Orwellian propaganda on Syria

This is an AP piece in the Guardian about a bombing/shelling in Syria. I comment on it because it is entirely Orwellian in its sheer alternative reality. People work at the Guardian and they are entirely happy to do this – to tell people A is B. I just wonder why?

As usual; extracts and comments.

Artillery fire from government-controlled territory and airstrikes killed at least eight civilians in Syria’s last rebel enclave on Saturday, most of them children, rescue workers and a war monitor said.

It turns out that the “rescue workers” are the ‘White Helmets’ – a group part-funded by the Foreign Office and set up with the express purpose of producing ‘evidence’ of Assad’s war crimes. This is no secret (and certainly not a ‘conspiracy theory’). At the start of the Syrian conflict the then Foreign Secretary William Hague explained that the British role would be precisely this; to support local groups which would produce evidence of Assad’s war crimes; in order to undermine and topple Assad which was the strategic aim of the British government. This was presented as a better alternative to direct military involvement (though of course British special forces and aviation have been illegally operating in Syria as well). Oh, did I hear “international rules based world order”. I must have misheard. The “war monitor” is the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” – a small operation run by a Syrian emigrant in Coventry. According to highly respected (and mainstream) journalist Peter Hitchens the Foreign Office also funds the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Oh. So the two sources for this AP/Guardian story are both funded by the UK government who is an illegal participant in this war and whose stated aim was to remove Assad by generating evidence of his war crimes. (Assad, recall, was pre-excluded from the “transitional government” which William Hague was promoting).

The AP/Guardian story continues with an account of wounded/killed children. But given the sources we have no realistic means of knowing if this is true or not.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) also reported the shelling and casualties. 

AP/Guardian present this as corroboration. Most likely the information comes from the same sources.

The White Helmets said one of its centres was targeted and destroyed in the air raid, and five volunteers were slightly wounded

That sounds plausible. From the point of view of the Syrian regime the White Helmets is a legitimate target given that it is an anti-regime operation which provides supports for anti-regime actors.

Residents of the enclave are dependent on humanitarian aid brought in from across the border with Turkey. The region is dominated by insurgent groups, among them is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group once linked to al-Qaida.

Oooh. A whopper. We are told that HTS was “once” “linked” to Al-Qaida. And, anyway, it is just one “insurgent group” amongst others who altogether just “dominate” Idlib. This is of course absolutely straightforward lying. Not even the most deluded and self-deceiving believer in the ‘truth’ of the Western narrative could believe this. Idlib is not “dominated” by insurgent groups. It is wholly run by them. HTS plays a dominant role in governing the province. One can believe or not believe the claim of HTS that it has severed links with Al-Qaida though that is not the same as changing its ideology. At any event both the EU and the UN consider it a terrorist outfit.

This is a quote from a June 2018 UN report: “Despite the announcement and attempts to distinguish itself from Al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, the group [HTS} remains aligned with Al-Qaida and continues to carry out terrorist operations under this new name”

This is France24 in a report from March 2021: “The region is run by HTS and its 10,000 mostly Syrian fighters, a UN report released last month said.” And “The group is also reported to control distribution of humanitarian aid, ‘and confiscates portions of these goods to reinforce HTS patronage networks,’ the report added.”

And, according to France24 some of the other groups still maintain links to Al-Qaeda: “Among these, the Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras al-Deen, estimated to have 2,000 to 2,500 fighters, according to the UN.”

This is a paper published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (a European think-tank) and authored by a researcher at the Centre for Global Policy – a US think-tank [1]. The author makes it clear that HTS controls Idlib. “Through these rounds of fratricidal fighting, HTS came to dominate Idlib”. [1]

This is from a report on Hayat Tahrir al-Sham by the EU: “It was reported that HTS frequently commit serious human rights abuses, including harassment, assassinations, kidnapping, and torture, as well as unlawful detention of civilians. Civilians have also been extorted and kidnapped for ransom.  The group has conducted formal military campaigns, assassinations, hostage takings, and ‘lone wolf’ operations, including suicide bombings. Members of religious minorities have been forced to convert to Islam and adopt Sunni customs”.

The story published by the Guardian that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is just one group in Idlib and that it has broken its links with Al-Qaeda is a very nice example of the Orwellian propaganda that we now live with as the norm. It is fiction – not remotely true. HTS dominates Adlib and is regarded by the UN and EU as a terrorist organisation. But…. in fact the text in the Guardian could be defended in court. It is true that HTS has publicly said that it has broken with Al-Qaeda. It is not the only group in Idlib; in fact it cooperates with Turkish-backed Islamist groups. And so – full-on Orwellian. True but not true at all.


  1. The article is curiously undated but on internal evidence it was written later than July 2020.

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer