BBC on Houla massacre


Houla in Syria

By Chris Marsden in Britain:

BBC world news editor: Houla massacre coverage based on opposition propaganda

15 June 2012

As quietly as possible, BBC world news editor Jon Williams has admitted that the coverage of last month’s Houla massacre in Syria by the world’s media and his own employers was a compendium of lies.

Datelined 16:23, June 7, Williams chose a personal blog to make a series of fairly frank statements explaining that there was no evidence whatsoever to identify either the Syrian Army or Alawite militias as the perpetrators of the May 25 massacre of 100 people.

By implication, Williams also suggests strongly that such allegations are the product of the propaganda department of the Sunni insurgents seeking to overthrow Bashar al-Assad.

After preparatory statements of self-justification noting the “complexity of the situation on the ground in Syria, and the need to try to separate fact from fiction,” and Syria’s long “history of rumours passing for fact,” Williams writes:

“In the aftermath of the massacre at Houla last month, initial reports said some of the 49 children and 34 women killed had their throats cut. In Damascus, Western officials told me the subsequent investigation revealed none of those found dead had been killed in such a brutal manner. Moreover, while Syrian forces had shelled the area shortly before the massacre, the details of exactly who carried out the attacks, how and why were still unclear.”

For this reason, he concludes somewhat belatedly, “In such circumstances, it’s more important than ever that we report what we don’t know, not merely what we do.”

“In Houla, and now in Qubair, the finger has been pointed at the Shabiha, pro-government militia. But tragic death toll aside, the facts are few: it’s not clear who ordered the killings—or why.”

No trace of such a restrained approach can be found at the time on the BBC, or most anywhere else.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung confirms: Houla massacre committed by Syrian “rebels”: here.

‘Syrian Houla massacre by Sunni sectarians’


Houla massacre victims

By Chris Marsden:

Houla massacre carried out by Free Syrian Army, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

13 June 2012

The May 25 Houla massacre was perpetrated by opposition forces aligned with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), according to Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is a conservative daily, not an “anti-imperialist pacifist leftie” one.

The report refutes the official account by the United States and other major powers and presented uncritically by the media. The massacre was attributed to pro-government forces and used to step up the propaganda offensive for military intervention against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Without providing any serious evidence, the US and its allies claimed that either the Syrian Army or pro-government Shabiha militas carried out the mass killing of over 100 people.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on June 7 published a report from Damascus by Rainer Hermann, who based his article on investigations by oppositionists who visited the area and took eye-witness testimony. They largely confirm the account of the events in Houla given by the Assad government.

“Their findings contradict allegations of the rebels, who had blamed the Shabiha militias which are close to the regime”, Hermann wrote, adding, “As oppositionists rejecting the use of force have been killed or at least threatened lately, the oppositionists did not want to see their names mentioned.”

The massacre took place after Friday prayers and began with an attack by Sunni “rebels” on three Syrian army checkpoints around Houla. “The checkpoints are designed to protect the Alawite villages around the mostly Sunni Houla”, the German daily reported.

Reinforcements were sent by the Syrian Army and fighting went on for 90 minutes, during which “dozens of soldiers and rebels were killed.”

It was during these exchanges that the three villages of Houla were blocked off from the outside world. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote: “According to eyewitnesses, the massacre took place during this time. Among the dead were almost exclusively families of the Alawite and Shia minorities of Houla, the population of which is made up of 90 percent Sunnis. Several dozen members of a family that had converted in recent years from the Sunni faith to Shia Islam were slaughtered. Also among the dead were members of the Alawite family Shomaliya and the family of a Sunni member of parliament who was regarded as a collaborator.”

The report continued: “Immediately after the massacre, the offenders are said to have filmed their victims, calling them Sunni victims, and distributed the videos via the Internet.”