Ghosts in those one-sided reports about victims in Syria

Rare is the day that I do not receive at least one or two emails from Eastern Orthodox Christians, or those sympathetic to the plight of Christians in the Middle East, containing URLs pointing toward new reports about alleged atrocities linked to the fighting or acts of terrorism in Syria, Egypt or elsewhere. The common question: Why are these events rarely if ever covered by mainstream news organizations in North America?

These people are smart and they know their history. They understand, for example, that most American journalists see Christians and other endangered religious minorities in Syria as the allies of the corrupt regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his battle against a complex swarm of rebels and Islamists, including forces with strong ties to al-Qaeda and other jihadist networks. They also know that Russia supports the current Syrian regime and that President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department now support many groups in the Syrian rebellion.

Let’s see: That would be Russian President Vladimir Putin vs. Obama. Of those two, which leader is more popular with the American press?

My friends know all of that. However, their views are sure to be closer to those of Bishop Basil Essey of Wichita, Kan. Here’s a snippet of a column I wrote on that:

Anyone who prays for peace in Syria must acknowledge, at the beginning, that “vicious wrongs” have been done on both sides and that “there’s really no good armed force over there. No one we can trust. None,” concluded Bishop Basil.

“So the choice is between the evil that we know and that we’ve had for 30-40 years in that part of the world, or another evil we don’t know about except what they’ve shown us in this awful civil war.”

So my Orthodox friends are not asking why the American press seems to favor the rebels. They are not asking why so much ink is dedicated to coverage of atrocities against Islamist communities in Syria. They can do the math. What they want to know is why there is so little coverage of what is alleged to be happening to Christians and other persecuted religious minorities in the region. They struggle to understand the sins of omission.

Thus, they keep sending me reports like this one, which is from an alternative source, but includes lots of specifics and attribution links:

Negotiations intensify for release of Syrian nuns

The nuns of Maaloula may soon be in Lebanon, their abductors’ last refuge, if mediation and open channels with them do not quickly reach a solution, before the Syrian army’s attack on Yabrud expands in the next few days with the launch of the second phase of the military
operation in Qalamoun.

There are 12 kidnapped nuns — four Lebanese and eight Syrians. Three negotiating channels have taken turns trying to find out what the kidnappers want in exchange for releasing them. That the kidnappers immediately agreed to multilateral negotiations is cause for optimism because this is the first time Jabhat al-Nusra has wanted to quickly make a deal to release hostages it is holding. In the past, it took months before the fate of kidnapped persons was revealed or before the kidnappers agreed to negotiate.

Kidnapped nuns? What kidnapped nuns? Right, that Pope Francis guy is concerned about their plight, but it certainly appears that coverage of this story is strictly a Christian media or conservative media affair.

Or how about this report, from a religious press source? Yes, it includes doses of anti-mainstream media venom:

[Read more...]

A one-sided ‘cycle of violence’ in Pakistan

The New York Times has a story headlined “Pakistanis Protest the Killing of 86 Shiites.” It begins:

ISLAMABAD — Protesters and distraught family members of 86 Shiites from the Hazara ethnic group killed in two bomb blasts on Thursday in the southwestern city of Quetta braved biting cold to stage a sit-in on Friday, refusing to bury their dead till the Pakistani Army took control of the city to provide them with security.

Later we’re told:

Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province, has been ravaged by a vicious cycle of sectarian violence in recent years. Thursday’s toll was one of the highest in 14 years of violence that have left hundreds of Hazaras dead. The dual suicide bombing on Thursday, like most of the attacks on Hazara Shiites, was claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni militant group with strong links to the Taliban.

Oh, so this is a vicious cycle of sectarian violence? Really? The story of the Hazara is one that should be better covered. They have faced violence in various parts of the world — as you can find out with a quick search for “Hazara genocide” or “Hazara ethnic cleansing.”

They’ve been persecuted — with violence and systematic discrimination — for hundreds of years. Things have recently gotten quite bad with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Cycle of violence means that the Hazara are massacring Sunni militants, according to the New York Times. If that is true, it should be substantiated.

The Wikipedia article headlined “Persecution of Hazara people in Quetta” lists many attacks against the Hazara and under the “response” section, there is no mention of violence.

Tarek Fatah writes in the Huffington Post:

The attack was the latest in a slow-motion genocide of minority Shia Muslims in Pakistan by Sunni-Muslim extremists who consider the Shia as infidels, thus worthy of death. Many attacks against Shia Muslims are carried out by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a militant Islamic group allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban. This time too the LeJ promptly claimed responsibility for the slaughter

So far the Hazaras have endured every killing and attack with silent suffering, hoping their lack of response would be rewarded by a cessation of targeted attacks. But not this time.

The sight of 100 mangled bodies, including that of Pakistan’s leading Shia youth activist for human rights, Khudi Ali seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Even the New York Times itself wrote just last month in an article headlined “Pakistan Reels With Violence Against Shiites“:

For at least a year now, Sunni extremist gunmen have been methodically attacking members of the Hazara community, a Persian-speaking Shiite minority that emigrated here from Afghanistan more than a century ago. The killers strike with chilling abandon, apparently fearless of the law: shop owners are gunned down at their counters, students as they play cricket, pilgrims dragged from buses and executed on the roadside.

The latest victim, a mechanic named Hussain Ali, was killed Wednesday, shot inside his workshop. He joined the list of more than 100 Hazaras who have been killed this year, many in broad daylight. As often as not, the gunmen do not even bother to cover their faces.

The bloodshed is part of a wider surge in sectarian violence across Pakistan in which at least 375 Shiites have died this year — the worst toll since the 1990s, human rights workers say. But as their graveyard fills, Hazaras say the mystery lies not in the identity of their attackers, who are well known, but in a simpler question: why the Pakistani state cannot — or will not — protect them.

Emphasis mine. I think that’s a better way to describe the killings (although it still might infer something of a cycle of violence).

Protest image via Wikipedia.


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