We had the honor to interview Eva Karene Bartlett. She is well known independent writer and rights activist with extensive experience in Syria and in the Gaza Strip, where she lived a cumulative three years (from late 2008 to early 2013). She documented the 2008/9 and 2012 Israeli war crimes and attacks on Gaza while riding in ambulances and reporting from hospitals.
Since April 2014, she has visited Syria 6 times, including two months in summer 2016 and once month in Oct/Nov 2016. Her early visits included interviewing residents of the Old City of Homs, which had just been secured from militants, and visiting historic Maaloula after the Aramaic village had been liberated of militants. In December 2015, Eva returned to old Homs to find life returning, small shops opened, some of the damaged historic churches holding worship anew, and citizens preparing to celebrate Christmas once again.
On her 5th visit in June-August 2016, she went twice to Aleppo, also visiting Palmyra, Masyaf, Jableh, Tartous, and Barzeh district of Damascus, as well as returning again to Maaloula and Latakia. On her sixth visit to Syria, in October and November, she visited Aleppo twice more, as well as areas around Damascus. The testimonies Eva gathered in Aleppo starkly contrasted narratives corporate media had been asserting. Many of her published Syria writings, videos, photos can be found at this link: https://ingaza.wordpress.com/syria/.
GLOBAL CIR: You come from Canada, a country which is in relation to the US a symbol peacefulness and regulated country. What was the decisive influence for you to begin with the social activism and independent journalism in the most turbulent and bloodiest part of the world, the Middle East?
Actually, while Canada is portrayed as a benevolent and peaceful country, not many people realize the extent to which Canada has: supported the Zionists’ ethnic cleansing of Palestinians while also turning a blind eye to the murder of Palestinians; taken part in the NATO alliance war on Syria; sold weapons to the despotic Saudi regime (latest deal: US$11 billion), including anti-tank cannons and combat vehicles with machine guns; and ethnically-cleansed and slaughtered the indigenous people.
With regard to Canada’s role in the war on Syria, it includes imposing criminal and crippling sanctions on Syria; supporting and funding (millions of dollars) the so-called armed ‘opposition’ in Syria and their propagandists; closing Syrian embassies in Canada; demonizing the legitimate Syrian government and Syrian army; and legitimizing the illegitimate, Saudi-backed, so-called ‘Syrian National Council’.
Growing up in Canada, I was completely ignorant to world politics. In my late twenties I started to become aware of some of the most basic continuing atrocities, like the Zionist colonization of Palestine, and was moved to learn more first-hand. I did so as a solidarity activist and volunteer in occupied Palestine, seeing over a period of six years some of the worst crimes by Zionist soldiers and colonists against Palestinian civilians, including children.
When the criminal war on Syria physically began in early 2011, I was equally ignorant about that country, and was at that time living in the Gaza Strip. However, very quickly I became suspicious of what corporate media was alleging was happening in Syria, and began researching via independent sources, ultimately going to the country to see for myself.
I used to think that Palestine was one of the most difficult issues to talk about, with so much media distortion and whitewashing in the favour of Israel. However, I now believe that getting the truth out on Syria is one of the most difficult things to do, as nearly all in the Western world, as well as the Gulf states and all corporate media, have conspired to lie about events in Syria and about the will of the Syrian people.
Canadian state and corporate media is as guilty of war propaganda as American, British, and Gulf media. Canada’s politicians and corporate media have Syrian blood on their hands.
GLOBAL CIR: In many occasions you have reported from the occupied Gaza Strip, then from war-torn Syria, where do you get the courage for such ventures?
The true courage lies with the people of Palestine and Syria (and Yemen, among others), facing a continued, Western-facilitated hell which most people could not endure. Regarding the courage of those who go to areas being ravaged by NATO, the Zionists and their Gulf and Turkish allies, it comes out of necessity: there are far too many cowardly journalists who lie and propagandize to further their career, and far too few who choose to do the right thing and stand against injustice.
As for my own experiences, being in dangerous areas became normal after my experiences in West Bank areas of occupied Palestine, on the ground for eight months in 2007 where I saw invasions and lockdowns of villages by the heavily-armed Israeli army, excessive brutality against truly unarmed protesters, and the unchecked violence of illegal Jewish colonists against Palestinian civilians, among other crimes.
Twice arrested there due to solidarity work, ultimately deported by the Zionists and banned from Palestine, in November 2008, I entered Gaza, by boat, traversing Palestinian waters, part of a volunteer movement to bring focus to the dire siege on Gaza. As it happened, I stayed for a cumulative three years, witnessing and documenting two major Zionist massacres of the people of Gaza, and the Zionists’ daily wars on farmers, fishers, industry and all aspects of life in Gaza.
Going to Syria was something I felt the need to do—as should any person capable of doing so—in order to see and hear directly for myself what Syrians actually have to say about the fake ‘revolution’ and the hell they have been living since its inception in 2011. As with being in Palestine under Zionist bombs and attacks, being in Syria under attacks of the NATO and allied terrorists, one doesn’t think of fear and one takes strength from the people defying these attacks and somehow continuing their beautiful traditions, living, marrying, resisting the Saudi death cultists by celebrating life even amidst war.
GLOBAL CIR: During 2012 you reported and documented the stories from Central Hospital in Gaza. What did you witness there and can a person and in what way continue to function normaly, to go to work, to laugh…? How this what you do influence your life?
In November 2012, Israel heavily bombarded all over Gaza for over one week. At that time, I was living in central Gaza and as my instinct was to document the Zionists’ war crimes, I went to the main hospital there, to document the victims and the martyrs.
By this point I had experienced the December 2008/January 2009 massacre, my first such experience. Then, I was one of around eight international solidarity activists based in Gaza, and throughout the weeks of savage bombings I was on the ground in some of the most hard-hit areas, particularly northern Gaza districts, riding in the ambulances of Palestinian medics. One ambulance I was in came under intense sniper fire while retrieving the corpse of a Palestinian civilian. Riding in the ambulances was an attempt to discourage the Israeli army from targeting medics as is their standard practise. It also enabled me to document first-hand some of the victims of Israel’s war crimes, including their using White Phosphorous on residential districts and close range point-blank shootings (see videos/images and December and January postings). After the massacre, I followed up by taking testimonies of families whose loved ones, including infants and toddlers, were point-blank shot dead by Israeli soldiers, others who were murdered or mutilated by White Phosphorous, and others whose loved ones were murdered by flechette (dart) bombs, as was a medic friend of mine.
By the time of the November 2012 massacre, I had also experienced the routine Israeli army firing on farmers, while accompanying them on their land, with bullets flying past within inches of my head and body on a routine basis. So the concept of ‘danger’ was long gone, and sadly I had become accustomed to the sight of injured and dead. However, on the last day of the bombings in 2012, two children were brought to the hospital; their stories broke my heart: within two hours before a full cease-fire was to be implemented, a 4 year old girl was brought in and died on the emergency room table. Shortly after, a 14 year old boy was brought in, also dead on arrival. The boy’s body was so mutilated by the drone strike which killed him that I sobbed as I hadn’t since 2009. Sometimes a tragedy breaks the defensive emotional wall one builds to cope with such crimes.
I believe that Palestinians continue on in spite of such horrific losses because they have no other choice. A number of them find comfort in religion. And during the hardest times, many I know were even able to find something to laugh at in their absurd, tragic situation. For myself, it is the bravery and resiliance of Palestinians, or Yemenis, Syrians, anyone in such unjust circumstances, which keeps me grounded and inspired to do whatever possible to contribute to bringing an end to their suffering.
GLOBAL CIR: How do you comment on the shameful role of the mainstream media and journalists who publish half-truths and sometimes even lies about the crisis points (areas) of Middle East?
– The corporate media has reported blatent lies and has whitewashed the crimes of Imperialists, Zionists and their allies (and especially their terrorist mercenaries) in wars on Iraq, Libya, Yemen, to name just a few. This is the nature of corporate media: to do the bidding of the media moguls and to censor any journalists who would report truthfully on critical issues. The same can be said of state-owned media in states with a vested interest in toppling the governments of the mentioned countries.
There have been some journalists who have evidenced honesty and integrity in their reporting, and others who have resigned from media like Al Jazeera for its censorship or bias in its war propaganda against Syria. Yet, many journalists shamefully play along, either to further their careers, to earn money, or in some cases out of fear of losing their position. I have seen such journalists in Syria on multiple occasions, including from the BBC, CBC, Channel 4 News, New York Times, and others. We see the same event, but they report it untruthfully or distort to such an extent (ultimately blaming the Syrian government or army) as to leave readers confused. Many such journalists also cheerled the destruction of Libya and occupation and war on Iraq. They are truly shameless journalists and opportunists.
Those (non-Syrians) telling the truth on Syria have largely been independent journalists, writers, and bloggers who are not in this for the money and who do not have to answer to censoring editors or fear being fired. In doing so, they corroborate the truths that Syrian journalists and civilians have been saying for years. Because of this, corporate media attempts to dub such reporting as ‘fake news’ and engages in character smear campaigns against some.
Realistically, the corporate media are losing their following and status, and more and more often the comments section in online reports reflects this: the online general public have become more informed and their ability to detect lies and war propaganda has become stronger, with regard to the corporate media.
GLOBAL CIR: Very often when media reports about Syria they use the „opposition“ sources from social networks and YouTube channels. How much are these sources really reliable?
-Media or NGO sources most-cited by corporate media tend to be funded by the West and—if at all in Syria—are reporting solely from areas occupied by al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists. These facts undermine their credibility. Some prime examples include the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (run by one pro-‘opposition’ man based in the UK, long-absent from Syria, and funded by Western nations warring on Syria); the Aleppo Media Centre (AMC), also funded by the West and reporting solely from areas occupied by terrorists of al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and affiliates. Examples of compromised sources who are not media or organizations include a variety of “activists” and “citizen journalists” embedded with al-Qaeda, many of whom have FB affiliations with terrorists or supporters of terrorists, none of whom are credible, balanced, or impartial.
For example, we are meant to believe as credible the photographs of photographer Mahmoud Raslan, the photographer of an almost undeniably-staged photo-op in 2016, that of the “boy in the ambulance”, Omran Daqneesh.
Raslan has emoted for Daqneesh:
“The tears started to drop as I took the photo. It is not the first time I’ve cried. I have cried many times while filming traumatised children. I always cry. We war photographers always cry. …I hope all photos of children and attacks in Syria go viral so the world knows what life is like here.”
Raslan can be found posing in a selfie with some of the Nour al-Din al-Zenki terrorists who methodically sawed off the head of a young Palestinian boy, Abdullah Issa, in mid-2016.
Incidentally, the logo of the AMC can be found on the questionable video footage of young Omran, thus implicating AMC in further war propaganda.
Other sources that many in corporate media have used include the examples of a Bana al-Abed, 7 year old girl incapable of speaking English but cited as the twitter source (formerly) for Aleppo, or an American ex-comedian-turned-jihadi supporter, Bilal Abdul Kareem, who openly calls for jihad in Syria and reports solely from al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist factions areas in Syria.
Most notoriously, we are told to believe the highly dubious accounts of the so-called “White Helmets”, a clearly-partial group of sometimes ‘rescuers’ sometimes jihadists which is obscenely-funded by the West and which operates only in al-Qaeda areas and for these terrorists and their affiliates. While some people have fallen for their transparently fake recue scenes, a great many more of the general public are awake to the fact that these supposed ‘rescuers’ are the PR front of Washington and London funders (among others) with a vested interest in destabilizing Syria and overthrowing the president.
GLOBAL CIR: How do you comment on many journalists who use such sources , and then based on them present the „truth“ about Syria even though they never been in Syria, but they personaly attack you and question your work although your reporting is based on first hand experience and testimonies directly from the ground?
-For some journalists this may be cognitive dissonence and ignorance: they’ve been brainwashed to think and ‘report’ a certain way, so citing sources endorsed by large players in the corporate media is natural for these journalists…but questioning the legitimacy, credibility and affiliations of those sources is not natural.
For other journalists, they are well-aware that their sources are partial and supporting the narrative of the West, but they have either chosen to put their career first and willfully ignore truth—at the expense of Syrian lives—or lack the moral integrity to openly question these sources.
Incidentally, it is not only journalists who cite dubious sources and slander those who actually visit Syria and speak with Syrians on the ground, but also so-called ‘academics’ and as well heads of human rights groups. In these instances, I firmly believe they are very aware of the false information of the main corporate media sources in Syria, but are deeply entrenched in the same Imperialist system that is waging war on Syria. Thus, they choose to defame those who speak honestly in favour of their paycheck or academic standing.
GLOBAL CIR: During your visits to Syria where you witnessed the suffering and destruction caused by the war, can you explain us how the Syrians view the whole war, what is their stance regarding President Bashar al-Assad and Syrian Army, and for them, what is the main cause of Syrian crisis?
-In general, I have found Syrians to be acutely-aware that what Western media describes as a “revolution” or “rebels” or even “moderates” is a farce, a creation of the West and allies. I would wager that not a single family has been untouched by the war on Syria, whether losing one or more family member due to terrorist acts, or in fighting against terrorism, and also by the Western sanctions which few in media discuss but which have crippled the war shattered economy.
In Homs, I met Syrians who had endured the occupation by militants of the Free Syrian army and al-Nusra, who stole food from civilians remaining in the Old City, assassinated the Dutch priest Father Frans van der Lugt because he wouldn’t go along with terrorists’ demands, and booby-trapped homes when finally leaving the Old City. The civilians I met rejected the notion of ‘revolution’ and praised the Syrian army for resecuring the city. The same goes for Maaloula, which I visited immediately after libearation and a year and a half later, taking testimonies of those who had suffered brutally at the hands of the West’s supposed ‘moderates’.
In Aleppo, a woman stopped me outside the residences of Aleppo University to tell me that she would not be driven out of her city and country, that foreigners are trying to do exactly that, that she resists by staying and supports her army. These sentiments I’ve heard all over Syria.
Yes, there are many that supported the idea of ‘non-violent’ protests for political change in 2011, but many of those I spoke with who initially supported them assurred me that they very quickly realized that what was occurring in early 2011 was not a ‘revolution’, and was killing their people and destroying their infrastructure. We cannot forget Israel’s role in supporting terrorists—providing them care in Israeli hospitals, even—and in bombing Syria on numerous occasions.
The overwhelming majority of Syrians support President Assad. Western polls even recognize this, and I’ve seen mass displays of support, respect and affection for him, for example during the elections while in Lebanon May 2014, in Homs a week later where citizens were still celebrating election results, and in encounters throughout the country.
Syrian people realize that the war on Syria is not about Assad, it is about outside forces taking control of the country and its resources, breaking up the Axis of Resistance, and imposing a puppet government that would be amenable to Western interests—but which would certainly not guarentee a modicum of the freedom and rights Syrians enjoyed prior to 2011. On that note, almost every single Syrian I have met in travels in the country and also in neighbouring Lebanon has told me that they wish Syria could return to how it was before 2011, when it was safe, developing, and free of the terrorists the West continues to dub ‘rebels’ and ‘moderates’.
GLOBAL CIR: In the end, how do you comment what is to us inexplicable willingness of Palestinians and Syrians to sruvive on their land in their home, to fight, to never give up despite all the misfortunes they face?
This kind of stoic resilience reflects the strength of people who are defending their land and fighting for their existence. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the overt and dirty war against Syria, and the savage Saudi ongoing massacre of Yemenis may have inflicted innumberable needless deaths and destruction, but the criminals—the Zionist, Imperialists, Sauds, Turks and allies—have not broken the spirit and will of the people to resist. Their causes are just, and they have no choice but to fight for their existence. Their attackers lack the courage and moral ground, and will eventually fail.
(Global CIR/Journalist: Amel Jasarević)