Dutch photographer held hostage in Syria: jihadists, rebels, half-truths and lies

Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans (ANP)

Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans (ANP)

July 28, 2012


“They were only foreign jihadists; I don’t think there was one Syrian among them,” Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans says about the group of fighters who captured and held him and British photographer John Cantlie for a week in northern Syria. Referring to them as jihadists, he declares in an interview with journalist Bram Vermeulen in Dutch newspaper NRC: “Those guys are totally independent from the Free Syrian Army. Many of them spoke good English, with Birmingham accents. According to them, a large flow of international fighters have crossed the borders with Syria during the past few weeks.”

Oerlemans, a freelancer with the British agency Panos Pictures, and Cantlie illegally crossed the Syrian border with Turkey on July 19 through a hole in the border fence and climbed up a hill. “John [Cantlie] had entered Syria this way before”, Oerlemans tells NRC, “but where he went left before, we now went right. A Syrian smuggler sent us in that direction. He was constantly on the phone and didn’t speak English, so we couldn’t discuss anything with him. After a while we reached what I thought was a refugee camp – but we walked straight into a group of twenty bearded men who started to yell at us and showed us their Kalashnikovs. We asked them if they were shabiha, Assad forces. ‘You don’t think shabiha would speak English’, a Pakistani-looking guy said to us. There were a few Africans among the group. Many Central-Asians. Foreign jihadists.”

“They didn’t believe we were journalists, they thought we were CIA”, Oerlemans states in the NRC interview. “Then one of the black jihadists started to scream: ‘Those are journalists who now witness us preparing an international jihad at this place.’ They consider Syria as the final battlefield. They share the same enemy with the Free Syrian Army, they only fight for different reasons and with a different purpose. Once Assad is ousted, the Shari’a law should be established in Syria.”

“All day we were spoken to about the Qur’an and that we should prepare for death, it was rather scary. I don’t think they were Al Qaeda; they seemed too amateurish for that. They said, ‘We’re not Al Qaeda, but Al Qaeda is down the road.’”, Oerlemans says in another interview published in the New York Times on July 28.  “I immediately felt sorry for the Free Syrian Army. After they will have managed to rid themselves of Assad, they have to deal with these guys.”

Oerlemans says to NRC he and Cantlie were sent down the hill to a stock tent, where they found two handcuffed men. “The jihadists told us they were Assad’s informants and would die for sure. We were also handcuffed and blindfolded.”

“Free Syrian Army” rebels

On the second day Oerlemans and Cantlie decided to escape through a hole in the tent, but they were noticed by “a group of fighters who were unloading trucks”. While the photographers tried to run up a hill, the fighters started to fire at them; Oerlemans got hit in his hip and Cantlie in his arm. “From a distance we heard them scream: ‘kaffir, you are gonna die’, Oerlemans says in the NRC interview. “My life has been saved by the English speaking Pakistani-looking guy.”

“They forced us to go back to the camp and took care of our wounds. Everyone was livid and asked us why we tried to escape if we were innocent. We lied in the tent till Thursday [July 26]. Just when we thought we would be transported to Iraq or to an other group of fighters, a few men entered the tent and asked us how long we have been there. ‘This is outrageous’, they yelled at the jihadists, and then they told us we were free.”

According to NRC, Oerlemans says those men were “four fighters of the Free Syrian Army who obviously were able to freely enter the camp”. In the New York Times interview he however says he assumes that his rescuers were fighters from the so-called Free Syrian Army. “They fired into the air during the rescue but more as a show of force to intimidate the jihadists, rather than as part of a firefight”, Oerlemans declares. “Three hours later we arrived in Turkey.”

Half-truths and lies

Throughout both interviews, Oerlemans apparently wants to convince us of the fact that there are two different groups fighting against the Syrian government since almost a year and a half: on one hand the (evil) “jihadists fighters who are close to Al Qaeda” who seek to oust president Assad in order to establish the Shari’a law in the country, and on the other hand the (good) so-called Free Syrian Army fighters who seek to overthrow the Syrian government in order to establish “democracy”. The Dutch photographer not so surprisingly chooses to build on one of the most favourite Western media lies that “jihadists” and “Al Qaeda fighters” are an unwanted by-product of what is said to be the Syrian people’s revolution for freedom and democracy.

However, in reality at issue is not whether the Syrian government is democratic or not or whether president Bashar al-Assad is a dictator or not. Syria was calm and peaceful, “a beautiful country filled with hospitality, promise, and love” before Western-led armed rebels started their violent “revolution” in March 2011 – a “revolution” planned by the Washington administration and its allies at least as early as 2007. In an excellent analysis, LandDestroyer writes:

“…veteran journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in his New Yorker article “The Redirection,” [March 5, 2007] that:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.” –The Redirection, Seymour Hersh (2007)

Hersh’s report would also include:

“the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations.” –The Redirection, Seymour Hersh (2007)

The 2007 article also warned about the inevitable consequences of arming radical sectarian extremists, with CIA operators in Lebanon warning of mass murder, sectarian violence, and specifically the targeting of Christian minorities across the Levant (the region along the Mediterranean Sea including Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria):

“Robert Baer, a former longtime C.I.A. agent in Lebanon, has been a severe critic of Hezbollah and has warned of its links to Iranian-sponsored terrorism. But now, he told me, “we’ve got Sunni Arabs preparing for cataclysmic conflict, and we will need somebody to protect the Christians in Lebanon. It used to be the French and the United States who would do it, and now it’s going to be Nasrallah and the Shiites” –The Redirection, Seymour Hersh (2007)

Now, demonstratively, we see exactly this feared onslaught manifesting itself in Syria, in particular against Christians as indicated in LA Times’ “Church fears ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Christians in Homs, Syria,” and more recently in USA Today’s distorted, but still telling, “Christians in Syria live in uneasy alliance with Assad, Alawites.” Even the massacre in Houla, seems to echo of this 2007 warning, bearing all the hallmarks of sectarian extremists like Al Qaeda.”

The so-called Free Syrian Army and its NATO-led Istanbul-based Syrian National Council in fact has existed from Al Qaeda fighters, foreign mercenaries, Syrian sectarian extremists, Libyan terrorists from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group who now openly confirm to have joined armed groups in Syria and related rabble since the beginning. Some of them are bearded, some of them are Sunni, Shii’a, Ash’ari, Salafi or something else, some of them yell the words freedom and democracy in front of cameras or cell phones, some of them appear on CNN begging the U.S. and Israel to attack Syria.

However, regardless their outward and religious differences, these terrorists share the fact that they are part of the globalist agenda of bankrupt Western countries who play bloody and often religious divide and conquer games in Africa and the Middle East in an attempt to bail themselves out of their economic misery. As long as Western photographers, journalists and other media figures refuse to acknowledge and expose this truth, the Syrian conflict and other Western-orchestrated catastrophes won’t come to an end anytime soon.

UPDATE: A spokesman of the “Free Syrian Army” grabbed the opportunity to claim the terrorist group has been responsible for the liberation of the two photographers in the below Arab language video with Dutch subtitles released on Saturday. “Colonel” Afeef Mahmoud Suleiman in short says that the captors of the photographers should be punished and that the “Free Syrian Army” has nothing to do with the “armed fighters” who captured them. He also calls on “all honourable Western and Arab journalists” to contact the “Free Syrian Army” in order to prevent them from “getting attacked by the regime, in an attempt to make a mockery of this great Syrian revolution”.

Suleiman is a former senior military officer from the Syrian city of Hama who served the Syrian army before he announced his “defection” to the armed terrorists live on U.S. and Israel controlled news channel Al Jazeera in January this year.

Categories: Netherlands

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