consentendo un afflusso costante di elementi di al Qaeda in Siria ed esponendo il Paese al rischio di diventare un luogo di attrazione per il terrorismo similmente a quanto accaduto per l’Afghanistan.
Pichon ha sottolineato che la Francia deve essere consapevole che il flusso di attrezzature e armi finanziati generosamente da sauditi e Qatar ai gruppi armati in Siria viene a confermare ciò che si è parlato in precedenza: il rischio di una presa di potere di al-Qaeda nel territorio siriano.