Syria: The Story of a Journey by Foreigners

Posted: September 5, 2012 in Sideviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Some friends went to Syria with me in April, 2011. It was nothing special because we always traveled to Syria since years, some even travelled to Syria since about 20 years and not only to the tourist places like Damascus, Aleppo and the Syrian coast town Latakia, but also traveling through the whole regions of this country in the Middle East.

We have spent about 2 weeks in Syria and traveled through the country, which means, that we not only stayed in the capital Damascus, but also visited e.g. Aleppo. Of course, we were fully aware of the fact that there are some protests of people in some regions, which was first a surprise that this also happens in Syria, because of some reasons like the fact that the food in Syria was, in contrast to Egypt, always at a level the people could afford; at least, bread and other essential foods. For example a lot of Egyptians are not able to understand why there is any kind of a “revolution” in Syria after telling them the income and prices in Syria.

While we stayed in Syria, we realized that the television channel Al-Jazeera made a hot-spot out of Syria and thus, the “uprising” within Syria became the main event on this Gulf channel. One day we walked through the city of Aleppo and a friend called us. He told us that we better stay away from a main place in Aleppo, because the Qatari television channel Al-Jazeera is broadcasting from this place right now. He said, there is a demonstration against the Syrian regime/government and that we better stay away from this place because it doesn`t look like this protest stays peaceful.

But as the friend has called us, we already were at this place in the Syrian city of Aleppo. We looked around but there was not the smallest indicator that there is something like a protest. Although there was a car with some security personal in it, which isn’t something special, it was obviously a normal Friday in this town.

This was the first event which has raised some questions for us. Thus, we became more and more aware that the coverage by some channels and journalists (in this case especially the German media/editorial offices) is not really in the best journalistic manner. Not to mention that a lot of the reports were far away from the dogmas of good journalism, and too emotional, trying to sell an opinion, while the facts where never verified or investigated.

We came home after the two weeks and kept in contact with our friends in several regions of Syria. In October, 2011, we traveled again to Syria. Not only because of holidays, which might sound a bit crazy for some, but also to see what is really going on within the country. As mentioned, although we are foreigners, we do know the country very well; the good and the bad.

In October, we were again a group of some foreigners, friends, which arrived at the airport of Damascus. We soon traveled to Aleppo to meet with some friends there. We always used the regular travel busses which connect all Syrian regions and cities. After some days in the Syrian city of Aleppo, we decided to travel to Hama, because some days before (3 days), we saw a “documentary” on the French-German “information channel” ARTE.

This documentary about Syria and especially Hama suggested, that Hama is something like a completely “death city”. Nobody is on the streets, the Syrian army cleaned the city and everybody is living in fears of the Syrian soldiers.

Before we went to Hama, we have called a family of a friend, which is living in a small village next to the city. They said, that the situation is OK and that they are looking forward to meet with us. So we decided to travel to Hama by bus. About 30 KM before the city, the bus stopped. When we looked out the windows in the front (we were so keen to take the two seats behind the driver), we saw some Syrian soldiers and two tanks.

The female friends were a bit scared because the general media coverage has an influence, even when previously events showed that the media coverage has a lack or is even based on false information (e.g. the dubious Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, without checking the sources).

But the stop wasn`t long and we passed some nervous Syrian soldiers. This might sound strange, considering they are soldiers, but it`s the impression we got. After this “checkpoint”, where no one had to leave his vehicle or had to show his passport (not to mention that the faces of the other people in the bus were relaxed and not scared or have delivered the impression that they were nervous because of soldiers), the mobile network wasn`t working anymore.

Of course, another reason to make up one`s mind, considering that we are foreigners and not used to a region with no mobile network or to a situation where a government blocks/shut downs this. But we arrived in Hama without further problems and the family fetched us at the bus station.

And in Hama, the mobile network worked again. The family told us that some armed rebels (insurgents, but or like some UN Observers in Syria have also called them – terrorists) have attacked cars on this road at this morning, and thus it was clear why we had to stop at this point because the Syrian Arab Army protected this part of the highway afterwards and looked out for the group of armed insurgents.

The family showed us the most parts of the Syrian city of Hama by car and we went to have some coffee afterwards. In the coffee shop, we spoke about the situation, the media inside and outside Syria and who forced the chaos and violence in Hama. The owner of the coffee shop soon recognized that he can speak with us without any problems and thus, he also explained us a bit about the last days and weeks in Hama.

For example the mosque, which was allegedly shot and even destroyed by the Syrian army, as Al-Jazeera (of course, al-Arabiya also) have reported it. He saw this report and went to “his” mosque the day after, just to see that the mosque he is used to visit every Friday is still there.

I don’t want to go deeper what the people of different sects/religions have told us in Hama, but it seems, also considering the areas and local situations of the “hot spots” in Syria, that all this fits together.

After we have spent a night with this family, they showed us again some other parts of Hama and were shocked that a German-French documentary has called it a “dead city”. Then we left the car and walked a bit through the city and through the market. Of course, we were the only tourists/foreigners there and some locals have found this a bit funny. It`s clear that there were and are problems in Hama, but it is also clear that the coverage is too one-sided and not always or often objective. There is a huge lack of objectivity.

We went back to Aleppo and have spent some days in this city again. Afterwards, we traveled to Latakia and also have spent some days there and talked with the people we know and the people we have met accidently. They showed us the area of the protest within Latakia and the office of SyriaTel which was put on fire by the protesters some time before. We also crossed a small checkpoint of Syrian soldiers at this place. A Syrian friend said for fun that we could say “hi” to the soldiers and a friend of us said, yes, let`s do this.

We talked a bit with the soldiers, who were (as usually) from different parts of Syria. It was a very interesting talk and I should mention that no soldier was under arms. Only the General had a small weapon with him. All people crossed the checkpoint without problems and also as usually, they just went through it without to care about.

Meanwhile, some “international news” (e.g. Germany, England, France but not in China, Russia, Brazil, Venezuela, India and so on) were published that the big stadiums in Aleppo, Damascus and Latakia are filled with arrested protesters. Thus, we went to the stadium in the Syrian coast town Latakia, but there were no people, it was empty. In the next days on our journey, we also visited the stadiums in Aleppo and Damascus, but both were empty, although while we entered the stadium in Damascus, some sort of soccer training took place.

Thus, again strange reports by specific media, based on (as far as I remember) a so-called activist in Washington. No surprise in which countries this non-verified news was published and in which countries these “news” were not published.

After some days in Latakia, which we have also used to travel to some villages around the city and to meet with families of other friends, we traveled back to Aleppo. In Aleppo, we visited one “demonstration” for the government and president, although it is clear that these people make a huge difference between the “regime” and their President.

Thus, the most were there because of the President, not because of the government. We talked with some new people there and saw others, who came with company buses, just heading to the next coffee shop. Nobody was forced to take part at this “demonstration”, even some companies and Baath` organizations cared about the buses to bring their people to this place. It was more a huge festival for the people.

In Aleppo, we have also met with the German community there and some other friends. One German woman told us that she had to drive through Jisr al-Shoghur, just one day after the massacre there. She was still a bit shocked and reported that several checkpoints of armed, bearded men have stopped her car on this track.

While the people shouted “Obama, Obama”, which could be the only word in English, that they know (the woman said this), the woman had no problem to drive further. She only was glad that she had a UN sticker (for foreigners) on her car and that she and the man who came with her were able to speak a bit Arabic. At least, they are still alive and were not kidnapped (or anything else).

We went back to Damascus, and I have to add as addition, that we used the regular travel buses in Syria and thus, we also crossed the area of Idled, for example. Looking at the map of Syria it is sure interesting which places we have crossed while using the bus.

In the capital of Syria, we took part in a video discussion with journalists and activists. This discussion was interesting but in the end just the typical premade event. At least, the activists had to regret that the media coverage is not always true and some statements were wrong, too. In addition, these activists had a lack about the geography in Syria and even were not really able to locate and name the suburbs of Damascus.

But maybe no surprise, because the two guys came to Syria in 2006, in the time when the financial support for Syrian opposition figures, groups and organizations by the U.S. Administration has started. (Cables by Wikileaks)

The next night, we received a phone call from a friend who was very afraid on the phone. He told us that our names, pictures and address information were published on one of the biggest “Syrian Revolution” pages on Facebook and that there are already an endless number of threats against us. Not to mention the “shares” of this post to other “Revolution” Pages. Not only had this friend in Syria noticed this entry on Facebook, but also a friend at home (our country) realized this and was so afraid, that he immediately informed the Foreign Ministry of Germany.

Of course, this was a very special situation for us and we were not used to such things before. In addition, everybody can understand that the girls were really scared about such horrible and endless numbers of threats. It was late in the night and we tried to sleep for a while, although some were not able to fall asleep, of course.

The next day in the morning, which was also our last day in Syria, we thought to go to the German embassy in Damascus, but finally (and knowing that the embassy is a farce), we called another friend in Damascus and he came by just an hour later. We changed the location from the hotel to the house of a family in Damascus and had a strange feeling on the streets, of course. But finally, nothing special has happened and we arrived in the capital of German.

After we arrived there, we noticed that a family member wanted to reach us, so we called back. He told us that the Federal Criminal Police was there because of the threats and asked for us. Of course, we should call them back and also call the Foreign Ministry in Berlin.

We made these calls. The call with the Foreign Ministry was short and they advised to us, while saying that it is nothing “diplomatically”, to “shut up for a while”. The Federal Criminal Police was “happy” that we are back and just said that, because we are back, the State Office of Criminal is now responsible for us and we should call them.

We did like they told us and had a date for a meeting at the local Federal Criminal Police some days later. After all the trouble they caused (e.g. waking up older women in the middle of the night to ask for us), it was surprisingly that the meeting was not immediately, but some days later.

In these days, we not only realized the serious threats in the internet, but also that the “Syrian Revolution” demanded from our chiefs at our working places to give a statement why we seem to support the other side and why we are “counterproductive” for the “peaceful revolution in Syria” (and so on). The hypocrisies are not to believe but remind us currently to the hypocrisies of the German government and especially the Foreign Ministry.

Some weeks later, after further threats and an interesting meeting with one official from the State Security, we heard from another person, who is related to the German Intelligence Service, that the German government is blackmailed by the U.S. in order to support the “policy” of the United States concerning Syria.

This person also told us that a deal was finished between the U.S. administration and the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, Egypt, some years ago – in the times of the “famous” speech of the U.S. President Barack Obama the University of Cairo. It seems that the recent “Feltman Leak” confirms this between the lines. ( By the way, some should read the transcription of this speech by the U.S. President Barack H. Obama at the University in Cairo again.

Concerning the meeting with the official from the State Security, this person has also told us that we have slipped into a policy game and we should really take care about us and our public appearances.

For example, this official person suggested that we should always investigate our car after car bombs and open the locking system from far away and not while standing next to the car door. This person also said that there are services and persons within Germany which are not known and which nobody really wants to get to know, too.

Some weeks ago, the investigation of the high number of death threats was stopped because the police and prosecutor were unable to identify the persons behind these threats. Then, suddenly someone from the Federal Bureau of Investigation called and asked for a meeting to recap all we have experienced in the last weeks and months. It was a strange call and a strange reason, wasn`t it?

We told him that we do not need any recap of our experiences and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation did nothing in our case. He had to admit that they did not do a lot. Afterwards it was clear that he even did not know that the case was already closed. Thus, there are some open questions.

At the end this guy from the Federal Bureau of Investigation has also admitted that they have a much more important topic / case at the moment and thus less time for other cases. (“undercover investigator” / extreme right, violent groups) Finally, we told him that it is a shame and very sad that the executive is no more independent of other government bodies and of the policy that Germany has to follow.

After all, nothing has happened, although the life with knowing all this and these experiences is sure different compared to the life one and a half year ago. This is the short version of the story.

  1. This is very similar to what we experienced in April of 2012 in Damascus and Aleppo as you may find here
    or here

  2. Thanks, Danke, für den Bericht. Der stimmt genau überein mit dem Bericht, den syrische Freunde in Schweden, die 2011 im April ebenfalls Syrien besucht haben, erzählten und auch in Schweden veröffentlichten. Ich habe ihn ins Deutsche übersetzt und auf meinem Blog veröffentlicht. Es ist ganz offenbar,
    dass die ganze Sache von außen -USRAEL/NATO – gesteuert wurde.

  3. Souri says:

    Ignatius: Let’s Create Another AlQaeda

    David Ignatius acknowledges that the situation in Syria today is looking quite similar to the one in Afghanistan in the 1980s:

    The parallels are spooky. In Syria, as in Afghanistan, CIA officers are operating at the borders (in this case, mostly in Jordan and Turkey), helping Sunni insurgents improve their command and control and engaging in other activities. Weapons are coming from third parties (in Afghanistan, they came mostly from China and Egypt; in Syria, they’re mainly bought on the black market). And finally, a major financier for both insurgencies has been Saudi Arabia.

  4. toxik says:

    i certainly hope assad prevails. i dislike regime change when outsiders interfere with a country’s internal affairs. its the US, the West, and Qatar, SA, and Turkey that should be blamed. they encouraged peaceful demonstrators to be armed and rebel. and now that they are armed, there is no turning back for both sides. and even if assad falls (which I hope he does not), they are all to blame when chaos rules syria. and what will they do then? nothing

  5. Souri says:

    Latakia Mountains / District – Ghamam area is filled with about 400 armed Western-backed terrorists currently. Families and inhabitants are forced to leave their village(s).

  6. Souri says:

    A car bomb has been detonated in front of the Palace of Justice, located on al-Maze Highway of Damascus.

    The blast took place at 4pm local time on Friday 7-9-2012.

    The reporter of Breaking News Network has confirmed that a car bomb gets exploded opposite to the Justice Palace.

    The reporter added that explosion resulted in the burn of 6 other cars.

    Our correspondent confirmed that no causalities have been recorded, but only material damages have been seen.

  7. Souri says:

    Egypts new puppet regime after their so called ‘revolution’ has stopped Syrian TV channels from broadcasting. You know, for freedom and democracy. I guess the words of truth were just to damaging to their lies, they had to be silenced.

  8. Souri says:

    “The German spy ship was hacked & fed false info that helped with many successful military operation” – Hosein Mortada.

  9. Souri says:

    Did Erdogan Declare War On All Shia?

    This remark by the Turkish prime minister Erdogan is either dangerously stupid or a declaration of war against all Shia:

    Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a strong critic of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, drew a parallel between the bloody campaign against civilians by the Syrian government and the Battle of Karbala during a speech on Friday.

  10. Souri says:

    Young Syrian girls are basically being Sex trafficked, sold to Arab men. This is their freedom and democracy? This is part of the loot of war and of course forced multiculturalism is on the agenda.

    From Albawaba: Syrian refugees, particularly those of the young and female variety, are becoming a commodity for Arab men, with many offering to marry those in need.
    But don’t be fooled: this is not a purely altruistic gesture. Syrian women are known as the beauties of the region and having run away from the massacres of their own country they are left vulnerable and needy. Men who would otherwise have no chance with these highly sought after ladies have been opportunistically taking their chances.

    The Egyptian Chronicles blog says:
    Among the huge challenges and problems facing hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are in the Arab countries especially in Jordan and Gulf , a very nasty problem : Rich old men from Gulf offer to marry poor refugee minor girls for money.

    At first it started as rumors some thought that were spread by El Assad regime regarding how men marry poor Syrian refugee minor girls using their families’ need for small amount of money but sadly enough it was confirmed by Jordanian Press. It seems that men from the Gulf head now to Jordan to find young cheap brides at the refugees camps. A Saudi writer called Mohamed El Assamy wrote about that disgusting practice in a Saudi newspaper angrily revealing that there are prices for the girls range between 500 SR and 1000 SR !

  11. Souri says:

    Those who still downplay the role of the foreign Salafist/Jihadist insurgents in Syria should notice the reliable western witness who has experience on the ground is talking to a well known news agency:

    Jacques Beres, co-founder of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, returned from Syria on Friday evening after spending two weeks working clandestinely in a hospital in the besieged northern Syrian city.

    In an interview with Reuters in his central Paris apartment on Saturday, the 71-year-old said that contrary to his previous visits to Homs and Idlib earlier this year about 60 percent of those he had treated this time had been rebel fighters and that at least half of them had been non-Syrian.

    “It’s really something strange to see. They are directly saying that they aren’t interested in Bashar al-Assad’s fall, but are thinking about how to take power afterwards and set up an Islamic state with sharia law to become part of the world Emirate,” the doctor said.

  12. Souri says:

    Weapons found in Salqeen Idleb Syria proves NATO direct involvement in this crisis, they’re giving FSA weapons.

  13. Ernst says:

    My wife is of syrian decent, born in CHILE. Cusines have almost daily CONTACT with relatives living in SYRIA!It is ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE the way the “WEST”(US.UK.and FRANCE)..LIE and DISTORTION de REAL TRUTH!! The SYRIAN PEOPLE ARE NOT FIGHTING a CIVIL WAR!!..The SYRIAN PEOPLE are fighting a WELL ARMED and TRAINED ARMY OF…BUTCHER MERCENARIES, PAID FOR AND SUPPORTED by the “WEST” and some RICH, FEUDAL, ARAB MONARCHYS!!.. But this time its a “BRIDGE TO FAR”…for THEM!!

  14. Souri says:


  15. Ernst says:

    To SOURI


  16. Daniel Cocciardi says:

    This is a quote from a CNN story entitled, “What you need to know about Syria today” dated August 28. “CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the video.” It might be a good practice to verify the authenticity before running it on national news. I wouldn’t be surprised if CNN actually made the video. Strange journalism indeed.

  17. Quoriana says:

    Thank you for this touching story, and glad to see this site being updated again.

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