Reply to Michael Jansen of the Irish Times offering support for Assad presenting “report” on Trade Fair in Damascus with no reference whatsoever to Syrian regime still engaged in warcrimes, torture, forcibly disappearing refugees and crimes against humanity in Idlib targeting civilians with Russia

Ronan L Tynan


As the Assad regime holds a “Trade Fair” in Damascus the Syrian airforce continues to massacre its fellow citizens in Idlib with Russia bombing hospitals, schools, markets, levelling whole neighbourhood and attacking camps for internally displaced families. All of these targeted attacks on civilians are by definition crimes against humanity. Picture shows the White Helmets rescuing survivors after another airstrike.

The image of the Syrian capital Damascus presented by contributor Michael Jansen in the Irish Times on Friday (30 August, 2019) reporting on the “61st International Trade Fair” was a one dimensional picture from the perspective of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Bizarrely, no mention of one his most notorious torture prisons called Saydnaya which Amnesty International has called ‘a human slaughter house’ located not far from the opening of the “Fair” and where thousands have been tortured to death and many still held in appalling conditions with prisoners continuing to be murdered there. 

Even more incomprehensible, while Ms Jansen presented the “Fair” as a forward looking event there was no mention of the murder, torture and disappearance by the regime of refugees who have returned (also reported in the Irish Times not long ago!). Meanwhile, the Syrian Network for Human Rights which adopts a conservative approach in documenting atrocities reported that 638 returning refugees were forcibly disappeared by the regime and fifteen died under torture.  It is also important to underline that the regime’s torturers are notorious for their level of barbarity.

But trying to present a report, with no reference whatsoever to continuing warcrimes and crimes against humanity, which prevent refugees from returning frankly beggars belief? For example, in The Hill not long ago statements by Assad’s air force intelligence chief Jamil al-Hassan are very revealing in that regard. Speaking to a group of 33 senior officers he reportedly said: “A Syria with 10 million trustworthy people obedient to the leadership is better than a Syria with 30 million vandals . . . After eight years, Syria will not accept the presence of cancerous cells and they will be removed completely.” Worse still he stated that three million Syrians are on his wanted lists and that anyone deemed a “hindrance” to the regime’s consolidation of power would be labelled a “terrorist” and dealt with accordingly. In Syria, a “wanted list” is usually a “death list.”

But worst of all by Ms Jansen as this “Trade Fair” went on in Damascus, there no reference whatsoever to Assad with Russia continuing to quite mercilessly bomb civilians in Idlib with systematic airstrikes on hospitals, school, markets and homes, as they level entire towns and villages creating not only horrific casualties with Save The Children reporting more children have been killed there in a four week period than in the whole of last year. Targeting civilians is a crimes against humanity and with almost 500,000 forced to flee towards the Turkish border which is closed and means many are living out in the open in conditions that for many are horrific beyond imagination. 

Three million live in Idlib the majority having fled from other parts of Syria to escape regime and Russian bombing with most having moved multiple times.  They are an incredibly vulnerable population mostly made up of families terrified to return to regime areas. 

Finally, the causes of the Syrian uprising in 2011 in the form of the brutal repression has intensified as the Syrian regime seeks to retake control everywhere. The only lesson Assad and his henchmen seem to have learned is that they were not brutal enough in maintaining control as reflected in comments by his Airforce intelligence chief. But with more that 500,000 dead, half the population forced to flee their homes; six million displaced inside the country and also the same number refugees outside the country, with no prospect of coming home, any suggestion that sanctions should be lifted amounts to complicity?

In other worlds, with no possibility of political reform or accountability any return to normal in dealing with Assad’s regime and resuming trade would amount to subsidising an unimaginably cruel dictatorship offering no hope for refugees returning or the population being able to determine their own destiny free from regime terror and brutality.


Ronan L Tynan is Director of the multi award winning ‘Syrian – The Impossible Revolution’ and co-founder with Anne Daly of Esperanza Productions:
Web site:
Twitter: @RonanLTynan

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