Western Media’s Syria Narrative Shaped by One Guy


Last weekend the world media was awash with articles claiming that ISIS militants are building their own air force, having apparently captured three fighter jets from the Syrian Arab Army. The Guardian’s piece states:

Islamic State (Isis) is takings its first steps towards building an air force by training pilots to fly captured fighter planes, according to a group monitoring the conflict in Syria.

Isis is using lots of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery and Jeeps taken from the Syrian and Iraqi armies but this is the first report that it has planes in the air.

Isis, which took the US by surprise this year with its rapid territorial expansion in Syria and Iraq, has three Russian-built MiG jets, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which appears to have a good network of observers on the ground and has often proved reliable in the past.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the British-based group, said Isis has trainers who had gained experience in the Iraqi air force under former president Saddam Hussein.

Abdulrahman cited witnesses who had seen the planes flying low over Aleppo, in rebel-held northern Syria.

If Isis was able to train pilots, they could mount 9/11-style suicide attacks on key installations in Damascus or Baghdad.

The astonishing part of this report however, is not the information regarding ISIS, but the fact that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – cited by every Western media agency since 2011 – consists of one guy sitting in an English apartment.

The SOHR is quoted in pretty much every article on Syria, essentially having shaped the West’s entire narrative of the war. However Rami Abdulrahman does not just run “the British-based group,” he is the British based group. He is also a member of the Syrian opposition, and can often be found at the British Foreign Office – where he has in the past met directly with ex-Foreign Secretary William Hague. The image below is of Abdulrahman exiting one such meeting.


Evidently, this means the SOHR is not an impartial source. While Abdulrahman does get his information from people on the ground, these are mainly made up of members and supporters of the so-called ‘Free Syrian Army’; their reports always implicating the government and army in every crime.* What is particularly irritating is that the Guardian knows this, having actually included Abdulrahman in an article titled The Syrian Opposition: Who’s Doing the Talking? (which I recommend having a look at). This piece from July 2012 says of him:

That name, the “Syrian Observatory of Human Rights”, sound so grand, so unimpeachable, objective. And yet when Abdulrahman and his “Britain-based NGO” (AFP/NOW Lebanon) are the sole source for so many news stories about such an important subject, it would seem reasonable to submit this body to a little more scrutiny than it’s had to date.

However since then – like every other agency – the Guardian has conveniently forgotten to apply these standards again. Having been jailed three times for opposition-related political activities back in Syria, Abdulrahman fled to the UK in 2000. He has previously stated:

“I came to Britain the day Hafez al-Assad died, and I’ll return when Bashar al-Assad goes.”

That this one-man observatory is working alongside the Syrian opposition and UK government, whilst also providing the media with a profoundly biased narrative to shape their war-mongering agenda, is laughable at best, but at worst is a shocking willingness to deceive both the British public and the suffering Syrian people.

Funnily enough, this latest story of an ISIS air force appeared just as Turkey has been calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone as part of their terms for joining the anti-ISIS coalition (backed by France), despite – until now – the group not possessing any planes. Apparently two of the jets have just been shot down by the Syrian Arab Army, so the purpose of any future no-fly zone will be blindingly clear to anyone who has been paying attention.


*In Cynthia McKinney’s The Illegal War on Libya

Islamic State training pilots to fly MiG fighter planes, says monitoring group

Coventry – an unlikely home to prominent Syria activist

The Syrian opposition: who’s doing the talking?

West’s Syrian Narrative Based on “Guy in British Apartment”


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