Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sieges in Syria

(January 28, 2014)

Nearly every day this week, the BBC Arabic broke off to show the live press conferences about Syria. Luckily, the man giving the statements (Lakhdar Brahimi) has a very nice, calm, soothing voice, so that was okay.  Even though he is a native Arab speaker, he often gave his remarks in English, so the translator would jump in. The BBC Arabic translator also has a nice voice, so even that was okay!

I think Mr. Brahimi must be very respected, because after one of the conferences, all the reporters jumped up and wanted to shake his hand.

There was always someone sitting next to him at the top table, to be in charge of who asked the next question. This lady is one of them. Do you think she is Swedish? I don't. I think she looks German. Or she might be something completely different. But on the off-chance she's from my favorite place, I thought I wanted to grab a screenshot of her.

They also showed us a random shot of a UN guard during the conference. He looks very sober and grave.

Some days, they kept saying, "okay, and the last question will go to..." but once that question was answered, they'd take another question anyways.

Mr. Brahimi was giving press conferences because he is the lead mediator trying to reconcile the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition. And they had a big meeting all this week in Geneva. 

After the press conferences, the BBC Arabic would go into analysis.

The Syrian government media person would say things like:
Brahimi always what the other countries want him to say. He is not the Quran! He says one thing one day, and something opposite the next.

Or maybe the government spokesperson would say:
How are we supposed to allow humanitarian aid into the besieged areas when we've seen the Red Cross/Red Crescent perform hundreds of terrorist acts under this pretence!

Of course, the Syrian opposition was also interviewed, and they would say something entirely different. They said things like: yes, the esteemed guest from Damascus who is trying to call me a terrorist, that is their way of having etiquette, of course ... 

One of the issues the opposition and the government were trying to negotiate about were all the besieged places in Syria where people are dying of hunger. The Syrian government has surrounded these areas in order to strangle and choke off the fighters inside, but there's lots of women and children in those areas as well. Apparently, the Syrian government wanted the names of all the women and children to be printed out in a list, before they allow them out.

The opposition interviewed by the BBC Arabic said:
First, the government asked for lists of the people who want to leave the siege. But there's other people who don't want to leave their homes! About them the government said: if you are a terrorist, we will not allow one ounce of food to reach you!

This was the opposition guy, live from Geneva, where the negotiations took place.

Malak Jaafar of the BBC Arabic was doing this interview, and she asked:
So what's the problem with making those lists of names? Make the list, and then the people who want to leave can do so.

Opposition man:
Because the government calls all of them terrorists! They say the kids are all spies and the women are something else, and that they will be taken away and never allowed back into their homes. 

So Malak turned back to the government guy and asked him to respond. Says the government guy:
What the opposition man says is wrong! We want to do everything above-board. If you are so concerned with the humanitarian side of things, then why did you let Erdogan do something and something else ... no idea what he's talking about.

no, that's another matter entirely, you always take us off-topic. 

Government man:
oh Malak, oh Malak, oh Malak, my lady, oh Malak ....

You're not doing things to build trust!

Government man smirks and says:
If any person inside the siege left and went to any of the army checkpoints, they would immediately give them food and water. We provide electricity and everything to everyone! If we really wanted to inflict suffering, we would have cut off the electricity long ago!

Here is the government guy:

And here is the whole scenario, with Malak in the middle. 
 I did not mean to get a shot of her with her eyes closed! This is in the heat of the action, with the government guy and the opposition guy yelling at each other, for all that they are thousands of miles apart.

The siege they are talking about is the one happening in the Syrian city of Homs.

Malak did lots of interviews with Syrians this week, each keen to say their side has the moral high ground. She spoke to an evil-faced man representing the government, though he was speaking live from Washington, DC. 

He says: the UN has no authority to intervene in Syria. The UN can only intervene in matters of global security. The real problem is terrorism!

Malak: you're the ones with the big weapons - tanks, shells.

Government guy: well, I'm talking about priorities, which is terrorism, which is a global priority, and which we have to stop.

Malak: if you really don't want the terrorists, then go after the terrorist groups; but why are you attacking the Free Syrian Army?

Government guy: not sure what he said, except he thought the nuances of the situation were very clear, and if you don't see it the way he does, you're stupid.

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