William Parra: “I was impressed with a flag of Al Qaeda in the rebels’ military base in Syria”

Posted on September 10, 2013


Posted: Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Pascual Serrano / Público.es

Caracas, August 31, 2013 – Colombian journalist William Parra, who spent two months in the Syrian war front as a special envoy of Telesur, narrates his experience and his surprise to discover that fighters supporting the West are ruthless Islamist fanatics.

July and August of 2012 were one of the greatest periods of confrontation between the army of Bashar al-Assad and the rebels. Although at that time the capital, Damascus, was calm, the fighting took place in Aleppo, where troops from both sides fought to death every street and every building. Dates were-and still are-where the information came to the West of that war was worse than confusing. Neither the government nor the rebels facilitated work to journalists at the lies and manipulations were the order of the day. For some, Syria was under the thumb of a ruthless dictator and a town was up in arms, for others mercenaries financed by foreign powers with Islamic terrorists wanted to overthrow a president who had been adamant against the United States and loyal to Palestinian and anti-imperialist struggles.

During that time, the Colombian journalist William Parra was in Syria in front of a television crew of Telesur, the multinational public channel based in Caracas. During their daily information journalists should not talk about how to do their job or the difficulties encountered, should be limited to tell and explain the war. Nor have the custom detailing the operation of the rest of the media, let alone criticize. But when they left the scene and the debate about what is truth and lies in the war on Syria and the behavior of the media is so hectic, the testimony of an honest journalist who lived directly is so valuable events as necessary.

– How do you go into Syria and what is your first experience?

-We entered a ten-day visa issued by the Syrian embassy in Caracas. Then they renew within Syria. Our coverage begins with three days in Damascus. A team consisting of a camera Venezuelan Syrian translator and I visited Palestinian refugee camps under the control of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, where numerous mortars fell from the rebels. The environment is hostile, the Palestinians have found that shortly after receiving the visit of journalists come bombing. Clearly there were many spies infiltrated as journalists. We observed a police station bombed but also many civilians, a man tells you he killed two children and needed to spend five days to find the quiet time to bury them.

– What journalists saw in Syria? Did you notice enough media presence in the conflict?

-Honestly, in Damascus just saw, and when I was leaving, a team of Spanish and some Japanese TV. And in the place where they really developed the fighting, in Aleppo, the Briton Robert Fisk. Almost everyone was and wrote from Turkey. The thing worked well. The rebels were training and refuge in Turkey, where they had their bases. There were reporters, the excursion took some time to Aleppo, gathered some testimony from some civil and returned to Turkey. Imagine the rigor and freedom from civil testimony that a reporter is interviewing militants surrounded by rebels.

– Just took refuge in Turkey or think that this country was helping them?

-The rebels themselves we recognize that Turkey gave them aid and comfort. Even gave them drugs and some weapons.

-It was also said that some journalists were or were not other reason than it was to inform.

‘I tell you a very eloquent example. When I was in Syria killed in a shootout one Japanese journalist who was traveling in a car with the rebels. First he said he killed four journalists, then it was one dead and three missing. It is not easy to understand how in a shootout dies one three disappear. At the end there was learned that the “disappeared” who were with the Japanese journalist was three Japanese generals. The Syrian Army acknowledged that fired on the vehicle they were traveling because it was part of a rebel convoy, at the end Japan not mounted biggest scandal and no more was said about it. If you really had died four journalists, as they said, had organized more mess, so we all chose not to remove it.

At other times comprobabas how to lie. I remember watching Al Jazeera television said that the Syrian army was bombing the area in which we were just so quiet at that time, there was nothing. Screen out a journalist who said he was in Aleppo and then appeared a very precarious and moved images, as recorded with a mobile. It was a foolish thing: if they had a suitable camera to record the journalist speaking, should also have her to capture images of the bombing. On another occasion issued were images that said the arrival of the rebels to a neighborhood where civilians were received with cheers and applause went there and there was nothing.

– You could move easily through the conflict zone? How behaved each of the parties?

-The Army let us pass because our country was Venezuela, Telesur. The problem was with the rebels. We could not display or permits or Venezuelan passports, they considered that the Government of Venezuela supported the Syrian president. Only I could be accepted because my passport is Colombian, and I’d say that the Colombian government supported them.

The main problem is that we could not send the notes from Aleppo, we left the Syrian government. We were to fly to Damascus and most dangerous was going to the airport. In Aleppo, in the area controlled by the Government, let us move with complete freedom to go where we wanted. When trip and run was more dangerous rebels, killing any journalist who is not from Turkey. Like I said, we got rid because we appeared as Colombians. In the end, my camera and my translator Syrian Venezuelan could barely move and had to be me who else moved. I once saw a checkpoint were all Libyan rebels, and killed several Syrian journalists and women were forced to wear the Islamic headscarf.

The most dangerous were the rebel snipers. On one occasion we were recording and started shooting, passing families with women and children and shot. I could see how fired indiscriminately, I saw a woman cast down and no one could come to her aid.

– Tell me more about how they were the rebels?

-They were very young, around 18, and even lower, 16. I never saw women. I saw one rebel who was not an Islamic fundamentalist.

-Sorry to interrupt, then there is no opposition group in Syria than Islamist?

-No doubt there are opponents on the left, but they do not have a presence in the armed band. When taking a neighborhood, drew children from schools and there set up their bases. On one occasion we visited one of their bases, met the man who had the rank of commander and showed us their weapons, including machine guns. I was impressed with a flag of Al Qaeda in one of the rooms. For them, Al Asad is an infidel. In his speech did not fail to ask for the support of the United States and Europe. I did not give the interview, but I was told that Colombia Colombian and was a friend of Israel and it seemed fine.

They also said they had arrested “a dog of Al Asad”, ie an enemy soldier. They took us to visit. We drove through houses they had pierced the walls that divided them. We came to a place where they had four arrested and brought to one of them that was evident that took several days without eating and had been beaten and tortured. The soldier hit him and told us that we asked. But what we were going to ask that bastard in those conditions? What could we expect it to be reliable?

He invited us to stay the night at the base, showed us to a room where, he said, was a team of AFP that accompanied them all. At that time there were journalists and waiting for a moment to another. I thought, as return, I would say that was half Venezuelan Telesur and kill us, so we opted for goodbye politely.

We interviewed some civilians who were in areas controlled by the rebels. They told us that the first thing I did was cut off the light and then they closed the local bakery, their food, if they did not cooperate. The discourse of Islamic rebels was always dominated by foreigners, mostly Libyans, Tunisians and Qataris. It is very split groups, they aspire to NATO bomb something and then they can come and share power in that area. Its mode of action in Aleppo has prompted Assad supporters have gone from 60 to 80%, because they saw that under the Syrian government at least different communities lived.

‘So you’re telling me that some armed groups operating under the flag of Al Qaeda get a government shelter belonging to NATO and which is embedded journalists a team of French news agency?


And government soldiers, how were they?

-It was striking that went wrong uniform, but all had their rifle and artillery possessed. Undoubtedly, the rebels were better soldiers. No resorted to bombing from the air, tanks appeal was.

In one of the military checkpoints in Aleppo official told us that we could not continue because we had a permit but was to Damascus, not to Aleppo. I insisted to the officer in charge and he, a lieutenant, told me would happen if you talk about interviewing for Chavez in English. This is how we proceed.

Government soldiers seemed fully convinced of their moral struggle and impressive. One of them I saw a sheet of Che, I put a song about Che that was in the cell and all began to sing. In the end the soldier gave the cameraman plate.

– What were you most impressed of that conflict?

It was shocking to hear Syrian soldiers and people shouting “Allah, Syria, Asad and nothing more.” Meanwhile the rebels when someone swooped shouting “Allah is great”. It was eerie to hear the gunfire interspersed with cries of Allah is great, indicating another dead more.


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