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The search for truth in the rubble of Douma

category mashriq / arabia / iraq | imperialism / war | non-anarchist press author Dienstag April 24, 2018 19:13author by Robert Fisk - The Independent Report this post to the editors

-and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack

Exclusive: Robert Fisk visits the Syria clinic at the centre of a global crisis

This is the story of a town called Douma, a ravaged, stinking place of smashed apartment blocks – and of an underground clinic whose images of suffering allowed three of the Western world’s most powerful nations to bomb Syria last week. There’s even a friendly doctor in a green coat who, when I track him down in the very same clinic, cheerfully tells me that the “gas” videotape which horrified the world – despite all the doubters – is perfectly genuine.

War stories, however, have a habit of growing darker. For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.

As Dr Assim Rahaibani announces this extraordinary conclusion, it is worth observing that he is by his own admission not an eyewitness himself and, as he speaks good English, he refers twice to the jihadi gunmen of Jaish el-Islam [the Army of Islam] in Douma as “terrorists” – the regime’s word for their enemies, and a term used by many people across Syria. Am I hearing this right? Which version of events are we to believe?

By bad luck, too, the doctors who were on duty that night on 7 April were all in Damascus giving evidence to a chemical weapons enquiry, which will be attempting to provide a definitive answer to that question in the coming weeks.

France, meanwhile, has said it has “proof” chemical weapons were used, and US media have quoted sources saying urine and blood tests showed this too. The WHO has said its partners on the ground treated 500 patients “exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals”.

At the same time, inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are currently blocked from coming here to the site of the alleged gas attack themselves, ostensibly because they lacked the correct UN permits.

Before we go any further, readers should be aware that this is not the only story in Douma. There are the many people I talked to amid the ruins of the town who said they had “never believed in” gas stories – which were usually put about, they claimed, by the armed Islamist groups. These particular jihadis survived under a blizzard of shellfire by living in other’s people’s homes and in vast, wide tunnels with underground roads carved through the living rock by prisoners with pick-axes on three levels beneath the town. I walked through three of them yesterday, vast corridors of living rock which still contained Russian – yes, Russian – rockets and burned-out cars.

So the story of Douma is thus not just a story of gas – or no gas, as the case may be. It’s about thousands of people who did not opt for evacuation from Douma on buses that left last week, alongside the gunmen with whom they had to live like troglodytes for months in order to survive. I walked across this town quite freely yesterday without soldier, policeman or minder to haunt my footsteps, just two Syrian friends, a camera and a notebook. I sometimes had to clamber across 20-foot-high ramparts, up and down almost sheer walls of earth. Happy to see foreigners among them, happier still that the siege is finally over, they are mostly smiling; those whose faces you can see, of course, because a surprising number of Douma’s women wear full-length black hijab.

I first drove into Douma as part of an escorted convoy of journalists. But once a boring general had announced outside a wrecked council house “I have no information” – that most helpful rubbish-dump of Arab officialdom – I just walked away. Several other reporters, mostly Syrian, did the same. Even a group of Russian journalists – all in military attire – drifted off.

It was a short walk to Dr Rahaibani. From the door of his subterranean clinic – “Point 200”, it is called, in the weird geology of this partly-underground city – is a corridor leading downhill where he showed me his lowly hospital and the few beds where a small girl was crying as nurses treated a cut above her eye.

“I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”

Oddly, after chatting to more than 20 people, I couldn’t find one who showed the slightest interest in Douma’s role in bringing about the Western air attacks. Two actually told me they didn’t know about the connection.

But it was a strange world I walked into. Two men, Hussam and Nazir Abu Aishe, said they were unaware how many people had been killed in Douma, although the latter admitted he had a cousin “executed by Jaish el-Islam [the Army of Islam] for allegedly being “close to the regime”. They shrugged when I asked about the 43 people said to have died in the infamous Douma attack.

The White Helmets – the medical first responders already legendary in the West but with some interesting corners to their own story – played a familiar role during the battles. They are partly funded by the Foreign Office and most of the local offices were staffed by Douma men. I found their wrecked offices not far from Dr Rahaibani’s clinic. A gas mask had been left outside a food container with one eye-piece pierced and a pile of dirty military camouflage uniforms lay inside one room. Planted, I asked myself? I doubt it. The place was heaped with capsules, broken medical equipment and files, bedding and mattresses.

Of course we must hear their side of the story, but it will not happen here: a woman told us that every member of the White Helmets in Douma abandoned their main headquarters and chose to take the government-organised and Russian-protected buses to the rebel province of Idlib with the armed groups when the final truce was agreed.

There were food stalls open and a patrol of Russian military policemen – a now optional extra for every Syrian ceasefire – and no-one had even bothered to storm into the forbidding Islamist prison near Martyr’s Square where victims were supposedly beheaded in the basements. The town’s complement of Syrian interior ministry civilian police – who eerily wear military clothes – are watched over by the Russians who may or may not be watched by the civilians. Again, my earnest questions about gas were met with what seemed genuine perplexity.

How could it be that Douma refugees who had reached camps in Turkey were already describing a gas attack which no-one in Douma today seemed to recall? It did occur to me, once I was walking for more than a mile through these wretched prisoner-groined tunnels, that the citizens of Douma lived so isolated from each other for so long that “news” in our sense of the word simply had no meaning to them. Syria doesn’t cut it as Jeffersonian democracy – as I cynically like to tell my Arab colleagues – and it is indeed a ruthless dictatorship, but that couldn’t cow these people, happy to see foreigners among them, from reacting with a few words of truth. So what were they telling me?

They talked about the Islamists under whom they had lived. They talked about how the armed groups had stolen civilian homes to avoid the Syrian government and Russian bombing. The Jaish el-Islam had burned their offices before they left, but the massive buildings inside the security zones they created had almost all been sandwiched to the ground by air strikes. A Syrian colonel I came across behind one of these buildings asked if I wanted to see how deep the tunnels were. I stopped after well over a mile when he cryptically observed that “this tunnel might reach as far as Britain”. Ah yes, Ms May, I remembered, whose air strikes had been so intimately connected to this place of tunnels and dust. And gas?

Verwandter Link: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-chemical-attack-gas-douma-robert-fisk-ghouta-damascus-a8307726.html
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Mashriq / Arabia / Iraq | Imperialism / War | en

Di 26 Jan, 19:39

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2644.jpg imageWe condemn the Turkish state attack and invasion of the Iraqi Kurdistan 22:46 Do 25 Jun by Kurdish-speaking Libertarians 0 comments

The support and solidarity with innocent people can be done in different ways. It can be through launching complaints, expressing anger and frustration, protests, and demonstrations. The best kind of support and solidarity is boycotting all the goods that are made in Turkey and by Turkish companies wherever they are. Boycotting its media, universities, language colleges and stopping holiday bookings to Turkey. While Turkey has got so many interests in Iraqi Kurdistan the boycott is very effective. Turkey has hundreds of companies plus colleges, shops, factories there, and it is the main country for Kurdish holiday makers. In short Iraqi Kurdistan is one of the main market for the Turkish capitalists and the others. Boycotting Turkey and the Turkish goods can also put pressure on the Kurdistan Reginal Government, KRG, Iraq and the foreign companies to meet people’s demand.

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whatsappimage20200229at16.33.jpeg imageDAF's statement on Syria War and Refugee Crisis of the State 17:22 Di 03 Mär by DAF 0 comments

The long-awaited developments began to happen In Idlib where is the last point of the war and also the last point of the djihadist gangs supported by TAF were stucked. The troops of the TAF were attacked by aerial strike on the night of 27 February to 28 -shortly before the “ultimatum” that T.C gave to the Syrian Army to withdraw from the places it took in Idlip- According to official figures, 34 soldiers died as a result of this airstrike, It was carried out by Syria according to T.C sources.

boycottturkey1024x551.png imageOur solidarity outside of Turkey and Syria is continual boycott of the Turkish Products and Tourism 19:16 Di 22 Okt by KAF 0 comments

We are against the war, but we support and defending people against the attacks that they face. We offer our solidarity towards those facing invasion and repression.

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There is no doubt ignoring the experiences of history will lead to the same experiences being repeated. What is happening at the moment in Rojava proves this statement.

turkeyinvadesafrin_jan2018_1.jpg imageSolidarity for Afrin and Rojava against the Turkey State 23:58 Di 30 Jan by KAF 3 comments

No to war, No to dictators and States, No to corporations, No to religions, No to nationalism!

Dear Anarchist Comrades wherever you are,
We, anarchists stress that we are against war, against military attacks and militias. We are strongly against killing civilians and launching attacks against villages, towns and cities killing innocent people discriminating and destroying their places.

df0c1da5b22e4a8fbe74d256ebb68e2a.jpg imageStates at War with Peoples will Lose 09:23 Mi 24 Jan by Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet 0 comments

Afrin belongs to the peoples of Afrin. Peoples living in Afrin were born in these lands and died in these lands. Living there is not related to any plans or programs. They are not in Afrin as part of a strategy. Afrin, for them is water, bread, food, play, stories, friends, mates, lovers, streets, homes, neighborhoods. But for the state, it is only a strategy. A strategy that does not care about Afrin or the peoples of Afrin. [Türkçe] [Castellano] [Ελληνικά] [Français] [Italiano]

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Leaflet distributed today at a rally and march in Melbourne in solidarity to the Kurdish struggle.

rojava_1.png imageInternational Libertarian-Socialist Statement in Solidarity with the Kurdish Resistance 06:36 So 19 Okt by Johnny 2 comments

For some years now the Kurdish movement has been moving in the direction of libertarian ideas. While not an anarchist movement, this move is a sign that anarchist ideas of freedom and equality through solidarity, our ideas of horizontality and radical direct democracy and our radical critique against the State are not only valid and strong, but are also necessary for movements in order to break away from the authoritarian legacy within the left. It is our duty to express our solidarity with Rojava and the Kurdish movement, because they represent hope in this region and because they are the oppressed fighting the oppressors. Real struggles are never perfect but they carry diverse degrees of potential to bring about a free society. Expressing our solidarity with the revolutionary movement in Rojava means we understand our role is to continue developing the core tenets of our ideas in order to inspire revolutions and revolutionaries all over the world. - Anarkismo.net Editorial Group [Italiano] [Ελληνικά] [Castellano] [Français]

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This article is a brief analysing of the future of Rojava in Syria in Line with the attack of Assad’s forces on Idlib’s Province . The battle of Idlib can be a crucial one for all sides who are involve especially for the regime and the Kurdish in Rojava . There are few scenarios that the Kurdish forces there and its self rule administration are facing . There is also a strong possibility after this battle the Kurdish question there can be on the top of Assad and Russia’s agenda to be resolved either way.

imageRojava: The betrayal of a Revolution Jun 15 by Mandy Moussouris 0 comments

The ongoing war in the Middle East, the Arab Spring followed by what seems to be a winter of war that rivals Game of Thrones has seen the death of many a revolutionary and many a revolutionary dream. Within this ongoing war are stories of struggle against tyranny, struggles by ordinary people to gain some sort of control over their lives as they get buffeted between superpowers and ideologies fuelled by greed and underlying neoliberal capitalism. The struggle of the Kurdish people of Rojava is one such story. It is not a new one and it is not a perfect one. It is a story of courage and inspiration, of brave women and men, of complexity and of huge challenges. It is a story of our age, where competing geo-political powers fuel wars in other lands and on other people to further their own interests.

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imageWe condemn the Turkish state attack and invasion of the Iraqi Kurdistan Jun 25 0 comments

The support and solidarity with innocent people can be done in different ways. It can be through launching complaints, expressing anger and frustration, protests, and demonstrations. The best kind of support and solidarity is boycotting all the goods that are made in Turkey and by Turkish companies wherever they are. Boycotting its media, universities, language colleges and stopping holiday bookings to Turkey. While Turkey has got so many interests in Iraqi Kurdistan the boycott is very effective. Turkey has hundreds of companies plus colleges, shops, factories there, and it is the main country for Kurdish holiday makers. In short Iraqi Kurdistan is one of the main market for the Turkish capitalists and the others. Boycotting Turkey and the Turkish goods can also put pressure on the Kurdistan Reginal Government, KRG, Iraq and the foreign companies to meet people’s demand.

imageSolidarity with Rojava facing war and a global pandemic! Apr 18 0 comments

COVID-19, which has quarantined an innumerable number of cities and has paralyzed entire economic sectors, has not yet stopped the continuous dirty war by Turkey and its ally Daesh against the people of the northern region of Syria, who have had to continue to defend themselves without any truce.

imageDAF's statement on Syria War and Refugee Crisis of the State Mär 03 DAF-Revolutionary Anarchist Action 0 comments

The long-awaited developments began to happen In Idlib where is the last point of the war and also the last point of the djihadist gangs supported by TAF were stucked. The troops of the TAF were attacked by aerial strike on the night of 27 February to 28 -shortly before the “ultimatum” that T.C gave to the Syrian Army to withdraw from the places it took in Idlip- According to official figures, 34 soldiers died as a result of this airstrike, It was carried out by Syria according to T.C sources.

imageOur solidarity outside of Turkey and Syria is continual boycott of the Turkish Products and Tourism Okt 22 Kurdish-speaking Anarchists Forum & Libertarians Dialogue Group 0 comments

We are against the war, but we support and defending people against the attacks that they face. We offer our solidarity towards those facing invasion and repression.

imageSolidarity With People In Rojava, Denouncing Turkish State And United States Allies Okt 11 Kurdish-speaking Anarchists Forum 0 comments


There is no doubt ignoring the experiences of history will lead to the same experiences being repeated. What is happening at the moment in Rojava proves this statement.

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