Syria: French academic rejects false media reports

Posted: January 24, 2012 in Sideviews
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Pierre Piccinin is Professor of History and political Sciences at the European School of Brussels and a known French academic person, not only because of his professional work, but also because of his private works and his blog. Already in 2011, the French academic Pierre Piccinin rejected the false media coverage of the anti-government protests within the Syrian city of Hama.

Piccinin visited the Syrian city of Hama himself and realized how about 10,000 protesters were multiplied overnight to the enormous amount of 500,000 in the reports by the news agency AFP about the situation in Syria. The French Professor Piccinin underpinned his reports about the real amount of protesters in Hama with pictures and a trustable report about his journey to Hama.

In his latest interview with the known Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Pierre Piccinin said, that he was able to witness firsthand, how armed men attacked Syrian government authorities in the Syrian cities of Hama, Homs and Damascus. He also mentioned that he saw the weakness of the so-called opposition and that the amount of pro-government demonstrations has never been broadcasted by international media.

The French academic also mentioned in these statements to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, that the real image of the situation in Syria was not reflected accurately by Arab and international media and news agencies. He also stated that these media agencies use false information for their reports. This false information is in contrast to the real situation within this country of the Middle East.

In line with other known people as e.g. Lizzie Phelan, Webster Tarpley and Thierry Meyssan, Pierre Piccinin reports about his own experiences in Syria and these reports are really in a huge contrast to the coverage by international and Arab media. This is also in contrast to the false propaganda of some Western governments. Pierre Piccinin visited Syria twice in recent months and wasn`t too afraid to visit also the Syrian cities of Hama and Homs.

In these new statements to the known Turkish newspaper, Pierre Piccinin also warned about the suspicious role of the so-called “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights”, based in London. Piccinin said that this “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” in London is the main source for false information, used to mislead the general opinion, particularly in Europe.

Pierre Piccinin is also convinced, just as Voltaire Network and others, that this false “observatory” willfully spreads false information and misleading news to mislead the general opinion in the West. He also said that this false information of the dubious “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” in London is used to brightening up the image of the questionable Syrian “opposition” outside Syria, e.g. based in Istanbul, Turkey.

Of course, this false information is also used to cover the cruelties and violence of the opposition forces (e.g. the dubious Free Syrian Army / FSA) within Syria – just by blaming everything on the Syrian government and army.

In this new statements, Piccinin also added, that this “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” is an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood. This is also in line with the latest information of e.g. Voltaire Network. Piccinin also mentioned that the most French media bases its news and analyses on the false information of this “office” of the Muslim Brotherhood, based in London.  We also know that the German and British media do love this questionable “observatory” in London.

The French Professor Pierre Piccinin talked afterwards about his visit of one of the protests in the Syrian city of Hama last summer and that the number of anti-government protesters didn`t exceed 10 thousand.

While the so-called “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights”, based in London, reported that the number reached half a million people. AFP was happy to use this false information as stated at the beginning. This false number of anti-government protesters also exceeds the total number of the inhabitants of the Syrian city Hama, but international media never cares about the real dogmas of journalism. They seem to have forgotten about it in recent years.

The Professor of History and political Sciences at the European School of Brussels, Piccinin, understandably criticized the ignorance of the media when it is about the rallies in support of the Syrian leadership and he also criticized the international media for their attempts of undermining the importance of these pro-government demonstrations all over Syria.

He said for example, that “in spite of the fact that sometimes the number of supporters, who believe in their leadership and the reforms announced, reached hundreds of thousands, satellite channels and news agencies talked about a few thousands while they exaggerate in describing the gatherings organized by the opposition”.

He also stated about his meeting with the families of murdered people and the injured students of the incident which took place at one of the university faculties in the Syrian capital Damascus.

He explained, that the victims’ friends stressed to him, that the killer was from the opposition while the dubious Observatory (in London) reversed the truth and accused the government supporters of committing the crime, indicating that the French Le Figaro newspaper published the misleading story of the Observatory as well as other French media.

The French academic added to his statements to the Turkish newspaper, that he spent a whole day with an armed group as their guest, indicating that they were 20 individuals, and that each one has certain kinds of firearms to snipe people from their hideout.

Piccinin is also convinced, considering his own experiences and the information he has, that the authorities used no force or suppression in dealing with protesters as alleged by some opposition sides, adding that no live ammunition was used except in certain circumstances, and that all that has been used was tear-gas.

He said that the Syrian government troops were strictly committed to the instructions of not using weapons against the protesters, which is in line with the statements of the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem and the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

At his conclusion, Piccinin made it clear again, that what he has read in Western newspapers over months about events in Syria was not true. The Syrian leadership is not weak as international media is reporting this. The situation within Syria is no catastrophe and in contrast to the reports of mass media.


  1. Parviziyi says:

    I am looking for feeback about the following.

    Twenty factual grounds for expecting the party of the Assad regime to win the 2012 Syrian parliamentary elections by a wide margin

    Free and fair parliamentary elections are going to take place in Syria in mid 2012 — free and fair except for a ban on religious and tribal parties. Here are twenty factual grounds for expecting the party of the Assad regime to be the clear winner in the elections. The twenty items are listed in no particular order.

    (1) Relative to the country’s whole population, the number of individuals who accepted the invitation to join anti-regime demonstrations this past year was “small” (hard number unavailable; Bashar Assad has said he accepts an estimate of 200,000).

    (2) Once the Constitutional changes announced by regime are completed, there will be no major disagreement between regime and the dissidents on the structure of the institutions of the State. On social and economic policies, the major disagreements between regime and the dissidents are restricted to sundry wings of the dissidents, and not the dissidents as a whole nor even any bare majority of the dissidents. These sundry wings are known to have only small and slim political support in Syria. The dissidents as a whole, or even any bare majority of the dissidents, do not have a program for change beyond what the Assad regime itself has declared itself in favour of implementing. The anti-regime protest movement has not created an alternative policy agenda or forward vision that throws the regime on the defensive in the upcoming election.

    (3) The protesters were predominantly from the poorly educated working class. Most of them did not have an agenda beyond wanting Bashar Al-Assad to leave, and then have elections, and get a breath of fresh air in the country of an unspecified kind. The great majority of the poorly educated working class did not join with them in the anti-regime protests. All those who did not protest are likely to follow the lead of the educated classes in the upcoming elections. The better-educated will be creating and propagating most of the discourse of the elections contest.

    (4) The more educated classes did not join the anti-regime protests. Every winning political party in every country needs substantial support from the more educated classes. In Syria right now there is only one party that has such support in substantial quantity, Assad’s party. To illustrate, one of the two key reasons why the Muslim Brotherhood party is much stronger in Egypt than in Syria is that it has attracted substantial support in the more educated classes. You know the other key reason. During 2011 the Syrian educated classes had the opportunity to come out and complain about the latter, and they didn’t take it up.

    (5) The various Syrian opposition parties that will be competing in the elections are very weak today, they are only being born, their representatives are barely known or entirely unknown to the Syrian public, and they are not attracting much interest today from the more educated classes (nor from the less educated classes). I can’t see a route by which they can make themselves a whole lot stronger by election day. Under the new Political Parties Law a handful of new parties have been registered or have submittted applications for registration (registration requires 1000 signatories distributed over multiple provinces) and the bulk of the Syrian population including the better educated population doesn’t even know the mere names of any of those new parties. The population is exhibiting very little interest in alternative political parties at the moment. Another point is that the Syrian Parliament has contained for many years, in addition to the pro-regime majority, a variety of independents and government critics, and also has some organized opposition parties, yet year after year they failed to win much popular following.

    (6) Al-Safira city located 30 kilometers southeast of Aleppo city, Al-Bab city 40 kilometers northeast of Aleppo city, and Manbij city 80 kilometers northeast of Aleppo city, each rank among the top 15 largest cities in Syria. Those three plus Aleppo city (all overwhelmingly Sunni in religion, btw) have had only very small, and only very few, anti-regime demonstrations during this past ten months. Opposition to the regime in that part of the country among the poorly educated working class is tiny. Aleppo province is Syria’s most populous province. A general lack of protests, with unimpressive exceptions, was also a fact on the ground in Damascus City, Latakia, Tartous, Sweida and Raqqa provinces. Those regional strengths on their own can be enough for the regime to win a nationwide majority, even if you’re not yet agreeing with a forecast of the regime winning almost everywhere.

    (7) Most of the Sunni religiously conservative classes did not join the anti-regime demonstrations in year 2011. Neither did the clergy; most of the Sunni clerical leadership went on record as anti-tumult and pro-civil-process. Most of the people who attended the mosque on Friday did not attend an anti-regime demonstration afterwards, not even if a demonstration was conveniently on offer to them at the doorstep. The neighborhoods in Damascus city with a high concentration of religiously conservative people had only small, and few, demonstrations over the last ten months. One of the Assad regime’s core constituencies is people who are less religious or who have a more progressive, less doctrinaire, take on religion (Sunni or other). So it is a very big and important achievement that the regime has been able to maintain its support among most of the religiously conservative. Or at least the religious conservatives consciously refused the opportunity to rebel when presented with it this past year. Perhaps many of them may vote for another party in the elections. But since most of them don’t express alienation against the regime, you shouldn’t expect them to vote en masse against the regime. Furthermore the anti-regime protesters out on the streets have been largely and essentially free of sectarian slogans and sectarian imagery for ten months, despite the fact that the great bulk of the protesters have been poorly educated Sunnis. That’s another sign that a quasi-religious or quasi-sectarian Sunni political party does not attract broad political support from Sunni hearts and minds. The comprehensive reform of the institutions of State currently being implemented by the regime includes a renewed legal ban on religious political parties. Bashar Assad said in December 2011 “no movement that acts under religious slogans and aims to split the Syrian society can hope for legalization.” Syria’s Sunni Grand Mufti, Ahmad Hassoun, has said that this renewed ban on religious political parties is harmless to religion. Not much disagreement about that can be found among Syria’s Sunnis, neither among the Establishment Sunnis nor among the protesters on the streets. The Syrian Establishment of all sects — and in particular the bulk of the better educated Sunnis — do not want to support sectarian politics; they have consciously opted to support governmental secularism as the best framework for harmony among the sects. The type of Sunnis in Syria with the sort of opinion that could create sectarianism are a disreputable minority without realistic hope of changing the minds of the rest. Intermittent concrete examples of sectarian sentiment keep popping up as popular news stories but they aren’t stories about fundamentals. Looking at fundamentals, the most important fundamental is that the sects are not in disagreement today over any important policy question, at all. You can’t have sectarian cleavage in the absence of an associated cleavage over one or more important policy questions. Especially not when sectarian parties are banned. The anti-regime protesters have been disproportionately Sunni but the great majority of Sunnis have not been anti-regime this past year in their observable behaviour. Syria’s Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa said in July 2011 that Syria is “immune to sectarianism”. President Bashar Al-Assad said in December 2011 that “a sectarian crisis was never present in Syria” in year 2011. The key reason that Syria is immune to sectarianism is that Syrian society is dominated by an Establishment that is predominantly Sunni, in both the government and private sectors, and the Establishment Sunnis do not want to support sectarian politics or Sunni chauvinism — to their great credit.

    (8) The regime makes it its business to try to be in touch with the pulse of Syrian popular sentiment. It succeeds at that effort when the popular sentiment is pretty obvious. The regime in policymaking is non-doctrinaire, and is responsive to popular sentiment. Needless to say this helps it politically.

    (9) The regime’s core agenda, modernization, is supported by almost all.

    (10) The attempt to unconstitutionally overthrow the regime has discredited swathes of dissidents in the eyes of many Syrians. It has increased political support for the regime among previously neutral people who strongly desire civil process and no violence. The resort to arms by a minority of Islamists backfired on the anti-regime protest movement as a whole. It moved the daily news cycles inside Syria away from the peaceful demands for political change and onto the fatalities and injuries of the State’s security personnel. Meanwhile, the organizers of the peaceful rebels downplayed or pretended to ignore the serious violence exercised by some of their supporters. The organizers were not vigourous enough in their calls for “peaceful, peaceful”. This estranged them to mainstream Syrian public opinion. Ongoing barbarous violence on the behalf of the ouster of the regime has weakened the democratic electability of every anti-regime faction. Most people want the political reforms that the rebels originally advocated for, but they don’t want the rebels. In the eyes of these people nowadays the regime is the champion of the reforms.

    (11) Syrians are nationalistic and the Assad regime has got a bone-crunchingly strong grip over how the nation and nationalism is defined. The definition of the nation that the Syrians are nationalistic about is the one developed and nurtured by the regime over decades. It is unchallenged and unchallengeable, and people are rallying around it at this time of stress. Nationalism sells well in national elections and no challenger can outdo the regime in selling nationalism.

    (12) Connected to the previous two points, but a little distinct from them, a section of Syrians have sentiment today that will be voting this year not so much for Assad’s party as for national unity. A vote against Assad’s party would be a vote for factionalism, discord, and recrimination, which they don’t want. For decades the Assad party has been emphasizing the value of a spirit of national unity. (Here is an example at a large pro-Assad rally in year 1998 (or 1999) where you can see a big sign over the stage that says “God Bless You O Assad. Protect the One Unity.” ). Every Syrian adult is very well acquainted with the national unity theme.

    (13) The political reception in Syria of the foreign trade sanctions that have been imposed by the Europeans, Americans, Turks and Arabs is such that all winning parties will decry the trade sanctions in the election campaign. The trade sanctions are an attack on the economy and the people of the country at large. In countries around the world people have responded by “rallying around the flag” under comparable circumstances. In Syria the regime owns that flag. The effect of the sanctions on Syrian spirit is that they strengthen patriotism and increase national unity. The political beneficiary of this is the regime.

    (14) Under the Political Parties Law, parties with a purely local basis are banned; parties must be either national or making realistic efforts to be national. Under the Elections Law, “elections campaigns should not include any… ethnic or tribal indications”. Taken together those two laws ban Kurdish identity parties and parties based on ancient tribal allegiance. In the absence of those bans those parties might conceivably have won a few parliament seats in the eastern provinces of the country and joined an opposition coalition.

    (15) No representatives of agricultural or rural interests have been talking up an alternative to the Assad regime. Right now there exists no voice for the rural vote, as such, in competition with the regime’s.

    (16) The great majority of the people of Syria get the great majority of their political news and information about their country from information outlets that are based in their country. All of the widely circulating information outlets based in Syria are pro-regime. There isn’t a single not-pro-regime information outlet based in Syria that gets even moderately wide circulation. Not-pro-regime and anti-regime information outlets are not illegal. Such outlets have to comply with certain rules which they dislike, especially the rule that defamatory stories have to be supported by high-quality verifiable evidence. The fact that rules-compliant not-pro-regime or anti-regime media outlets don’t have significant market share is an indicator of the strength of the regime’s support. In the Arabic countries of the Middle East over the past 15 years the records show that barriers to new entrants are not high in Arabic media markets (including Syria). If a biggish market window for opposition media hypothetically existed for Syria, we would’ve seen it being filled by now, and we would’ve seen it being filled before this past year. During this past year, as part of the comprehensive reform program, the government enacted additional liberalization of the legal framework regulating the information media. The text of the new law in Arabic is at . The law is basically the same as in any Western country in principles and in implementation. But it is worth mentioning that (a) Allegations of illegal and immoral behaviour of government officers (or of anyone) cannot be aired in the news media unless supported by very high quality evidence. Instead, such allegations must be brought to the public prosecutors. (b) Advocacy of violent rebellion is illegal. Advocacy of peaceful protest is legal. (c) All issues of public policy can be freely and openly debated in all media and all forums, by law. To repeat, there is no widely circulating not-pro-regime media outlet operating under these rules in Syria today.

    (17) Practically everybody in Syria knows that the anti-regime crowd has been lying about security forces atrocities; and that the regime has been telling the truth. Foreigners don’t know it, since they don’t watch Syrian TV, but foreigners are irrelevant since they won’t be voting. The Syrian State-controlled TV news puts out good quality products for the most part, which enjoy good credibility with the Syrian public, and have good market penetration. Syrians have every reason to believe, and do believe, that the message of the dissidents has been riddled with deceit during this past ten months. The Syrian dissidents lost the media war in Syria!!! But throughout the past ten months the dissidents won the media war in most foreign media markets. The people in Syria have uncensored access to the entire Internet. (A small number of websites are nominally banned but it’s easy for anyone to get around the ban if they want to). The percentage of Syrian households with an Internet connection is still rather low, but a majority of households have satellite TV access to innumerable Arabic-language TV stations based outside Syria. All those foreign media outlets have been reporting week after week that the Syrian security forces have been committing atrocities. The Syrian government has been denying it. The alleged atrocities are contrary to well-defined government policy, and the government says as well that the security forces have been conducting their operations with good discipline in practice with rare exceptions. Now, the people of Syria have been having to make a decision throughout the past ten months, and every week, about who is telling the truth about this. And they’ve decided overwhelmingly that the government is telling the truth. Until the foreign news media will totally cut out their bigotry — until they will decide to commit themselves to objectivity and verifiability — anyone who believes their reports is a fool. The people of Syria, who know their country and their government better than the foreigners do, have proved themselves to be not fools.

    (18) The Trades Unions are all pro-regime. The local and national Chambers of Commerce and Industry are all pro-regime also. Therefore on debatable issues related to the economy, in the election campaign, we’ll have the captains of industry and commerce, and the heads of the trades unions, and the ministers of the government, all reading out of the same prayer book. Meanwhile the Syrian opposition parties have only slim experience in economic development and none has presented economic policy programs as of yet. So it’s hard to see how the regime’s party could get beaten on economic issues.

    (19) The Assad regime acts on behalf of a broader social Establishment. The regime has partly created the Establishment and the Establishment has partly created the regime. The country is dominated by a sociologically broad Establishment that covers all geographic parts of the country, nearly all religious groups, all age groups, all professional occupations, all big private enterprises, and all components of the State. This Establishment has had only one political party for decades. Today it shows no inclination towards internal divisiveness such as would create two parties within the framework of one Establishment (such as the Western countries have). Because the Establishment remains well unified and supports the Assad party, the parliamentary election campaign as I see it will consist of sundry semi-anonymous and semi-disreputable dissident parties campaigning against the Establishment’s party. With this view I must expect the Establishment’s party to win by a very comfortable margin. I do not see how the overall society is going to vote in significant numbers for any anti-Establishment agenda.

    (20) This past year, the pro-regime pop songs outnumbered the anti-regime pop songs by a factor of roughly ten-to-one or twenty-to-one, and nearly all of the more well-known popular singers who live in Syria have said publicly that they support President Assad and the reforms the Assad regime is introducing.

    (21: bonus item) Some opposition parties allege the regime is guilty of corruption. When an opposition party repeatedly says the government is corrupt, this may strengthen the opposition’s public image because it’s implicitly repeating “we are not corrupt ourselves”. However, when the evidence of corruption is disputable, experience in other countries shows that raising corruption allegations ultimately results in failure for the opposition. Corruption means violation of law. If the accusations are true, yet haven’t been prosecuted in the courts, the legal system is corrupt as well. It’s hard for a voter to be convinced that the prosecutors and other law enforcement people are not earnestly trying to do their jobs. It is hard to believe the government publicly declares the laws are righteous while secretly violating them, with numbers of government workers involved in coverups, when reliable evidence of the corruption is not available and the people making the accusations have ulterior motives and dubious credibility. The government and its defenders will say the rival party’s accusations are scurrilous falsehoods. Anybody who disseminates scurrilous falsehoods is stupid and untrustworthy if not a liar. Thus a challenger trying to play “the corruption card” against an incumbent is making a bad move because the voters who don’t already believe the incumbent’s personnel are rife with corruption won’t have their minds changed by the electioneering (assuming the evidence of corruption is disputable) and this tends to undermine the perceived trustworthiness of the challenger, not the incumbent; and meanwhile the voters who already do believe the incumbent’s personnel are rife with corruption will be already very disinclined to vote for the incumbent and what they would like to hear are other reasons to vote for the challenger.

    (22: bonus item) Back in August 2007 Syria had municipal or local council elections. A coalition of dissident parties called for a boycott of the elections. How effective was the call to boycott? Answer in two parts: (1) 32058 candidates contested 9687 local council seats. (2) The official voter turnout was 50 percent, compared to 38 percent in the 2003 elections. In April 2007 Syria had national parliamentary elections. The dissidents called for a boycott. How did that boycott go? (1) The number of entrants to the contest at the deadline for applications was 9770, of whom 2293 were approved to enter the contest, and all those entrants were competing over just 250 seats in parliament. (2) The official voter turnout was 56 percent. I am quoting official government numbers. In May 2007 Syria had a national referendum on whether to renew Bashar Assad as president for a second seven-year term. A coalition of dissidents called for a boycott. The official government figure for the turnout for that referendum is an absolutely spectacular figure that’s hard to believe because it’s so very high: 95 percent of the eligible voters turned out to the polling booths to vote, and 98 percent of these voted “Yes”. Essentially all adults were eligible voters. . The counting of the votes is done by the government. Some dissidents claim that the results in all those elections were grossly corrupt and false. But they have no way to show why their accusation deserves to be given any credence. In the years since 2007 Bashar has not done anything notably unpopular. Therefore, unless you refuse to believe the result in 2007, you are compelled to assume he remains very popular. In particular, the various facts of this past year’s Events do not provide a basis from which to throw doubt on the correctness of the assumption that Bashar is very popular. In view of the dissidents’ accusations of improper vote counting, it’s worth noting that under the new Elections Law enacted in 2011, representatives of each candidate have the power to oversee the vote counting in their district; and objections or allegations of improper counting are to be referred to panels of law judges, which have been specially created in each province to supervise the elections. The new law has transferred the supervision of the elections from the executive government to members of the judiciary. The Local Council elections held on 12 Dec 2011 were held in accordance with the new law, and many objections were raised by the candidates in practice. The final results weren’t announced until 22 Dec 2011, due to adjudicating objections and doing recounts. The official voter turnout rate on 12 Dec 2011 was 41%, which was a pretty good turnout rate for Local Council elections in comparative international terms.

  2. #Syria – Western press sidesteps content of Arab League Observer Mission report

    The international media sees the press conference of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem as the validation of their remarks yesterday regarding the decisions of the Arab League’s Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee (extension of the observer mission and proposal of a roadmap) and their partial rejection by Damascus.

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