Belfast Telegraph

Full story is not being told about violence in Syria

By Robert Fisk

How the government howled. With the help of a neighbouring state, 'terrorists' were trying to destroy the government and its army, blowing up and murdering its supporters.

'Terrorists' were crossing the international border, arms were being shipped over the frontier and given to rebels fighting the government, 'non-lethal' aid was being sent to the opposition.

I recalled this when I crossed that same border. Not from Turkey into Syria, but from the Republic into Northern Ireland.

There, to the left of Newry lay the broken screen which once guarded the fortress where British troops guarded the border.

When the Northern Ireland government turned on Catholics in 1969, thousands of refugees flooded into the Republic. Sound familiar? When British paratroopers were ambushed at Warrenpoint, soldiers fired back across the border at a 'terrorist'. He wasn't a terrorist, but an innocent holidaymaker. The IRA gave Press conferences in Dublin and, oh my, the British government howled.

Odd how these things get forgotten. Now it is plucky Turkey, hosting opposition to the Syrian regime, funnelling weapons and men across the border.

The IRA's 'terrorism' against the occupying Brits has been transmogrified into the valiant Syrian resistance against a vile Alawite-led regime whose Baathist acolytes must be crushed in order to bring democracy to Damascus.

Now the usual caveat: Bashar al-Assad is a despot; his regime is awful; Syrian militias fill mass graves; there were no mass graves in Northern Ireland.

But when it comes to law, moral compromise and hypocrisy, the West takes the biscuit.

La Clinton raves on about Syrian depravity when Syrian shells slaughter a Turkish woman and her four children, but gives succour to the gunmen who torture and kill and suicide-bomb the regime's supporters inside Syria.

Typically, Al-Jazeera was the first channel to cover the response of local Turks to the killing of the family in Akcakale: they blamed their own government for using the village as a jumping off point for rebels entering Syria, thus turning their town into a target.

Syrian shells exploding in Turkey are landing in Hatay province, but what is not being reported is that, until 1939, Hatay was part of Syria.

For hundreds of years, this territory was Syrian. Alexandretta (now Iskenderun) was its finest port. But as Nazi Germany grew in the 1930s, the French handed it to the Turks, hoping Turkey would join the Allied side against Hitler.

A fraudulent referendum was held and Arabs in the province fled south, along with an almost equal number of Armenians, who had survived the 1915 genocide. Today, the children and grandchildren of those Armenians tacitly support the Assad regime.

Turkey stayed neutral until the very end of the Second World War.

Don't expect to hear Hatay is Turkish. Hitler is dead. The Newry fortress is long abandoned. The IRA- up to a point - won.

Funny thing, history. Here today, gone tomorrow.


From Belfast Telegraph