23 Aug 2012

Robert Fisk: Reporting from Syria ‘with sensational quotes in the headline’

Robert Fisk: Reporting from Syria ‘with sensational quotes in the headline’
Our writer reports from the frontiers of his fertile imagination with superb attention to detail and amusing historical facts. 

(This is an imaginary article from this series by Robert Fisk in The Independent inspired by this article in particular)

As I got in the car, a 1962 Mercedes built in the same factory where my father had once fought the German army in 1917, the driver smiled and nodded wisely, as all taxi drivers in the Middle East do when they’re driving a foreign journalist around. Ahead lay a deceptively empty stretch of road that my imagination quickly filled with the mental image of Sargon II’s soldiers marching along, primarily to illustrate my excellent knowledge of history.

The man back at the hotel had warned me about the false tranquillity of this part of Aleppo that I was about to visit. He only identified himself as ‘the raven’, but something told me that I must trust this man dressed strangely in an Abayya made of black feathers despite the searing heat. I have stopped long ago questioning those mysterious men I encounter while reporting, and so too have my editors.

21 Aug 2012

Anatomy of a rumour: How the Syrian deputy PM's non-statement became a big story

 Earlier today, AFP reported on a statement made by Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil while on a visit to Moscow. The news item was headlined: "Top Syria minister dismisses Obama threat". The piece contained the following:

Jamil also brushed aside US along with European and Arab calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down as a precondition for any future peace negotiations.

But the country's foreign economic assistance negotiator hinted broadly that Assad may be ready to relinquish power as part of an agreed settlement.

"As far as his resignation goes -- making the resignation itself a condition for holding dialogue means that you will never be able to reach this dialogue," said Jamil.

17 Aug 2012

A short conversation at the Mokdad household.

'Mom, where's my black T-shirt?'

'It's in the washing, wear the white one'

'I can't wear the white one! We're going kidnapping today! I will look stupid in the white one. How many times have I told you not to wash it without asking me?'

'Wear the purple one then.'

'The purple one? THE PURPLE ONE? There's no use talking to you about these things, you just don't understand. It's been like this all my life'.

'Ok, next time you go kidnapping, tell me before so I know.'

'Tell you before? Do you think we have a schedule? This is important regional politics. I really can't talk to you about this. Give me the white T-shirt. The other guys will laugh at me for sure.'

'No, no. They will laugh at your cousin who can't see out of his balaclava. He looks like an idiot always.'

8 Aug 2012

"Syria's descent into darkness" and anti-imperialist angst

As a non-interventionist, I should in theory agree with Seumas Milne about Syria. But his latest piece for The Guardian shows that, like many anti-imperialists, his position is both confused and contradictory. It might be the case that he is using Syria merely as a tool to criticise Western governments but in the process losing sight of what the uprising is about.

The piece is sensationally titled:  'Intervention is now driving Syria's descent into darkness'. The subtitle sums up Milne's argument: 'Western and Gulf regime support for rebel fighters isn't bringing freedom to Syrians but escalating sectarian conflict and war'. I am not a fan of the persistent Western and regional meddling in Syria which seems to lack a clear sense of purpose, but suggesting that support for rebel fighters is what is escalating war in Syria is myopic to say the least. Milne conveniently ignores the Syrian regime's responsibility for the conflict in the first place. 

6 Aug 2012

The man behind the Twitter death rumours