I currently live in the south of Lebanon, in a farmhouse situated on a green Levantean hill. My gardener is a 26 year old Syrian who lives with his family in a separate cottage on the property. His wife is 20 and they have three children, the youngest being 4 months old. They both hail from a small town that’s a good 40 minutes drive from Raqqa, ISIS’s capital in Syria. Their town is under ISIS occupation, part of the swath of landmass under control of the terrorist army. My gardener gets regular news from his town via a cellphone network of brothers, sisters and cousins scattered inside and outside their town and who are all in constant touch with each other with news and updates of the great and the small. They are in constant circulation of their family, their friends and their neighbors’ news. They are Micro Media messengers. They are the purest form of media. They cannot afford to lie or exaggerate to each other lest they cause unnecessary grief or danger to their loved ones. I am privy to these microcosmic stories and I would like to share with you my general impression of them.
Three years ago, the now defunct Free Syrian Army – an armed opposition to Bashar that was funded, armed and trained by, ehm, us and other terrorist nations – well, they entered by force of arms and took over my gardener’s town and stayed there for a good year before ISIS – a foreign terrorist army that’s armed and trained by, ehm, again, us and other terrorist nations – began incrementally appearing inside my gardener’s hapless town. ISIS soon began a territorial war against the FSA in the town and ISIS soon won. So, basically, for a few months, our terrorists were fighting our other terrorists inside my gardener’s town. Yes, it’s absurd, but that’s what happened. The losers, the FSA, well, we hate losers so we cut our losses with them and we stuck it out with ISIS the winners, investing more and more in their military buildup in my gardener’s town and in other towns and villages under ISIS control in the vicinity.
Since their victory, ISIS have completely transformed my gardener’s old town, previously famed for the beauty of its river banks and splendid Franco-Syrian architecture. In its two year reign, ISIS has painted most of the town’s buildings in matt black – the universal color for bereavement and death. Anything that architecturally hearkened to traditional Syrian culture has been either darkened, or, completely demolished. Cousins who warily walk down the old narrow streets report a depressive and oppressive effect from this uniform and ubiquitous blackness; a soul-blinding blackness despite the glaring sun above – sun rays only emphasizing how black the town has become.
The town famous for its cheerful riverside restaurants and live bands is now an ISIS paradise where smoking, alcohol, music, and short hair on men is punishable by public beheading. The local men are forced to grow their hair long and the only facial hair allowed is the infamous (and unattractive) jowl-lined beard, sans facial hair on cheeks, and sans mustache. Yes, a mustache will get your head chopped off in my gardener’s town.
Only religious channels on TV and radio are allowed transmission. All expressions of non-religious art is forbidden. Playing cards is considered gambling and is punishable by death. All forms of public sports and entertainment are banned. Mostly, the audio issuing out of the town is a mixture of prayers blaring out of shop speakers and minarets, punctuated by random human screams.
My gardener says that his town’s population is estimated to be between eight and ten thousand civilian residents. When I asked him a few months ago how many ISIS terrorists are in his town, he despairingly said: “They’re everywhere – like ants”. Black ants.
Very few of these “ants” speak Arabic, let alone Arabic with a Syrian accent. For all intents and purposes, the invaders of this town are all foreign.
Needless to say, the townspeople live in daily mortal fear of the random death penalties handed out by capricious ISIS captains. In order to self-preserve and protect their families, everyone in the village complies by ISISian laws. They are allowed to leave the town, but only by written permission from ISIS security offices, after the reasons for wanting to leave have been investigated. They are free to leave yet most townspeople choose to stay. They do this because ISIS claims instant rights to the homes and fields of anyone who is not physically present in the town (think Israel here and its ‘absentee’ confiscation laws of Arab properties in Jerusalem). Simply, to leave an ISIS-occupied town in Syria is tantamount to giving ISIS one’s house and orchard – fields that one’s grandfathers had farmed, toiled and cultivated for several centuries. Syrian land-pride and fear of the humiliations of refugeedom keeps the natives mortally chained to their town – in the hope that the Syrian Arab Army will one day finally reach them and liberate them from their miserable and surrealistic hell.
The men of the town, in clusters of families, look after each other. They only leave their homes in pairs or more, usually to purchase food or to go to mosque for prayers. Mosque attendance is obligatory for males over 8 years of age and random headcounts at local mosque doors are the norm. If you are male, over 8 and you are caught not attending daily mosque prayers and Friday sermons without valid reason such as provable sickness, you will receive 30 lashes in public, followed by 30 days in a local ISIS rat-infested jail, where daily beatings and dirty drinking water are on the menu.
It is close to impossible to flee the town without permission as ISIS has a five kilometer radius of snipers positioned at every possible strategic asphalt exit and at every turn of goat path. When ISIS first took over, many a desperate young male attempted the deadly ISIS gauntlet and failed – their bodies dragged back through the town streets and their families’ homes confiscated as further punishment.
With arbitrary interpretations of Sharia law and a strict dress-code imposed on the town, women there barely leave their homes, if ever. Even though when out in public, they are covered in black cloth from head to toe, they are brittle with fear of an ISIS fighter taking a liking to them and forcing them into marriage and into bleak ISIS motherhood. Some women have committed suicide as an alternative to an ISIS betrothal. When ISIS first took over, a list of the most beautiful women of the town was taken down and the husbands of these women were subsequently murdered to allow for these women’s forced marriage to ISIS honchos. Even though their families are conservative Muslims and their lifestyle would be considered strict, this is not the Islam the local women know and practice. They fear walking the streets because they do not want to risk an added grief to their families, and because they also reject ISIS’s version of Islam. Only ISIS’s black-clad foreign brides swan down the streets in proud confidence.
Local boys are forbidden from playing on the streets and are daily herded into Madrases and mosques from sunrise till dusk. Girls are denied an education, even Koranic education, and are expected to stay illiterate and in the kitchens till marriage. Before ISIS, the poor of the town had a tradition of keeping their girls in school till age 14. Before ISIS, teen girls from poor families would pile into the back of rickety farming trucks early in the morning and sing their way to eggplant and potato fields for daily work and earnings. Since ISIS’s rule, 37 teen girls were imprisoned and raped before they were carted out of town and sold as sex slaves – their crime was carrying a rake or a sack in a field – doing a ‘man’s work’.
Needless to say, a silent seething hatred in the breast of the townspeople perpetually brews. They have physically surrendered to ISIS, but not mentally and not ideologically. There is a determined resistance there, albeit a silent one… Mostly silent, that is.
When ISIS first took over, a few locals sided with them and acted as spies and snitches. Over time, these traitors have either been murdered or disappeared by faceless locals acting off their own volition, usually in revenge of family deaths caused by the traitors. These unorganized acts of resistance, these small dots of stealthy defiance would fill the hearts of the townspeople with joy whenever they would occur.
For over three years the citizens of my gardener’s town have been forced to live with the black-clad grim reapers. For over three years the world did nothing to help these Syrian townspeople. No army and no messiah came forth to save them.
Not till Putin stepped in, that is.
One week after the Russian army began its aerial campaign against ISIS in the region between Raqqa and the Turkish border, the Syrian army, under cover of the Russian Air Force, thoroughly managed to liberate multiple villages and towns there, advancing up to 40 kilometers from my gardener’s town. But then the Syrian Arab Army stopped right there, turning their attentions westwards instead, to more strategic battles against ISIS in other nearby villages.
When this happened, a good quarter of ISIS terrorists packed up and left the town – gone to Raqaa to defend it against eventual attack by Bashar’s approaching military. Soon after, an extraordinary thing happened: a secret local and armed resistance made itself known in the town through the kidnapping and execution of ISIS terrorists. They worked by cover of night, they worked in small groups, and they left no fingerprints. Not even their own families know who members of this resistance are. ISIS bodies are still being discovered on a regular basis – and currently being so under-staffed, ISIS seems to be unable to keep tabs on all the townspeople 24/7 like they used to before the Russian arrival to Syria. They are losing their absolute control over the town.
Best of all, earlier this week, the Russian Air Force targeted and bombed six ISIS locations in the town itself. No doubt, the Syrian Arab Army will soon be turning their boots towards this town again. No doubt liberation is imminent.
Since the six bombings occurred, more ISIS men and their families have fled the village, rendering ISIS’s hold on the town even weaker. Only about half of the evil black-clad “ants” now remain. And as a consequence of ISIS’s diminishing numbers, the local resistance has been able to operate more freely and they are literally picking out ISIS fighters, killing them one by one practically on a nightly basis – either stabbing them down dark streets, hanging them from trees on the outskirts of town, bludgeoning their skulls with rocks in fields, or sniping them with hunting riffles while on guard duty. When ISIS security men claimed to have caught two resistance men and prepared for their public execution, a sudden riot broke out at the ghoulish event and local men clashed with ISIS fighters, resulting in the deaths of three civilians and four ISIS terrorists – as well as the successful escape of the two accused. This was the first civilian riot against the occupiers since the town was first taken over four years ago. It seems that when their odds improved, the people’s rage manifested as a collective outburst of courage.
ISIS town bosses don’t even have the luxury of a ‘peaceful’ execution anymore.
The atmosphere now is extremely tense in the town – ISIS is nervous because the Russians have marked them out and given them warning shots already – and the rage of the occupied people is barely containable, causing them many security problems internally. My gardener thinks that his village will be fully liberated before the winter is out. He says family and neighbors of the town are now quietly preparing and coordinating their efforts among themselves, anticipating to support the Syrian Arab Army when it reaches the gates of their town.
The changes that have occurred in the past couple of months in this town are tremendous – observed from the Micro Media’s vantage. And what’s striking here is the disparity in stories between the Mainstream Media in the West and the Micro Media in Syria. One side has reason to distort the news in the service of protecting a criminal government policy; and the other has reason to tell the truth so as to save its own life.
And the truth is that the Axis of Evil is losing in Syria: now beyond the point of no return – no thanks to and no matter the extraneous and suspect efforts of the French, German, Brit and American Air Forces now present in Syrian skies. The fact is, between the solid military capabilities of Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah – and not forgetting here the efforts of hundreds of trained and untrained local resistances – the Syrian war is covered and can be militarily concluded. It is only a question of time.
There is zero need for the sham and despicable new Saudi coalition to interfere further in Syria, and zero right for them to impose a “new leader” on the Syrian people. And there is also absolutely no need for Obama to pretend at fighting ISIS in Syria anymore. The show is practically over – the fat lady is singing the last few notes.
Ironically, technically speaking, the end of ISIS’s rule in Syria is a PR victory for the USA and a face-saver for the Democrats before the elections hit. Despite American involvement in the birth, nurture and rise of ISIS, we still get something out of their defeat: a fake media victory, a crown made of shiny tin.
The people who are directly affected the most are taking care of business in Syria already and their liberation project is moving forward good and steady without any swanky media publicity, without further help from the outside world – and regardless of Putin’s diplomatic invitation to the world to join him in the fight against global terrorism, starting with Syria. Regardless of all this, the job is getting done, terrorists are being either pushed back or killed, Syrian land is systematically and assuredly being retrieved – by the right guys, thankfully.
One here must throw ample cynicism at every conjured drama or invented obstacle in Syria that our Mainstream Media will report on in the meantime – it is all mass distraction – it is all meaningless and devoid of any reality. No, I do not wonder what the Mainstream Media will write about when towns like my gardener’s are finally liberated. No, I do not look forward to their headlines. They will find a way to claim credit for their side, the very side that actually ignited the Syria war and unleashed an army of beheaders onto a mass of Syrian civilians. By now, I’m sure many of you readers have observed how the Mainstream Media have decidedly perfected the dark art of Newspeak – after all, they got so much practice selling us all these Middle East wars.
In due time, I will write a follow up to the town’s story once it’s been liberated. I did not reveal its name in this article so as not to compromise the identity and safety of my gardener’s family who are stuck there in their occupied riverside town – but I will write a follow-up article once it’s been liberated.
The news in this article was brought to you by Syria’s Micro Media, a network of citizen correspondents.