by Vanessa Beeley
A restaurant, beneath the Citadel in Aleppo, displaying 2019 New Year signs. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)
The West and its allies in the Gulf States, Turkey and Israel have waged an eight year war against the Syrian people. The West has besieged, starved and deprived the Syrian people of humanitarian aid while pouring “aid” into the areas controlled by their extremist sectarian proxy armies.
The West has violated international law and it has enabled the destruction of Syria’s history, heritage and cultural footprint. The West has behaved as a collective rogue state without conscience and without pity for a people its media has systematically dehumanised to enable such a crime to take place.
Despite this war of attrition and despite battling disproportionate force, the Syrian people have refused to capitulate or to abandon their secularism in favour of an extremist tyranny that would destroy their society and persecute the minority communities into extinction. Christmas 2018 has demonstrated the victory of Syrian unity over the regime change project incubated in the West which is now a failed campaign lying in tatters at the feet of the self determination of the Syrian people, the valiant defence by the Syrian Arab Army and the steadfastness of the Syrian Government and its President, Bashar Al Assad.
In Aleppo I spoke with Pastor Ibrahim Nseir of Aleppo’s Presbyterian Church, whom I had also interviewed in 2017. The following is a mixture of quotes and paraphrase from our conversation on New Year’s Eve 2018/19.
The Presbyterian Church in the Old City of Aleppo was destroyed by the Western-backed terrorist groups in November 2012. An article in the Mennonite World Review in July 2018 described the destruction of the church – “In the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Ibrahim Nseir stands on the pile of rubble that used to be his church. The building where his congregation worshiped is now broken stones and dust. It’s a sunny day, the bright sky a stark contrast to the destruction on the ground.”
After eight years of resistance against the threat of persecution and mass exodus of Christians from Aleppo, Nseir remains defiant and upbeat about the future of Aleppo and Syria. Of the 300,000 Syrian Christians in Aleppo, only 30,000 remain. This is the legacy of sectarian oppression that has been imprinted upon Syria by Western hegemony and it will take generations for it be turned around.
Nseir described the rebuilding process for the Presbyterian Church as difficult but he insisted that it would be rebuilt from its original stones to preserve its historical identity. For Nseir the priorities for Aleppo and Syria are to address the economic situation which has clearly taken a hit on many levels and is suffering in a typical post-war slump. Education is another top priority for this intelligent and enthusiastic Reverend. The intention is to create a center for retreats and conferences at the current Presbyterian Church offices in the center of Aleppo, including a student dormitory.
“We will increase educational capacity by 1000 in the very near future and continue to build upon this progress” Nseir told me.
Education, according to Nseir, is the greatest weapon against extremism and is the only way to re-habilitate children who spent seven of their formative years under occupation of extremist and sectarian factions who worked hard to brainwash almost an entire generation of Syria’s children.
“Ethically the West and the East are responsible for Syria’s destruction. This is not a “Christian” issue, it is a World issue.” Nseir insisted.
The role of the Western media in manufacturing consent for the collective punishment of the Syrian people was clearly a primary cause of the devastation that Nseir and other faith leaders across Syria are now dealing with:
“Western media played more than a negative role, they literally urged the terrorists to take action against the Syrian people by providing false information and blinding people in the West to what was really happening in Syria for eight years. This should never be forgotten.”
Nseir stressed that the healing process for children traumatised by the war would not be easy.
“How do you erase the hatred and horror planted in the brains of 7-10-year-old children by these fanatics? What do you expect from children who have played football with the head of a Syrian Araby Army soldier or who have witnessed the violent abuse of their mother by these terrorists or have seen their father executed by the armed groups? This is the greatest challenge for Humanity and for Syria to put right these terrible wrongs.”
Nseir spoke of the shocking estimated figures of 82,000 children whose father is unknown, referring to the huge number of young women raped or forced into multiple marriages by the terrorist groups and their fighters. How do these children regain their identity and re-integrate into Syrian society? The rebuilding of schools and hospitals must be a priority. The terrorists destroyed “the most developed hospital in the Middle East, Al Kindi” in 2013 and since then, and the destruction of more hospitals across Syria by the terrorist groups, Nseir told me Syria has seen an increase in Cancer and new diseases. Nseir also suggested that this may be attributed to the weapons used by the US Coalition proxies and the U.S itself, which include depleted uranium.
Another important challenge, according to Nseir, is the environnmental one. Syria needs to rebuild its natural environment which has also been hugely affected by the conflict. 100,000 trees have been destroyed in Aleppo alone which could lead eventually to desertification of the province if not dealt with. The Governor of Aleppo has recently planted 2,000 new trees but this is an issue that must be addressed with urgency for Nseir.
Nseir strongly believes that Western people should come to Syria independently to see the truth for themselves and report the truth as they see it without any agenda. The Church and the media in the West have maintained a sectarian, divisve narrative which is confusing for people in the West and far from reality.
Nseir addressed the position and status of Syria in the Middle East and described how it has not changed, all that has changed is the perception of Syria portrayed by the media and world leaders who have aligned themselves with the West’s criminal project to partition Syria into sectarian statelets and to remove the elected Syrian government from power by force:
“What has changed since 2011 in reality? Nothing. Syria has always been the protector of the Middle East before 2011, during the conflict and now. The only thing that has changed is the positions of those who turned against Syria, betrayed Syria and who now wish to come back to Syria for protection. We see the Gulf States now change their stance and the UAE has re-opened its embassy in Damascus. The Arab League will welcome Syria back into its fold. Nothing has changed, Syria has remained the same while others have been opportunists and traitors.”
The fact that Syria will forgive its betrayers is testament to what has given Syria victory over its enemies throughout history. With regards to the West, Nseir is not so forgiving:
“The West must go beyond simply stopping its financing of terrorism and the supply of weapons. The West must confess to its crimes against the Syrian people in order to be forgiven. The West must lift the economic sanctions which are a siege upon the Syrian people and it must allow the Syrian people to rebuild in peace without meddling in their affairs. The Syrian people will rebuild according to what the Syrian people want not what the East or the West want. The West has sold the idea that this war was against President Assad but in reality it was against the will of a nation and the people of that nation must be respected”.
Nseir confirmed that the western NGOs are nothing more than political instruments and devices who further the cause of war but he insisted that the West must effectively pay reparations to Syria and expect nothing in return. This is the only way the West can be forgiven by Syria.
Nseir told me that his church will be establishing a medical and health center in the coming months which will be open to everyone in Aleppo to offer medical check-ups and treatment for free. Staff will be trained to deal with the children afflicted by the effects of the war and the terrorist occupation and the plan is to eventually set up special schools to continue the work of rehabilitation for these children. This will enable the coming generations to stand against radicalism and terrorism in the future.
“The West has a duty to respect our dignity and territorial integrity. The Syrian Arab Army has saved the image of our God of Peace, Love and Unity – this has been a spiritual war in Syria not only a military war. The God of love has been embodied by the SAA and our allies and has been victorious over the God of terrorism and hatred. The whole world will change after this war and after Syria’s victory. Syria will be a transformational catalyst for all of Humanity. Syria was never going to be defeated, you only have to study our history to know this. Our society has always embraced diversity and this is the essence of our country. Fanaticism was never going to survive breathing the pure oxygen of our humanity. Actually this demonstrates the stupidity of leaders in the West – to even imagine that extremism has a place in our culture”. Nseir told me.
Nseir ended our talk by stating that the crisis in Syria must be an alarm bell for the country and for its leaders.
“We must re-prioritise our schedule, our agenda and make sure it is not only political but that we address all issues – religious, educational, health care. We must rethink our priorities to ensure a future of peace and stability. At the end I believe strongly that all the negative consequences of this terrible war will be transformed into positive consequences if we address them in the right way. Out of adversity are born the greatest opportunities for the future of Syria and Humanity.”
Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist, peace activist, photographer and associate editor at 21st Century Wire. Vanessa was a finalist for one of the most prestigious journalism awards – the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism – whose winners have included the likes of Robert Parry in 2017, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Nick Davies and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism team. Please support her work at her Patreon account.
READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files