Occupy Syria interviewed the German Jounalist: Manuel Ochsenreiter
A: I am a journalist, not an activist. So, I don´t support any governments or groups in foreign countries, but I report about them, make interviews and reportages. Syria is in these days in the focus of world media – but the facts don´t play a big role in this western media coverage. For me it was important to come to Syria myself and to use my eyes and ears – and not to rely on the “reports” my European colleges write in London, Paris, Hamburg or in Cairo, and Beirut. Especially in times of crisis and war, no one should just listen to groups with certain interests in these conflicts. Mainstream media seems to listen only to the so-called “opposition” outside Syria. So there is a big gap in their reports: I went just inside this gap, to Damascus, to report from “the other side”. And “the other side” in that context means to report really from inside Syria, to talk and to listen to Syrian soldiers, journalist-colleagues, and simple people. This, by the way, is all I did, nothing else.
Q: Have you been asked to edit information and facts from your articles to be published? and did you accept?
A: No. The Syrians never asked to write this or not to write that. This might be the most surprising details for the European colleagues, who always describe Syria as a hard-core-dictatorship. I was completely free in my activities there. I was able to speak to everybody, I asked everything , without any censorship or controlling. But your question refers to my German publisher, I guess. I work for an independent publishing house in Germany, we are not big and rich, we are not very much beloved, we are not “everybody’s darling” , but we write what we want. My publisher never told me to “adjust” my articles, to edit this or that information. He supports me 100 percent in what I do. And this answers also your second question. This is the reason I work for the publishing house, because I wouldn´t accept any censorship in my articles.
Q: How was your visit to the Syrian soldier? and do you think that the army is committing the massacres?
A: The conversations I had with the Syrian soldiers were important for me. Why? Because in western media we get an endless row of portraits and interviews with the so called rebels, the Istanbul based rebel-“government”. There is a big shadow on the state security forces. When the west mentions them, they talk about them, not with them. They are called slaughterers, barbarians, and baby killers. I was interested who these people are who our mainstream media and governments hate so much. And I didn´t talk a lot, but listened very well when they were talking. And I met young men, fathers of young children who defend their country in a war that was brought into Syria from outside. I met heavily injured young Soldiers in the military hospital, who told me: “Right now, we fight against the whole world!” They spoke about the so called rebels, who come from foreign countries to fight their well-paid “djihad” against Syria.
When I was in al-Midan neighbourhood in Damascus, some gunfights still went on between the rebels and the army. I spoke with an officer about the civilians. He told me that the army tries hard to keep civilians out of the battle zone. This is a hard job especially in urban areas. And during the time of the rebel offensive against Damascus, I witnessed that the so-called FSA tries to push the war inside the city and that the Syrian army was trying to push them outside. This might sound “one-sided”, but this is my impression: The battle zones were concentrated on a small number of districts.
Q: What was the worst (photo/ Video) you saw in this crisis?
A: Hard to say, because I generally try NOT to get impressed by youtube-videos. I believe in my own eyes more than in youtube-channels. You cannot trust pictures, for example, the so-called “Hula”-picture with a lot of dead bodies, shown on a lot of western media websites . It came out that it was from Bagdad. Of course, there are disturbing reports and pictures coming from Syria. For me it is disturbing to see three year old children with a gun and a rebel flag in their hands, abused for propaganda for the “good ones”.
Q: How will the conflict in Syria end up?
A: Hard to say. I cannot read the coffee cup But it seems to me that Syria faces a long term conflict. Right now, there are so many different militant groups fighting in Syria, so many different interests (of course, it is all about power) and so many causes. There are so many weapons imported illegally into Syrian soil right now. While I answer your questions , there are militants crossing the border into Syria to fight against the Syrians and their army. As long the neighbors of Syria don´t take action against these illegal activities, I don´t see a chance for peace.
Hopefully this country will not end up like Lebanon which doesn’t seem to recover, although more than 20 years have passed since the civil war ended.