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Monday, December 23, 2013

Syria: What does the Media mean by "rebel held areas?"

It means they are using the language and taking the stand of the Assad dictatorship. Let me explain why I say this by telling you a little about my weekend.

On Saturday I went to an event on Pico Blvd in Mid-city organized by the Syrian American Council in Los Angeles. The main attraction was two activists from Syria. Razaniyat Ghazzawi, a Syrian activist and blogger and Raed Fares, the man who lead in the creation of Kafranbel's famous banners, demonstrations and political cartoons. Kafranbel is a small town of about 30,000 - before the conflict - that was unknown, even to most Syrians. Today it has become world famous as a center of art and culture for the Syrian Revolution. It is what the media would call a "rebel held area." [revised as per comment from Razaniyat]

Raed Fares at Sunday's event
As Raed Fares and Razaniyat Ghazzawi described what I might call the arc of the revolution. They told of the first local protests in the wake of the Arab Spring with numbers in the dozens but those numbers grew especially fast because Raed Fares led in the creation of colorful banners, many of them in English, cartoons and artwork to promote the struggle against the Assad regime. As their numbers grew, so did attacks on the peaceful protests. But the people were undeterred.

“In April 2011, we launched a revolution in Syria,” Raed Fares said through an interpreter. “Don’t call it a civil war; it’s a revolution.”
As the struggle intensified, eventually they formed up a Free Syrian Army Brigade, from among the men of Kafranbel, and attacked and cleared the Assad Regime checkpoints. As soon as they cleared the town of all regime forces, Assad's airforce started bombing the town three times a day. It was regular, they told us the times but I didn't take notes. They were also cut off from the grid. The only electricity has been from gas powered generators and gas is hard to come by. The incessant bombing has taken its told, the city has been reduced to rubble and hundreds of people have been killed and practically every one has sustained some kind of injury. Still they won't give in to the regime.

Protest in "rebel held" Kafranbel | 6 Dec 2013

They found they had to re-invent civil society themselves, with mixed results. Raed Fares said "We tried a military council and that fell apart, we tried a local council, and that fell apart." They've had to rebuilt schools and clinics, do without the help of Damascus, and tend to the needs of their community. Now their latest problem is the ISIS, or Da'āsh, the Islamic fundamentalist group. They said they don't intend to trade one master for another. Still they soldier on.

They call their city a liberate it area, because they have removed the regime controls on the ground and are free to organize things the way the local community desires. The regime calls it a "rebel held area" implying that an invading army of foreign jhadists has taken over the city at gun point and the NATO mainstream media agrees because you will never hear them refer to any liberated areas in Syria, they are always "rebel held areas" that need to be brought back under control. The last thing the chiefs of NATO want to see, even in Syria, is autonomous communities running their own affairs. So they spend this fiction of "rebel held areas" which then in turn, allows Bashar al-Assad to blame the wholesale bombing of "rebel held areas" on the "rebels" who are using the otherwise loyal citizens as "human shields."

When the mainstream media uses the phrase "rebel held areas" they are selling us the prospective of the master, in this case, the prospective of the fascist dictator Bashar al-Assad. And most of the US Left just laps it up!

Since writing about the origins of the phrase "Viet Cong," I have been thinking about how they shape the language to build support for a certain political view. But then, how could it be otherwise? It just depends which view, that of the master or that of the slave, because they have different and conflicting interests.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria


  1. Hi, I want to clarify that I am not from Kafranbel nor living there. I was merely talking about my experience in Syria - no location was mentioned. Thanks!

  2. The Syrian regime actually hardly ever uses the term "rebels" to refer to them; it almost always uses the loaded term "terrorists". Both the terms "rebel-held areas" and "Viet Cong" are accurate. The rebels of Kafr Nabl are rebels, as they are in rebellion against the Syrian government. I do not see how the phrase "rebel-held areas" implies that "an invading army of foreign jhadists has taken over the city at gun point". What are we to call areas where "an invading army of foreign jhadists has taken over the city at gun point" such as Raqqa? "Liberated areas" is a loaded propaganda term used by both the rebels and the regime. In any case, according to the Daily Beast, the Free Syrian Army has begun to call itself the Syrian Rebel Front.

  3. I assume you know that "Viet Cong" was the creation of a USIS psychological warrior named Everest Bumgardner in Saigon, 1956. So please tell how you think it accurate.

    As the said in the article, "accurate" on such questions is very much affected by ones point of view. Is it that of the master or that of the slave?

    In the past I have found that many people who think the terms "Viet Cong" accurate also think the killing of millions of Vietnamese was "OK"

    The phrase "Liberated Area" was use by both sides in the Vietnam war too, but since the main question on the table since the 19th century was freedom from French/Japanese/US control, only one side was truly building liberated areas.

    So which side did you support in the Vietnam War?

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