This is just the latest success in a campaign, being spearheaded by the Syrian American Council and Syrian Christians for Peace, to expose Mother Agnes-Mariam as a propaganda mouthpiece for the Assad Regime. In a press release last month they said:
The Syrian American Council (SAC) joins Syrian Christians For Peace (SCP) in protesting the pro-Assad regime group “Syrian Solidarity Movement” for organizing a multi-city tour for Mother Agnes, a nun who is proclaiming to the world that the chemical weapons attacks in Damascus suburbs, were “staged” and the videos “fabricated.”Mother Agnes is promoting Assad's views as her own on this tour. The campaign has the aim of getting venues to either dis-invite her or provide for an opposing view. In many cases, she has been able to wrangle venues based on her religious affiliation from those unaware of her controversial stands, like absolving the Assad regime of responsibility for the Ghouta sarin gas attacks that killed more than 1400 people and embellishing the regime story that the opposition gassed its own supporters. Owen Jones of The Independent, talks about her response to the Ghouta gas attack as well as Mother Agnes's 2011 claims that there never were any peaceful demonstrations against Assad in Damascus:
Mother Agnes is perhaps most infamous for publishing a 50-page report claiming that the video footage of the Ghoutta massacre was faked, that the children suffocating to death had been kidnapped by rebels and were actually sleeping or “under anaesthesia”. This was the most striking, crank-like example of Mother Agnes blaming what were widely accepted atrocities on the rebels, and therefore her detractors regard her as a mere mouthpiece for the Assad dictatorship.While Assad and his supporters continue to claim the regime had nothing to do with the chemical slaughter in Ghouta, there is no doubt that the regime was behind the attack. I have written about that in some detail at Linux Beach, most notably:
Syrian Christians for Peace have previously attacked Mother Agnes for publicly claiming that there had been no peaceful demonstrations in Damascus, despite been seen witnessing one herself. They further claimed that they had never received any money she had raised, and even called for her to be “excommunicated”.
A Jesuit priest named Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, who was been exiled by the Assad dictatorship and is now imprisoned by ISIS, an al-Qaeda group, has denounced her for being “consistent in assuming and spreading the lies of the regime, and promoting it through the power of her religious persona. She knows how to cover up the brutality of the regime.”
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AP also thinks the regime did it and reminds us that the recent poison gas attack was not the first time Mother Agnes claimed the videos were fake:
The nun was skeptical of the 2 1/2-year-old Syrian uprising from the start.She simply refuses to believe her own eyes!
She claimed much of the footage of anti-Assad demonstrations posted to social media networks was faked, along with video of Syrian forces beating and killing protesters.
I have gone into Mother Agnes's history and the many reasons people see her as an Assad stooge in my first post on this campaign Syrian American Council takes on Agnes-Mariam and I also reported on the biggest win of this campaign so far: Mother Agnes-Mariam was forced to withdraw from Saturday's International Anti-War Conference Conference.
(11-27-13) #Raqqa #Syria l Dozens Killed as #Assad Scud Missile Hit Raqqa City - Dictator's War Crimes... http://t.co/k6eOGPmQRs
— Syrian Revolution (@RevolutionSyria) November 28, 2013
In fact the only people who claim that Mother Agnes is not pro-Assad are adamantly pro-Assad themselves and now they are livid that their mouthpiece won't speak at the Stop the War Coalition's anti-war conference.
At RT, Neil Clark calls those opposing the Mother Agnes show "liberal hawks and serial warmongers" and accuses us of having "a collective hissy fit" about "this elderly lady, who is working tirelessly for peace and an end to the bloodshed in Syria." He continues:
Mother Agnes has been subject to a vicious internet campaign of character assassination, smears and defamation.But he doesn't address any of the things I and others that oppose her have said about her.
Blogger Phil Greaves calls it a "Zionist-led smear campaigns." Richard Edmondson at Fig Trees and Vineyards has a similar take on those who oppose this tour, saying "it[s] been obvious to me for a while now that the attacks on Mother Agnes are Zionist motivated." Since I oppose Assad, I must be a Zionist? Is this what passes for critical thought with these people?
Those that have been following this story already know that the withdrawal of Mother Agnes from the Stop the War Coalition event was given a big boost when two of the leading speakers at the event, journalist and filmmaker, Jeremy Scahill and The Independent writer Owen Jones, announced that they would refuse to share a stage with Mother Agnes, and so now the Mother Agnes supporters reserve a special kind of vitriol for them. William Bowles @ [dis]Information Clearing House calls them "a couple of rogues" and "these two buffoons."
Jeremy Scahill sent out this tweet:
I've informed organizers of @STWuk that I will not participate in their conference if Mother Agnes is on the platform.
— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) November 15, 2013
Owen Jones has also been subjected to much abuse by this pro-Assad crowd. He gave a good description of the problem in his blog:
There is a section of the left that is incapable of accepting a disagreement within its own ranks. They refuse to believe that an opponent can disagree with them on the basis of principle; it has to be on the basis of bad faith. In other words, I am a careerist, or a closet supporter of Western intervention, or I am part of some sinister conspiracy against Mother Agnes.Apparently all those that are outraged because Scahill and Owen spoke out against Mother Agnes aren't satisfied with exercising their free speech rights in response. Owen tells us that both he and Scahill were subjected to "a cyber-attack involving hundreds of spam-bots." Personally, I think it smells like an attack by Assad's Syrian Electronic Army.
Mother Agnes was able to find another venue to speak at in London, an event called “Save the Children of Syria” but blogger Stephen Sizer complained:
The meeting was disrupted by Syrian activists opposed to the message of reconciliationBy which he means reconciliation with fascism. Thanks to Abdulaziz Almachi we now have some video from this meeting. Roll tape [Video 3: Discussion & 1st challenge 4:21] [Video 4: Main challenge 9:54] [Video 5: Meltdown 1:54]
And while these writers may allow that they are Assad supporters, they insist that Mother Agnes is as neutral as the day is long.
William Boardman says:
It’s hard to find any evidence that Mother Agnes has committed anything worse than what others consider thought-crimes and politically incorrect observations, some of which are actually correct.Of the charge that she is a regime apologist, William Bowles says:
What makes her controversial to people around Stop the War Coalition is their perception of her as a supporter of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Clear reasoning behind this perception is hard to come by.
No proof was offered for this opinion, nor has any emerged since then as far as I know that Mother Agnes is an ‘apologist’ for the Assad regime.Phil Greaves calls the attacks on her "baseless conspiracy theories."
They simply refuse to believe their own ears!
So nevermind what Linux Beach, Not George Sabra, Democratic Revolution, Pulse or any of the other radical blogs have had to say about Mother Agnes. They don't even acknowledge them so they don't have to answer them, but this is what AP had to say about Mother Agnes:
Mother Superior Agnes-Mariam of the Cross has thrust herself into the role of go-between and publicist, arranging cease-fires, organizing pro-government media trips and conducting speaking tours as perhaps the country's most prominent critic of the uprising against President Bashar Assad.Speaking of a deal struck by Mother Agnes to get civilians out of the besieged town of Moadamiyeh, AP said:
The Syrian government heavily restricts foreign reporting on the fighting. But Agnes-Mariam organized pro-government media tours, using her connections to obtain visas for journalists.
The truce failed several times, but over a series of days, some 5,000 people were evacuated.Michael Weiss was able to talk to Zakariya about these events in Damascus, this is his report back:
Activist Qusai Zakariya, however, accused of nun of breaking her word by allowing Assad's security forces to seize men suspected of being armed rebels as they left. Zakariya said she bears responsibility for their fate if they were tortured or killed in custody.
The nun said the men were taken to determine their status as civilians or fighters. She said that two men disappeared but that volunteers were trying to locate them.
George Kallas, an official at the Beirut-based Greek Catholic Patriarchate, which oversees Agnes-Mariam's convent, would not comment directly on her work and said her statements do not reflect the opinion of the Greek Catholic Church.
I have just got off a Skype interview with Quasi Zakarya, a rebel spokesman in the besieged and starved town of Moadamiyah, Damascus, as well as a local doctor who would only give me his first name, Omar.
According to both, yesterday the regime allowed the “evacuation” of 800 civilians from Moadamiyah, which has been subjected to a terror-famine for months. Those let go included women, children, adult males, and the elderly; their number estimated at 1,800. However, as was the case with previous evacuations, as many as 300 men between the ages of 15 and 50 were arrested upon their flight from the town. Some were taken to the Fourth Armored Division’s Mezze Airbase in Damascus, while others were detained in Qudsaya in a facility the regime claimed to have requisitioned to provide medical treatment and dispense badly needed food to civilians. “Instead, the civilians there are being interrogated,” Zakarya said.
“We also have information from officers inside the Assad army that they are now being forced to join the army or the shabiha,” he added.
The fate of children, who were arrested weeks ago by the regime during the first evacuation of Moadamiyah, is still unknown, Zakarya said.
As with previous regime-orchestrated evacuations, Mother Agnes Mariam was enlisted yesterday as the liaison. “She is the big, strong media face for the Assad regime,” Zakarya said. According to a “very reliable source inside the regime,” the Catholic cleric meets daily with Ali Mamlouk, the head of Syria’s National Security Bureau, and Jamil Hasan, the head of Air Force Intelligence who was rumored to have been killed in August 2012 by the Ahfad al-Rasul Brigade of the Free Syrian Army. Al Dunya, the Syrian state television network, denied the assassination the same day. “Yes, he is still alive,” Zakarya said.
[Dis]Information Clearing House accuses the anti-war movement of "effectively censoring Mother Agnes because two men objected." Global Research accuses us of "suppressing the truth." RT called us "anti-free speech bullies."
Speaking about "the debate about the inclusion of Mother Agnes at a Stop The War Coalition event in London," the Solidarity Collective said "although not all of us in the collective would endorse the views of Mother Agnes we defend her right to express them." If the Solidarity Collective is split over the question of which side of the barricades it stands on, it certainly has its work cut out for it.
They claimed to have studied all the available material carefully and that they too "could find nothing to suggest she is pro-Assad," and even if she was "she still has the right to her opinion." But it's not her opinions that are in dispute, it's her "facts." Finally they get to their position, including, naturally, another ad hominem attack:
We are saying that there is clearly a pro-intervention/pro-war agenda at work and we cannot stand by and not raise our voices to support the right of Freedom of Speech.So this is how they are now attempting to frame the opposition to Mother Agnes. So now it is a Freedom of Speech issue and we are opponents of Freedom of Speech. This is completely laughable when you see how these Mother Agnes events are run when they are in control. As I reported earlier, at the Mother Agnes event in Los Angeles, 9 November 2013, hosted by Arab-American for Syria, another pro-Assad group, I wasn't even allowed in the door because of my known sympathies for the revolution. They wouldn't even take my $10, nevermind being allowed to speak. Nor was any opposition view heard from the program that evening or at any event when they can prevent it. They don't believe in free speech in Syria and truth-be-told, they don't like it here too much either, but now it is a convenient argument and a way of throwing more dust into the conversation. I think Owen Jones wrote well when he answered that charge on his blog:
The first claim is that I have attacked Mother Agnes’ freedom of speech. This is an issue which was very well covered by blogger Steve Doran in a witty YouTube video, which I recommend you watch. The obvious point is that Mother Agnes is free to say what she wants: well, that is clearly not true in Syria, but nothing that I have done prevents her from expressing herself. My detractors are effectively claiming that I should be forced to attend a conference, because a consequence of me pulling out is that Mother Agnes is no longer speaking on a platform. In other words, I no longer have any right to my own political conscience: I must be forced to speak on a platform against my will.Exactly, she can tell her story walking...
It should also be pointed out that freedom of speech does not mean the right to a platform. If the Independent suddenly cancelled my contract, they have not attacked my freedom of speech, they have simply stopped me broadcasting my views on their platform. If a radio phone-in does not put somebody through on-air, they haven’t attacked their freedom of speech either. Mother Agnes has not been prevented from saying what she wants in any way.
Magpie's Nest has just published and important new investigative piece in the Mother titled The Many Faces of Agnes-Mariam of the Cross. Many new facts. I highly recommend you give it a read.
This video is entitled "An appeal for Peace and Reconciliation" and in it Agnes-Mariam calls on NGOs not to provide aid to the refugee camps outside Syria because they contain "the families of fighters" and the aid will be used to buy weapons. 2:00 onwards