To Western media, the suffering and deaths of Syrian civilians matter only if their suffering can help further the pro-intervention narrative promoted by Western governments over the past several years.
DARAA, SYRIA — Amid the recent successes of Syria’s military in retaking much of the country’s south from rebel groups, a devastating terror attack ripped through Syria’s Sweida early Wednesday morning, resulting in the brutal murder of more than 220 people and injuring nearly 180. Daesh (ISIS) later claimed responsibility for the attacks and boasted of its “success,” citing the high civilian death count.
In keeping with Daesh’s reputation as an international terror group known for its savagery, hundreds of Syrian civilians were murdered execution-style in their homes — many of them killed as they slept — during raids, while suicide bombers also ravaged towns and villages in the area. Still, more civilians were kidnapped, their fate unknown.
Despite the gravity of the attacks and the international consensus condemning Daesh, many Western media outlets treated the terrorist attack as though it were simply a battle between warring factions in the Syrian conflict. The reporting of those outlets on this particular incident is particularly stunning, given that those same outlets often strongly condemn Syrian military operations for their effect on civilians but failed to do that when a reviled terrorist group was to blame for the deaths of hundreds.
Reuters, for example, did not even mention the involvement of Daesh in the headline of its article on the attacks, which was titled “More than 200 dead in Southwest Syria amid government offensive.” As the title hints, the article itself suggests that the killing of civilians by ISIS was just a consequence of the Syrian government’s military offensive in the south. I also fails to label the attacks as an atrocity — instead asserting that the more than 200 dead were merely “killed” as a result of fighting, not bothering to mention that many were murdered execution-style or killed in their beds.
Another Reuters article, written in tandem with the Associated Press and Israeli newspaper Haaretz, was titled “‘At least 96 killed in ISIS Suicide Attack in pro-Assad Syrian City Near Jordan Border.” By using the term “pro-Assad” — which is often used in the Western press to dismiss critics of the foreign-funded Syrian opposition — to refer to the civilians that were targeted, it is by association labelling them as supporters of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, who has been demonized as a murderous despot in the Western press for years. It is an association that subtly dehumanizes the attack’s many victims. In addition, as did the previously mentioned Reuters article, the authors suggest that Wednesday’s ISIS attacks were a logical consequence of the Syrian government’s offensive through the South, which works to subdue outrage regarding the senseless violence of the attacks.
Tone dictated by media’s agenda
The tone of the coverage of Wednesday’s attack is markedly different from that found in articles by these same outlets regarding military offensives launched by the Syrian military. For instance, a joint Reuters/Haaretz article on the Syrian government’s offensive in Southwestern Syria carried the title “Assad Regime Pounds Southern Syria, Dozens of Civilian Casualties Reported.”
Assad regime pounds southern Syria, dozens of civilian casualties reported https://t.co/m9v1lGz5UP
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) July 18, 2018
The article itself humanizes and mourns the civilian deaths from airstrikes in Southern Syria and squarely criticizes the Assad-led government for those deaths in damning terms not even applied to Daesh in coverage of Wednesday’s attacks. Furthermore, Wednesday’s death toll dwarfs that cited in the article on the military offensive.
Another Western outlet, the UK’s Guardian, also treated the Syrian civilians who were brutally killed by Daesh very differently from those killed by Syrian or Russian airstrikes. For instance, in its coverage of Wednesday’s attacks, the Guardian called the Daesh raids and suicide bombings a “surprise offensive,” a term usually used to refer to military operations, not terrorist attacks. However, earlier this month, the Guardian devoted an entire article to humanizing the suffering of Syrian civilians who were forced to sleep outside after the Syrian military “assault” resulted in a “panic-stricken exodus” of Syrian rebels and their families. Yet, for the 220 victims of Daesh’s attack on Wednesday, such concern was absent in the Guardian’s coverage.
Guardian reporting on murderous atrocities of ISIS in Sweida.
* Not an “offensive”, it was a murderous terrorist attack on civilians.
* Defeats of ISIS due solely to Syria, Russia & allies, not US-led illegal coalition whose attacks on SAA positions enabled ISIS to takeover. pic.twitter.com/gdfhrQavdd
— Eva Bartlett (@EvaKBartlett) July 25, 2018
Given the stark differences in coverage — particularly the dehumanization of dead Syrian civilians and a failure to condemn Daesh’s atrocities in clear terms — the only reasonable conclusion is that, to these mainstream outlets, the suffering and deaths of Syrian civilians matter only if their suffering can help further the pro-intervention narrative promoted by Western governments over the past several years. In other words, the suffering of civilians in rebel-held areas is worth covering but the suffering of “pro-Assad” civilians — i.e., pro-Assad only in the sense that they reside in government-held territory — is not.
Indeed, as journalist Danny Makki noted on Twitter on Wednesday:
If 166 [death toll at the time] people were killed anywhere other than Syria in the world it would be breaking news, not to mention ISIS being the main cause of those deaths.”