SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) - Dr. Sayyed Muhammad Rehan Naqvi is a freelance journalist based in Norway. In a special interview with SHAFAQNA, he analysed the overall situation in Syria and also discussed a few possible solutions to bring about peace in Syria. Dr. Naqvi utterly criticised the mainstream world media and also said that the international community is not playing its part the way it should in resolving the conflict in Syria. Moreover, he said that the mainstream media has been frequently circulating around unauthentic and fabricated reports and videos as confirmed news items from Syria. The detailed interview of Dr. Naqvi by SHAFAQNA’s correspondent is given in the following.
SHAFAQNA: What are your general views on the overall situation in Syria?
DR. NAQVI: This is a very vast and complicated issue with so many aspects that it can be a bit difficult to cover them all in one sitting. A few days ago I was pondering over writing a blog with the title ‘It’s all about Syria’’ and present my views on Syria in the context of Arab spring and especially the role of the media in this conflict... and write about the frustrations and hopelessness that people like myself or others may feel at times, looking at how the media is trying to shape up the public opinion on Syria and the things happening in that part of the world. The time the Arab Spring started, it seemed as if it won’t stop until it reaches Syria. And now you can see that Syria is in the spotlight and other “revolutions” are not that much in the world’s focus at the moment.
The situation in Syria has become very complicated now and one of the reasons for that is the involvement of many stakeholders in the conflict. USA, Israel, NATO, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, Russia, China and a few European countries. Due to all of this, Syria has become sort of a focal point in the Middle East. When we look at Egypt and Tunisia for instance, they did not have so many stakeholders involved and yet those countries experienced a lot of bloodshed and anarchy. So, one can imagine how serious the situation in Syria could be.
SHAFAQNA: How do you see the role of the media in case of Syria?
DR. NAQVI: The prevalent rule in today’s world is “might is right”. The mainstream media is absolutely biased, in my point of view. I think there are very few really authentic news that are reaching the people outside Syria. Usually, focus of the bulk of the news is that the Syrian government is killing the civilians and that the majority does not want Bashar Al-Asad. One key rule of reporting a conflict that was taught during our journalism education is that one must always present opinions of all sides involved in the conflict. But who cares about that rule in reality?
In my point of view the mainstream media is just serving the purpose to further the colonial and imperialistic and expansionist agenda. I do not mean that Bashar is an ideal ruler or that there is nothing wrong in Syria. But I think this is wrong to say that he has no public support. I believe he still enjoys support of a considerable majority of the Syrian population. And in support of this statement I give the reason that he has withstood all the pressure, foreign intervention, foreign-incited revolution and internal terrorism so far. Hosni Mobarak and Zain al Abedeen bin Ali were very strong dictators. They also enjoyed the support by USA and Israel. But nevertheless, when the people’s real revolution started they could not withstand more than a few months.
In case of Syria, despite all the pressure from outside and all the internal problems, we have seen that the government has withstood the rebellion. And we have not seen any large scale of people’s revolution across the country. This proves that he still enjoys support of the majority.
But unfortunately, most of the people in this world do not have the time or the resources to investigate matters thoroughly or do in-depth analysis. They form their opinions on the basis of what the media shows them every day. And in case of Syria the media is trying its best to shape the public opinion that the current Syrian government must be eliminated at any cost. And this they have done by showing images and footages and reports of atrocities that no one knows how many of them are authentic.
SHAFAQNA: Can you tell us more about the authenticity of the news from Syria?
DR. NAQVI: I think that there are a lot of fabricated news items circulating around, especially on the social media. Sometimes the news is true but it is blown out of proportion. Sometimes the sources are not reliable enough and nevertheless the news story is “sold”. This is my personal impression. But there is one concrete example of news fabrication for the propaganda sake. A few weeks ago BBC published a picture on its website in which a child was shown running around hundreds of dead bodies in corpse bags. The caption text included Syria in it. Now it was originally a picture from 2003 in Iraq taken by an Italian photographer. He says that when he saw the picture posted on BBC website in relation to Syria, he nearly fell off the chair. BBC did remove the picture quickly but the damage was done and Press TV had already saved the webpage shot and published it on its website.
But you see, not much hue and cry was heard after this unethical practice of BBC. I think that this news hardly made it to the newspapers in Norway or other European countries. I don’t even remember reading about it in the Pakistani media. But in essence, it was a grave breach of the journalism ethics rules. And by the time an apology is made the news item would have left its impression on the public opinion. It would have done its work.
SHAFAQNA: We see that a few countries have openly made statements about providing financial support and weapons to the rebels in Syria. What is your opinion on that?
DR. NAQVI: Saudi Arabia and Qatar have openly admitted that they support and will continue to support the rebels in Syria. While, it is an open secret, and I even read comments on a Norwegian social media website by a native Norwegian, that there are Al-Qaida terrorists among the rebels. There are even reports that these are the Al-Qaida terrorists who are leading the rebels. But no one has condemned Saudi Arabia and Qatar – the key allies of the USA. Even in USA, there have been talks about supporting the rebels. Had Iran supported the people in Bahrain, and they indeed have a legitimate revolution, you can imagine how would the USA and the mainstream media react to that?
SHAFAQNA: You have mentioned Bahrain. We see that there is so much focus on the issue of Syria, but nowhere in the media have we heard anything about Bahrain. Why is that so?
DR. NAQVI: There has been so much violation of human rights, bloodshed and atrocities committed by the ruling Bahraini regime but the world community has not reacted to it. Unfortunately, a common man on the street in Europe or America, and even in Muslim countries for that matter, does not know anything about the oppression of Bahrainis. Bahrain was invaded by the Saudi military forces, although upon request from the Al-Khalifa regime, but still it was a foreign intervention. Also, there have been Pakistanis hired from Pakistani cities, especially to crack down on the Bahraini civilians. But you see that there has been no mentioning of all that in the media. This is because the Bahraini ruling regime is a friend of the USA and other powers with imperialistic and expansionist agendas. Bashar Al-Asad, on the other hand, is an enemy of Israel and the USA. He also supports the Palestinian cause, Hezbollah and Iran. That is why this is Syria that is being presented as a demon in the mainstream media.
SHAFAQNA: How can Iran play its role in resolving the Syria conflict?
DR. NAQVI: A few days ago the Russian deputy foreign minister said that Iran can play a constructive role in striking peace in Syria. Kofi Annan has said that there should be formed an international group to resolve the conflict in Syria. I think Iran should be included in that; although, there is resistance from the USA on including Iran. But in my point of view, including Iran is inevitable.
SHAFAQNA: If Syria is attacked, what will be its impact on the region?
DR. NAQVI: The repercussions of an attack on Syria won’t be less severe than an attack on Iran. As I said earlier, this conflict has involvement and interests of many stakeholders. And now China and Russia, especially Russia are involved too. At the same time, Iran also has a joint defence agreement with Syria. So, a war on Syria will engulf the whole region into it. I don’t think that USA or Israel would want to get directly involved and attack Syria. If the attack were to be in their plans, they would use Turkey, which already has repeatedly made statements about sending its forces inside the Syrian borders. And if Turkey attacks Syria, it will have full backing and support from the imperialistic powers of the West as well as monarchies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the followers of the ideologies like Wahhabism and Salafism.
SHAFAQNA: In your opinion, what can be the solution to the problem in Syria?
DR. NAQVI: The powerful countries with the aspirations of world dominance, that is USA and their allies, in particular Israel and Saudi Arabia, just want to corner Syria. This also has to do with the link that Syria provides between Iran and Hezbollah. In order to re-establish peace in Syria, a lot of work will be needed from a number of players and especially the international community. The problem is that due to the foreign intervention, the rebels have the money and the weapons. And this has complicated the situation inside Syria very much. But, nevertheless, it is possible to re-establish peace in Syria. The international community would have to play its role for this. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries that provide support to the rebels would have to be stopped. And then the Syrian government would have to be given the freehand to crush the rebels, just like the Sri Lankan government was given. And with freehand I mean that no blame should be laid on the government when it crushes the rebels, once again just like in Sri Lanka. USA and NATO would have to let go their wishes and show flexibility. At the same time Iran, Russia and China would have to continue their stance on Syria and Turkey would have to act more reasonably and responsibly. With all that peace can be re-established in Syria, at least for a few years. But my opinion is that now the USA has no place for Bashar Al-Asad.