[ Ed. note – Vanessa Beeley has written a very good article on the recent name change announced by one of the main terrorist factions in Syria. Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as Al-Qaeda in Syria, announced that it would change its name to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. The announcment was made in a video released by the group in late July.
On August 2, CNN aired a report on the name change that included video-taped comments from one of the organization’s leaders, Mostafa Mahamed, who announced additionally that the group is severing its ties with Al-Qaeda. Mahamed is articulate and fluent in English, and one gets the distinct impression from watching the report that a “re-branding” process is under way.
Although the US technically considers Al-Nusra a terrorist group, would it surprise us if it turned out that Western media outlets such as CNN have reporters embedded with it? Beeley suggests that CNN reporter Clarissa Ward not only is embedded with Al-Nusra/Al-Sham, she even goes so far as to accuse the network of “terror apologism.”
In the excerpt below, she recounts atrocities carried out against the Christian population of Maaloula by the re-branded and “now-moderate” Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. Prior to the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, Maaloula was one of the few places in the world where Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, is still spoken as the native language. The war has had a devastating impact upon the town’s people and their places of worship. ]
…On the 7th September 2013, Black Saturday in the Maalouli calendar, Al Nusra extremists entered a house in Maaloula. They rounded up three young men, Sarkis, Mikhael and Anton [see below, from left to right]. Their photos are pinned to the wall of Father Taalab’s office.
Al Nusra demanded that each man convert to Islam, each man in turn refused to renounce their faith and were shot in the head one by one. The second and third were forced to watch their lifelong friends and brothers murdered before being shot themselves for their refusal to abandon their beliefs.
The Al Nusra operatives then went on to shoot an 80 year old man, Lawandeus, who was Anton’s father. Lawandeus was blind and deaf but this did not prevent Al Nusra’s attempted murder of this defenceless elder citizen whose son’s blood was already staining the floor.
On entering the house, these Al Nusra NATO-GCC agents had also shot Anton’s sister, Antoinette, in the back. Presuming she was dead they then proceeded to shoot her brother and his two comrades in the head while Antoinette, half conscious, a bullet lodged in her spine, was forced to witness the cold-blooded murders. Her brother Anton was a shoemaker, the only son of their parents and someone who served his church and the community faithfully and compassionately.
Mikhael was the town baker and Sarkis was an engineering student with a promising future, cut short by the Al Nusra blood-letters whose purpose was to ethnically cleanse the Christian community from its ancestral home.
On the same day, Al Nusra kidnapped six young men from the village including Father Taalab’s brother and two other family members. Father Taalab maintains that Al Nusra deliberately targeted the families of the village clergy which further supports the claim that Al Nusra were intent upon the ethnic cleansing of this ancient community.
These six young men are still missing. For the first six months, Father Taalab was in contact with them via phone. After that initial six months nothing has been heard from them. The pain of this “not knowing” was visible in Father Taalab eyes and expression as he talked of efforts ongoing to try and locate the boys and to return them to their families in Maaloula.
We would expect a media outlet as prominent as CNN to report on these atrocities in detail but when we look at their accounts of Al Nusra’s invasion and occupation of Maaloula we find that they have, to a large extent, whitewashed the extremism and murderous intent.
In fact, according to CNN, “Maaloua was spared the atrocities endured elsewhere across Syria.” In a May 2016 report, CNN barely mentions the Al Nusra savagery, with only a fleeting reference to the 2013 crimes: “The convent was badly damaged in 2013 and 12 nuns were taken hostage and held by Islamist fighters for months before being released unharmed.”
This glib reformulation of the truth acts as a criminal gatekeeper as to the true evil of Al Nusra and the barbarity of their acts against the Maalouli people. CNN is fundamentally entering into the arena of terror apologism and perhaps even endorsement of their heinous crimes against an unprotected and unprepared Christian minority community that had peacefully co-existed with its eventual attackers for almost a full century.