While the media decries the Syrian government’s alleged actions in Eastern Ghouta, governments and media institutions across the globe continue to turn a blind eye to the mounting evidence that a NATO ally is committing mass murder on a scale equal to that of the Syrian regime – in Syrian territory.
Approximately seven weeks ago, Turkey invaded the Syrian enclave of Afrin in northern Syria and has been terrorizing the local population. The entire world is completely silent, yet we are to believe that western governments are genuinely concerned about Syria’s humanitarian crisis.
The Independent’s Patrick Cockburn, who has actually been to Afrin to see the situation with his own eyes, has been documenting Turkey’s offensive in Afrin. One cannot help but notice the marked difference between the media’s incessant coverage of the Syrian regime in Eastern Ghouta compared to the actions of Turkey, a NATO ally. It is also worth noting that in the case of Afrin, we actually have a western journalist who writes for a western newspaper as a source on the ground. In Aleppo in 2016 or in Eastern Ghouta right now, we still have to rely on anti-Syrian government sources that have a vested interest in regime change in Syria. Their claims cannot be said to be as impartial.
Writing for the Independent, Patrick Cockburn made it clear that if any of the images he has come by showing what Turkey is doing to the Kurdish people in Afrin “were coming out of Eastern Ghouta, they would be leading every television newscast and dominating the front pages.”
“Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, would be holding up pictures of dead and dying children,” he added.
“But because these actions are happening in Afrin and not in Eastern Ghouta, the same country but 200 miles apart, they are almost entirely ignored by both media and foreign politicians.”
According to the local Kurdish health authority, Cockburn reports, the death toll in Afrin has risen to 220 dead and 600 wounded as the fighting continues in heavily populated areas. Afrin is considerably larger than Eastern Ghouta but Turkey’s violent offensive is receiving close to zero media attention. The number of trapped civilians in Afrin could be anywhere between 323,000 and one million, a significant number even at its lowest, especially when compared to Eastern Aleppo in the heavily publicized advancement in 2016. Even the New York Times admitted Eastern Aleppo may have only housed tens of thousands of civilians to begin with.
Cockburn notes that there “are many such videos and still photographs from Afrin taken by Kurds and members of the Turkish forces showing the shelling and bombing of houses, the mangled bodies of children killed by the explosions and others of Kurdish civilians being herded away.”
We cannot help but take note that none of this footage makes the evening news or Facebook posts about saving Syria from the violence currently besieging the country.
One such photo documented by Cockburn “shows [the cameraman] staring at the camera while over his left shoulder is a burned out civilian car in which sits the corpse of the driver, his white teeth thrown into relief because the rest of his body is burned black.”
While the media plays the same old tune that the Syrian government engages in genocide and ethnic cleansing, it is the Kurds that genuinely fear they are about to witness an ethnic cleansing of their own. According to Cockburn’s sources, there is nowhere for this Kurdish population to run to, as they either have to try to pass through the Turkish or Syrian armies or end up in areas controlled by radical Islamists who despise the Kurds.
Right now, about 35 percent of Afrin is Kurdish whereas 55 percent are Arab. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly stated that Turkey’s aim was to give Afrin back to its rightful “Arab owners.” If Syria’s Bashar al-Assad had stated something so violently racist, it’s doubtful the media would ever let him live it down. This is the definition of ethnic cleansing, but Turkey continues to get a free pass.
“I have been struck since 2011 by the unbalanced way in which the Syrian war has been reported by the media,” Cockburn concluded. “Vast attention was given to the sufferings inflicted on the people of East Aleppo in 2016 under attack by Syrian government and Russian air strikes, but very little notice was taken of the almost complete destruction of Isis-held Raqqa, with massive civilian casualties, at the hands of the US-led coalition.”
“I used to attribute such uneven coverage of the war to the greater skill and resources of the Syrian opposition in recording and publicising atrocities committed by the Syrian government and its allies. Isis had no interest in the fate of civilians under its control. But in Afrin there is no shortage of film of the suffering of civilians, but it simply is not widely broadcast or printed. In many respects, the role of the international media in the Syrian war has been as partial and misleading as the warring parties inside the country or their foreign sponsors without.” [emphasis added]