“What occurs in Syria is only in part reported. It is like seeing only half of a painting, instead of the whole thing. The first to pay for this ‘void’ is the civil population, unknowing victims of a conflict unfolding over their heads”, said to MISNA Mother Agnès Mariam de la Croix, Carmelite superior of the monastery of Saint Jacques le Mutilé at Qâra in northern Syria, describing the ‘dark’ side of the Syrian crisis.
“In the beginning, when in March 2011 the protests began against the regime, the lack of precise information on what was occurring in Syria was attributable to the ‘conspiracy of silence’ of the government of Damascus and obstacles faced by reporters, to whom very few visas were conceded”, explains the nun, critical of the regime of Bashar al Assad, but also in several occasions of the Syrian Observatory of human rights, headed by the long-time opponent of the Baath party, Rami Abdel Ramane.
“But then some media, in particular satellite TVs funded by Gulf capitals such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya began releasing ‘tendentious’ information, at times propagandistic, regarding the events in the country. This is when we realised there was a sort of detachment between reality and the reports, which assumed the dimensions of an actual wall of silence”, observes the Carmelite Mother superior, adding that in regard to the massacres being carried out over the past days in Homs “gangs of unidentified armed men are responding to the army bombings, also committing horrific crimes against the poor people, also opening fire against children and forcing everyone to side with the rebellion”.
For this reason “and not because threatened as a religious community, Christians have abandoned Homs. They left because they didn’t want to take sides in an increasingly violent revolt”, insists Mother Agnès Mariam de la Croix. A truth, told by the nun, that has only begun emerging over the past weeks thanks to many reports and that, according to the Mother superior, “even now that a bloody conflict is underway, no one ever doubted the information and estimates released by the London-based Syrian Observatory for human rights, when we here receive contrasting and more complex information to interpret the reality of a crisis that by the day assumes more fundamentalist tones”.
Though reiterating “full adhesion to the principles of freedom and democracy demanded in the demonstrations and support for political and social reforms needed by Syria”, the nun stresses the different nature of the opposition present in Damascs or Aleppo, in respect to the bulwarks of the insurgency, all in proximity of the borders, where arms and combatants are arriving from”. The Mother superior – of French mother, Palestinian father and raised in Lebanon during the civil war – on the site of the monastery organised an aid programme for families in difficulty, to whom sums for monthly kitchen gas and food rations can be donated.
“These are the things that the people of Homs need, aside from medical provisions. Many families live barricaded in their homes from fear of snipers and kidnappings, which have become frequent”, concludes Mother Agnès, adding that the residents “caught between the army fire and threat of armed groups, already live in a state of war”.