With 5000 Dead in Syria, Channel 4 Exposes President Al-Assad’s Horrendous Torture Program


Back in March, when, in my article, “Revolution in the Middle East: Brave Protestors in Syria Call for Freedom,” I picked up on reports of protests in Damascus, firstly by those inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, and then by supporters and relatives of 21 jailed human rights activists (many of whom were then seized and imprisoned themselves), I praised their bravery, because the Syrian regime has a long history of violently suppressing dissent.

This was something that was more than abstract to me, because, via a good friend, who is Syrian, i had been given an insight into the use of torture by the al-Assad regime, and had also been horrified by the use of torture on prisoners in the Bush administration’s “war on terror” — and by the fact that President Bush had sent prisoners to Syria for torture, and the Canadian government had also arranged for its own citizens to be seized and tortured.

After this initial protests in Damascus, the ripples of dissent in Syria spread rapidly, leading to major unrest in the southern city of Dara’a, where, as I noted, “protests about the arrest of a group of 15 schoolchildren who had dared to scrawl graffiti on a wall explaining that ‘the people want the overthrow of the regime’ escalated into something far more grave, when the security services opened fire, killing three protestors in cold blood. Dubbed ‘Dignity Friday’ by protestors, who had been using social networking sites to coordinate their activities, the clampdown in Dara’a immediately echoed throughout the region, where other protests had been taking place, and the next day, as the Guardian explained, “a much larger, angrier crowd — estimated to number as many as 20,000 — turned out for the burial of the previous days’ victims.”

Since then, across the country, but particularly in Homs and Hamaa and Idlib, there have been thousands of civilian deaths and reports of torture (as I also explained here, here and here), including hundreds of children (see here), so that, last  Monday, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the UN Security Council, “It is my estimation that the total number of people killed since the protests began earlier this year is now likely to exceed 5,000. This situation is intolerable.” She also said that it was estimated that more than 14,000 people had been detained, confirmed that at least 300 children were among the dead, and estimated that at least 12,400 people had fled into neighbouring countries in the last nine months.

Tonight, at 11.10 pm GMT, Channel 4 is showing a powerful documentary, “Syria’s Torture Machine,” by Jonathan Miller, the foreign affairs correspondent for Channel 4 News, featuring harrowing footage, and further evidence of the lengths to which the regime is prepared to go to cling onto power, The Channel 4 News page about the programme is here, and below is a cross-post of Miller’s informative and deeply disturbing article for the Observer last week about his recent visit to Syria, his findings, and the findings of those who analysed the videos featured in the film to verify their accuracy.

For readers who wish to know more, I can recommend the “Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic” (PDF), which was presented to the UN General Assembly on November 23. An introduction is here. It seems to me, however, that the most important message to the al-Assad regime from the Syrian people is that the atrocities are not suppressing opponents, but are creating an unbreakable opposition that will never give in until the dictator and his brutal regime have fallen. As one victim of gruesome torture — a tractor driver, rounded up randomly — explained to Jonathan Miller, “Although we are suffering from torture, we are not afraid any more. There is no fear. We used to fear the regime, but there is no place for fear now.” As Miller added, appropriately, “If the intention of torture is to terrorise, it has in recent months had the opposite effect. Each act of brutality has served, it seems, to reinforce the growing sense of outrage and injustice and has triggered ever more widespread insurrection.”

Syria’s torture machine
By Jonathan Miller, The Observer, December 13, 2011

Channel 4’s foreign affairs correspondent reports from Syria on the mounting body of evidence that the state is engaging in widespread acts of brutality against its own citizens.

Between bursts of machine-gun fire and the crump of explosions — unmuffled in crisp mountain air — the starry sky above the Syrian frontier offers ethereal distraction. It’s 3am and the town of Tal Kalakh, less than two miles to the north — just inside the Syrian Arab Republic — is under sustained attack, its residents reportedly refusing to hand over a small band of defectors who have holed up there, trying to bolt for Lebanon to join the insurgents.

All around are mountains among which ancient armies have battled for millennia. And below, in besieged Tal Kalakh, a western outpost in the restive governorate of Homs, the Syrian army is once again hard at work, killing its own people. Tal Kalakh has felt the full force of violent repression many times since the Syrian revolt erupted back in March. One day, Tal Kalakh will doubtless appear on the revolutionary roll of honour. For now, this town of 80,000 people doesn’t even merit a mention in my guidebook.

“We don’t kill our people,” President Bashar al-Assad said last week in an American television interview. “No government in the world kills its people unless it’s led by a crazy person.” Those who dare oppose al-Assad do not think their leader crazy. Crazed, maybe. But today they see straight through him. They’re tired of the lies. They have seen too much.

Between late November and early December, I was one of just two foreign reporters granted an official journalist visa to this repressive police state. I spent nine days in Damascus, capital of al-Assad’s Republic of Fear, as a guest of the government. There, I encountered an angrily defiant regime, robust and resolute and unapologetic. Earlier in this Arab spring, I spent six weeks in Libya. There are echoes of Gaddafi in the personality cult surrounding al-Assad, but Syria’s political and security apparatus is bigger and badder than anything Gaddafi could muster. I do not mean to belittle the suffering of Libyans, but Syria has four times the Libyan population and 10 times the menace.

Over the course of those nine days, I interviewed three government ministers, an army general and the mayor of a rebellious city. I heard nothing but denials that the security forces were shooting, shelling and torturing civilians. The government blames “armed gangs” and “terrorists” and invokes the spectre of Islamist insurgents, just as Gaddafi’s henchmen did. And like them, they see western-backed conspiracies. They talk of a media war in which Arab and western satellite TV stations broadcast “lies” and “fabricated videos.”

“Do you really think that we would accept torture?” I was asked by a seemingly incredulous Bouthaina Shaaban — presidential adviser and senior government minister — when I challenged her on the persistent allegations, most recently documented in great detail by the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent Commission of Inquiry. “Syria has no policy of torture whatsoever,” she said. “We do not have Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib. That is absolutely unacceptable by us. Absolutely unacceptable.” Every government minister complained of the outside world’s anti-Syrian agenda, which overlooked the barbarous excesses of “armed gangs” that, they claimed, had tortured, killed and often dismembered 1,400 Syrian soldiers.

Syria is party to the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture. This convention defines “torture” as any act which intentionally inflicts severe pain or suffering, physical or mental, with the intention of obtaining information, a confession or punishing an individual for something he or someone else has committed or is suspected of committing.

“It’s rampant,” says Nadim Houry, the Beirut-based deputy director of Human Rights Watch for the Middle East and North Africa, who has taken testimony on hundreds of cases of torture from Syria, “and, the odds are, if you’re detained, you will be ill treated and most likely tortured. We know of at least 105 cases of people who were returned from the custody of security services in body bags to their loved ones … and those are only the ones that we know of.” Mr Houry says he has evidence that tens of thousands of Syrians have been arbitrarily detained over the months.

“But we have also documented what I would call “meaningless torture” — if there is ever such a thing. They’ve got all the information but they want to teach you a lesson. I think that lesson is “you need to fear us”. And the striking thing that I’ve seen is that despite that torture, people are no longer afraid. The wall of fear has been broken.”

A short drive from the frontier, along hair-pinned mountain roads, past Lebanese checkpoints where friendly soldiers shiver, is a Syrian safe-house. There is no electricity. The place is crammed with refugees; there are children sleeping everywhere. In an upstairs room, next to a small wood-burner, a weathered former tractor driver from Tal Kalakh — who is in his 50s — winces as pains shoot through his battered body, lying on a mattress on the concrete floor. He manoeuvres himself on to a pile of pillows and lights a cigarette. He’s relieved to have escaped to Lebanon but he’s already yearning to go home. He can’t though. His right leg is now gangrenous below the knee; he can barely move. So far he’s had only basic medical treatment.

Before sunrise one morning, he told me, as troops laid siege to his town, he’d been shot twice by “shabiha”, pro-al-Assad militia. Unable to run, he had been rounded up, thrashed and driven down the road to nearby Homs with many other detainees, being beaten all the way. For the next few weeks, his bullet wounds were left to fester, he says, while he was subjected to torture so extreme that his accounts of what had happened to him left those of us who listened stunned and feeling sick. During his time in detention, he had been passed, he claimed, to five different branches of al-Assad’s sadistic secret police, the Mukhabarat.

In flickering candle-light, he told me in gruesome detail of beatings he’d received with batons and electric cables on the soles of his feet (a technique called “falaka”). He had been hung by his knees, immobilised inside a twisting rubber tyre, itself suspended from the ceiling. He had been shackled hand and foot and hung upside down for hours — the Mukhabarat’s notorious “flying carpet”. Then hung up by his wrists (“the ghost”), and whipped and tormented with electric cattle prods.

When he wasn’t being tortured, he had been crammed into cells with up to 80 people, without room to sit or sleep, he claimed. They stood hungry, naked and frightened in darkness, in their filth, unfed, unwashed. He recalled the stench and listening to the screams of others echoing through their sordid dungeon. He told of being thrown rotting food. And of the sobbing of the children.

“I saw at least 200 children — some as young as 10,” he said. “And there were old men in their 80s. I watched one having his teeth pulled out by pliers.” In Syria’s torture chambers, age is of no consequence, it seems. But for civilians who have risen up against al-Assad, it has been the torture — and death in custody — of children that has caused particular revulsion.

The tractor driver told of regular interrogations, of forced confessions (for crimes he never knew he had committed); he spoke of knives and other people’s severed fingers, of pliers and ropes and wires, of boiling water, cigarette burns and finger nails extracted — and worse: electric drills. There had been sexual abuse, he said, but that was all he said of that.

Having finished in one place, he’d been transferred to yet another branch of the Mukhabarat and his nightmare would start all over again. And as the beatings went on day in, day out, his legs and the soles of his feet became raw and infected. That was when they forced him to “walk on rocks of salt”. He told me, speaking clearly, slowly: “When you are bleeding and the salt comes into your flesh, it hurts a lot more than the beating. I was forced to walk round and round to feel more pain.”

He lit another cigarette, then said: “Although we are suffering from torture, we are not afraid any more. There is no fear. We used to fear the regime, but there is no place for fear now.” If the intention of torture is to terrorise, it has in recent months had the opposite effect. Each act of brutality has served, it seems, to reinforce the growing sense of outrage and injustice and has triggered ever more widespread insurrection.

I met other survivors in other safe houses and each account corroborated the other. A pharmacist, abducted by militia from a hospital to which he’d been taken after being shot. His experience of torture was every bit as bad as that of the tractor driver. The 16-year-old boy, beaten, electrocuted to the point he thought he would die, then threatened with execution. He was now having trouble sleeping.

Another man, placed in what he called “the electric coffin” — in which a detainee is forced to lie inside a wooden box, across two metal plates through which they pass a current. The 73-year-old man was mercilessly whipped, electrocuted and beaten because of his son’s known opposition activities abroad. He talked of hundreds of detainees pushed into cells, humiliated and naked. Another torture refugee told of a device they called “the German chair”, so named, apparently, because it was devised by the Stasi. In it, a detainee is bent backwards until he feels his spine will snap.

What emerged was a pattern of systematic brutality, a revolving door of terror through which thousands of people have passed in recent months. This is Syria’s torture machine. It is torture on an industrial scale.

While in Syria, we lived in a bubble, seeing nothing of the extreme brutality and killing for which the Syrian regime is so notorious. We were taken to mass rallies, where thousands of frenzied supporters kissed portraits of al-Assad for our cameras and chanted slogans in defiance of Arab League sanctions.

For two days we were not granted filming permits — and it’s probably no coincidence that one of those days was a Friday, the day on which hundreds of anti-government demonstrations are guaranteed to break out right across the country after midday prayers. One day, while we were legally filming on a street, our government minder — despite wielding official documents embossed with Ministry of Information double-headed eagles — was arrested by angry Mukhabarat agents. We never found out why this particular location was so sensitive. Our minder returned, visibly shaken, 15 minutes later. “We cannot film here,” he said. “Let’s go.”

Despite daily requests, we were refused access to cities such as Homs and Hama whose residents were posting videos on YouTube showing tanks firing at random into civilian areas. When we were finally taken to Dara’a, the southern city that had been the cradle of this insurrection, we travelled in the presence of four government minders and, when we attempted to talk to anyone, we found ourselves surrounded by Mukhabarat who instructed our interviewees to tell us everything was normal. It was very claustrophobic.

Despite this, an astonishing number of Syrian people did approach us, subtly — and often quaking — to tell us that all was not as it appeared, that they detested the regime and that there were thousands out there like them. One man touched my arm as I stood in the midst of a mass rally in downtown Damascus, completely surrounded by the ranting and raging regime-faithful. As I looked round, he caught my eye and simply uttered the word “Bashar” as he drew his index finger across his throat, before melting into the loyalist crowd. If he’d been spotted he might as well have signed his own death warrant.

A road snakes up the barren rock of Mount Qasioun which overlooks Damascus and on a clear day, from 1,000m up, there’s a magnificent panoramic view across the capital. From this vantage point, if you know what you’re looking for, it is possible to pick out at least seven locations where you can say with a good degree of certainty that people are being tortured at any single moment. The thought spoils the view.

Each of the four main pillars of the Mukhabarat — military intelligence, air force intelligence, the political security directorate and the general security directorate — has its headquarters in the city. And each has sub-branches: general security has three — including the feared Palestine branch — and military intelligence has several, among them the notorious Branch 235. No one seems to know what the number means. Each of these agencies is an empire inside an empire, with bureaux the length and breadth of Syria. Since the revolt started, detention facilities have not been confined to known intelligence buildings; the Mukhabarat have used stadiums and football fields in several cities to detain and torture suspects. In smaller towns and villages, market squares suffice. The four main intelligence agencies are thought to be directly under the control of the president.

While al-Assad increasingly faces armed insurrection from those weary of life in his Big Brother world, the most potent weapon in opposition hands is the mobile phone. Grainy footage of violent acts of repression — and of those tortured and killed by the regime — has been uploaded and rebroadcast to a global audience of millions.

These videos make distressing viewing. In one, a mother is seen weeping over the body of her 27-year-old son who has been delivered home, dead, after a week in detention. He has marks and bruises all over his body and there is a bullet wound. “May Allah take revenge against all tyrants,” the woman wails. “On each and every unjust person, Bashar and his aides, my God, may You take revenge on him.”

Such footage has caused irreparable damage to al-Assad’s regime. But the government ministers I spoke to about these videos roundly dismiss them as faked or filmed somewhere else at another time. If verified, however, such footage would present important evidence of the crimes the regime now stands accused of by the UN Human Rights Council Inquiry. The sheer volume of such material — upwards of 30,000 videos have now been posted on the internet by Syrian opposition activists — spurred Channel 4 to commission a documentary investigation.

We employed a team of experts to forensically examine video footage, subjecting it to a strict verification protocol. We have independently checked, when possible, the sources of the material, looked for time-specific clues, then examined location details with Syrians from those places. Specific incidents have been cross-checked and corroborated by independent sources. Exiled former members of the Syrian security forces have checked vehicles, uniforms and military insignia. A growing number of these videos show soldiers actually committing acts of torture, openly filming each other. It’s chilling: not one of them appears to be worried about being identified.

Accents have been carefully listened to. And the records of those uploading video have been examined for consistency and reliability. We sought the advice of a specialist doctor from the charity Freedom from Torture. We employed a forensic pathologist, Professor Derrick Pounder, to examine grim video evidence of those whose relatives allege were killed under torture.

The result is a grotesque compendium of verified video material which we believe to present irrefutable prima facie evidence of crimes against humanity.

Talking me through this material, Pounder said the videos show “compelling evidence of crude physical violence, strangulation, homicide, shootings and general assaults. There is a very distinctive pattern of … physical violence in an extreme form,” he said. “It would suggest that what was happening was happening on a wide scale and it would suggest that what was happening was carried out with impunity … There is no consequence for them even if there is clear evidence of an assault.” So much for the UN Convention Against Torture.

One evening, when I was interviewing torture victims in a Syrian safe house in Lebanon, there was a great commotion. A Syrian army defector, who had commanded resistance in the district of Baba Amr in Homs — the city Syrians have dubbed “Capital of the Revolution” — was being carried into the safe-house by four men. He had been shot nine times and had somehow survived, but he was in terrible pain. He had recently been smuggled into Lebanon from Tal Kalakh.

The next morning, he was well enough to talk briefly. It was my first encounter with a former member of the Syrian security forces. He told me that mass detention and severe torture were commonplace. “When the army carries out a detention campaign,” he said, “they start to torture the detainee until the security services arrive. They then take him to the military security branch, which is like a human slaughter house. Most of the people taken there alive are discharged dead.”

While a platoon commander in the army he had accompanied officers in house-to-house searches for wanted men in Homs, he said. “When they don’t find their target, they either rape the women, or kill the children.” He named the officers in charge and his commanding officer. They were all Allawites, he said — members of the prominent Syrian Shia sect to which the president belongs. When they had failed to find one man on their wanted list, he claimed, they had taken his son, beheaded him and hung his head above the door of the family home. He related this account in a faltering manner as though struggling to find the words, and as he did so, tears rolled down his face. But he was so badly wounded, he couldn’t wipe the tears away. This, he told me, was what had prompted his defection.

I told him that the UN had just raised its estimated death count to 4,000 civilians killed since March. (This week they raised that to 5,000.) He looked at me in disbelief. He said the number was much higher. After four decades of al-Assad rule, one man is held accountable for this bloody-thirsty repression: the army’s commander-in-chief and the head of Syrian Intelligence — the president of the republic himself. And if al-Assad was to attempt to stop all this, could he, I asked Nadim Houry. “I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “But I do know that he never tried to stop it.”

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

33 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Mohammed Afjal Ali wrote:

    Thanks Andy

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Iffit Qureshi wrote:


  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Ann Alexander wrote:

    Thanks Andy. Programme starts any minute now.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Khateeba Chechi wrote:

    unbelievable how a human being can be so cruel to another

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Absolutely horrible. Thank you for caring. Too many people regard torture as some sort of bulwark against something worse. But there is nothing worse than to live in a society that condones torture.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Mohammed Afjal Ali wrote:

    I just watched the first part and feel disgusted and furious. What the Assad regime is doing to the Syrians is far worse than what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians. What is the world waiting for? Oil to be discovered in Syria?????? The Arab league Muppets need to be locked up. And why has Erdogen gone quiet? I say let the Turkish army go in to Syria and crush Assads men.. But then someone would need to crush Hizbollah and Iran in Syria hmmmmmm

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Rosie Much wrote:

    A culture that condones torture ignores not just national legislation but a global law – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It doesn’t get any bigger than that which ever country, who ever the people involved.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Mark Harris wrote:

    Ever seen a dungeon in a English castle? Trust me we were as bad.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Mohammed, I tend to think it’s better that there is no oil to draw in the West and their cynical opportunism and casual collateral damage, but it does seem to mean that this is likely to be a long and bloody low-level civil war, as opponents of the regime steadily respond to the persistent horrors and oppression by taking up arms.

    Rosie, thanks. The UDHR is certainly an aspirational guideline for anyone wishing to live better than their basest urges, but the true anchor for the respect of human rights is supposed to be the UN Convention Against Torture, and, specifically, its incorporation into a country’s domestic laws. Al-Assad could always claim, though, that he’s only following George W. Bush’s lead.

    And Mark, yes, but that’s not exactly contemporary, is it? More relevant, and troubling, is that we continue to allow others to use their own medieval torture dungeons — in Pakistan and elsewhere — on British citizens to secure what we ill-advisedly refer to as “evidence,” all the while pretending that the UN Convention Against Torture is flexible, when it isn’t.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    A truly disturbing programme…
    “There is something wrong with a regime that requires a pyramid of corpses every few years.”
    –George Orwell.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Mark Harris wrote:

    I agree Andy, and I loved your book about Stonehenge and free festivals. England has a bloody past thats all Im saying.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, truly disgusting, Carol. It wasn’t part of this programme, but elsewhere it’s been established that, at protests on Fridays throughout the country, government forces regularly shoot and kill a few dozen protestors – almost as though that’s the particular price for a public protest. I am humbled by the commitment of people prepared to rise up on that basis.

    And Mark, yes, I knew you were only making a point about England’s bloody past, which is of course relevant. Another take I would have on that is that it’s sad that we support dictators who behave like we behaved in our own countries hundreds of years ago.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Horrific… Good article Andy as always and have been following film footage of Homs and other parts of Syria posted daily on Fouzi Slisli’s wall too… enlightening…

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the tip, Carol. Fouzi and I are friends on Facebook, but I hadn’t seen the videos. I have no idea how Facebook decides what it wants me to see — or not see.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Strange!!! or not so strange…

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Actually, I can see that much of what I get “fed” by Facebook is what’s popular and being discussed amongst all the people I “know,” so sometimes that’s Palestine, sometimes it’s other topics of political significance — and sometimes it’s bumper stickers and funny photos. But I also miss a lot, and there’s certainly no transparency about what’s being chosen and how …

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Yes… the way its processed changed a few months back I think… I now have to search more whereas before posts came automatically …and if we have not interacted with certain friends for a couple of weeks, we don’t seem to get that friend’s posts as we used to…

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    I think less people are finding my work as a result, which is disappointing.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Star Dust wrote:

    Since I am from a country that has spent the better part of the last decade committing the sins of torture on “enemy combatants” (a political newspeak for free men, women and children sold into bondage to the CIA and military to show they are “keeping us safe”), I am as appalled as anyone that there are those who would consider this the appropriate way to treat any living creature, I can be incensed about Syria but until the US stops lying and becomes accountable, I cannot, in good conscience, condemn anyone else. The US has no leg to stand on nor does her people if they do not stand and scream from the rooftops.
    And now it appears the detention of anyone regardless of nationality or guilt is legal in this nation claiming to be “democratic”. I am livid…Syria has a history of this type of treatment…The US has a history of denial.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Zeke Smith wrote:

    no torture. anywhere, any time.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Sadly Andy, you are probably right.. Star Dust I agree totally with your comments on US which has repeated violated human rights on its own soil and suported other regimes that torture while presenting itself to the world as a country that upholds human rights… but hopefully this last year of revolution will have opened a few more eyes…

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Star Dust. You make very powerful points about the US. And Zeke, I agree absolutely — and your comments capture the essence of Article 2.2 of the UN Convention Against Torture, the one that must one day be used to prosecute senor Bush administration officials and lawyers — “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
    And thanks again, Carol. Let’s hope that 2012 opens many more eyes!

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Saleh Mamon wrote:

    Thanks, Andy. The situation in two other countries worry me – Bahrain and Yemen. I have noticed that there are very few reports in the media on these countries. Is geo-politics at work here? Khalifa met Cameron recently in London – apart from sharp criticism there was little of how doctors and nurses were tortured. There have also been killings of civilians in Yemen by government forces and these have yet to be counted. Apparently, a deal was done with GCC which has given Saleh immunity and this was accepted by the UNSC. I found this shocking example of double standards.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Saleh Mamon wrote:

    Thanks, Carol. Critical threats is founded by the American Enterprise Institute. It looks at the entire region through the lens of securitisation. We can hardly expect any unbiased, critical political analysis from it about the movements of people against the state and the current situation.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Saleh and Carol. There was good coverage of Bahrain and Yemen earlier tis year, Saleh — although I never managed to find the time to comment myself.
    Obviously, Saudi involvement in Bahrain played a major part in muting responses to the horrors of what took place in that particular region, and with Yemen, many in the West very obviously preferred a “devil you know” response to President Saleh, as they fear — disproportionately, it seems to me — the influence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson ‎wrote:

    Saleh… I understand what you are saying but I still find it is useful to read all sides even if its just to see what the next move will be from US… in my own research I had to read papers from those who were responsible for deaths of two of my family… naturally I was in opposition to their thought but it gave me greater understanding of their tactics…

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, good point, Carol.

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Saleh Mamon wrote:

    Thanks Andy and Carol. I appreciate your position, Carol. My point was that there is a very selective coverage by the main stream media on the Middle East. This makes me doubt the agenda that sets the news and the discourse. I also agree that we should read all sides but we are not getting news from all sides in the mainstream that shapes public opinion. All the big media corporates in some way or another are serving our governments’ foreign policy agenda.

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s also a very good point, Saleh. Actually, I find it quite disturbing how there are so many agendas regarding what has happened in the Middle East over the last year — both on the right and the left.

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Yes agree with you both…and it takes time to dig out a good mix of representations from all sides… and thats where the indie press often comes into its own… Of course then there is sometimes a price to pay for going against the grain and against mainstream press and official government set agendas such as the torture and murder of my dear colleague indie journalist Saleem Shahzad earlier this year in Pakistan…

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Carol. Yes, the bravery of those prepared to risk their lives to tell the truth is a hugely important part of the pursuit of freedom, and something we can take for granted in the West if we’re not careful. The murder of your friend is a case in point, sadly.

  33. Syria’s Torture Machine – Bashar al-Assad | Collateral Damage says...

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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Abu Zubaydah Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington British prisoners Center for Constitutional Rights CIA torture prisons Close Guantanamo Donald Trump Four Fathers Guantanamo Housing crisis Hunger strikes London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Periodic Review Boards Photos President Obama Reprieve Shaker Aamer The Four Fathers Torture UK austerity UK protest US courts Video We Stand With Shaker WikiLeaks Yemenis in Guantanamo