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This week on Behind the Headlines, we're interviewing - for the second time - freelance journalist and human rights activist Eva Bartlett, who was on this show two months ago. Bartlett was aboard the Dignity, one of five Free Gaza relief operations to successfully sail to the Gaza Strip in 2008. She ended up staying in Gaza for some time, reporting from there during Israeli Operations 'Cast Lead' in 08/09, and 'Pillar of Defense' in 2012.

In the last couple of years, Bartlett has been one of the few Western journalists to report truthfully on the situation in Syria, a country she has visited several times, including independently on a journalist visa. Bartlett recently returned from spending 8 days over Christmas in the war-torn country, where she attended conferences, visited recently liberated districts, and met Syrian officials, religious and community leaders.

Listeners can find Eva's writings on Syria and Palestine at her blog,, and support her continuing work as a voice for the voiceless through

We hope you'll join us from 2-4pm EST / 8-10pm CET, this Sunday 10th January 2016, for an account of life in Syria you won't hear anywhere else.

Running Time: 01:32:00

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript of the show:

Niall: Hello and welcome to Behind the Headlines. I'm Niall Bradley and my co-host as usual, Joe Quinn.

Joe: Hi there.

Niall: Today is Sunday, January 10, 2016. Happy New Year to all of our listeners. We are interviewing this week, for the second time, freelance journalist and human rights activist Eva Bartlett who was on the show two months ago. Eva was aboard the Dignity, one of the five Free Gaza relief operations to successfully sail to the Gaza Strip in 2008. She ended up staying in Gaza for some time, reporting there during the Israeli operations Cast Lead and a couple of years later, I believe, during Pillar of Defense. What a terrible name for that ghastly operation!

In the last couple of years Eva has visited Syria several times including independently on a journalist visa. She recently returned from Syria where she spent eight days in the worn-torn country over Christmas I believe, and is joining us today for a sit rep on the situation in Syria. You can find Eva's writings on Syria and Gaza at her blog Eva welcome. Happy New Year to you!

Joe: And thanks for talking to us.

Eva: Thank you and happy new year to you both and I just wish that this year brings more truth to the situations that we're all covering and I hope that it brings peace.

Joe: Absolutely! Last month you spent eight days in Syria?

Eva: yes. I was in Lebanon for a right-of-return conference on Palestine and as it happened I got a journalist visa to return to Syria so I took advantage of the fact that I was already over in that area.

Joe: Being in Syria in December 2015 is probably one of the most intense times, certainly in recent years I suppose, to be there, given everything that's happened in Syria; not just over the past four years but specifically since last September since the Russians got involved. So what was your take on the situation vis-à-vis with what people in the west here get, which is that ISIS is overrunning the whole country, the Russians are trying to bomb them and the Assad government is stable/not stable, it's a dictatorship, Syrians want Assad to leave, that's what's the cause of all this - according to John Kerry - is Assad being there. Assad's even to blame for ISIS. That's what we're told in the west. That's what western audiences via mainstream media get. So maybe you want to truthify some of that?

Eva: Yeah sure. In terms of the propaganda and the rhetoric against Syria, there are some things that are just so tired and old that it's just so laughable to think that people are still repeating it, like this whole "Assad must step down. The Syrian people are being oppressed by Assad. The regime is killing its people." All of this has been repeatedly refuted and I have to say its western arrogance. Okay, you can't really blame the average person that's being spoon fed these horrible narratives, but it really is western arrogance for any leader or any individual here to be saying that the Syrian people don't know what they want. They know what they want. They went out and they voted en masse and they chose their President.

Whether they chose President Assad because they truly love him or because they see him as the unifying force, the only force in Syria that's going to fight this terrorism doesn't really matter. The fact is they chose President Assad. Let's just leave that aside. Every time I've gone to Syria since April 2014 and the times I've spent in Lebanon in between, Syrians tell me "We want President Assad" and many of them are actually quite adamant about the fact that they love their President. So, that narrative has been dealt with, although the western media and John Kerry continue to try to bring this up as if it's somehow even a talking point anymore.

In terms of things that have changed, I wish I could say I had gone to Syria prior to when this foreign war was orchestrated on Syria, but I didn't. I only got there for the first time in April of 2014 after I'd been doing quite a bit of reading and advocacy from afar. So since April 2014 there have been some very important changes. Back in April for example, Homs was totally still inhabited or infested by terrorist, specifically the old city of Homs and different areas of Homs. Now, at present, the only area of Homs that still has a small band of terrorists is Alwaye and I'll talk about that in a bit. But back then, Homs was infested with terrorists.

There's a lot of media right now on people starving in Syria. Well when the terrorists were occupying Homs, people were starving and in June 2014 when I went back there on a journalist visa I had a chance to meet with some of these survivors of that terrorist occupation of old Homs that stated, specifically Zanet and Ayman Al akhras who lived in the old city who stayed to the very end and who were starving by these terrorists. That's just one point, that now where these terrorists did inhabit the old city and did destroy not only homes but any sort of Christian sites, churches, etc., hospitals, they're gone now. Homs is starting to rebuild. It has a lot of rebuilding to do still, but when I was there just now; the difference is since June 2014 when it was literally piles of rubble everywhere you looked in the old city, now people have cleaned up. Some people have opened shops.

It was very interesting to see that in the old city where, again, a lot of rebuilding needs to happen, people have taken their own initiative. There have been government initiatives as well and opened shops, opened new schools. So there's that. I mentioned Alawad. So with this, there was a deal to basically extract a number of the terrorists from Alawad and take them, I think it was via Lebanon or Turkey, to extract them and take them out of that area. I was at Alawad and I was able to go to the front lines at the last Syrian Army checkpoint. And so I asked what the situation was and a journalist who's from Homs who's been covering it a lot and the Syrian military at the checkpoint told me there's still roughly over 2,000 of these terrorists inside. They chose not to participate in this reconciliation. They remain there. But there is a ceasefire but that ceasefire could at any moment be broken because essentially they're taking orders from their puppeteers, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey.

So as we stood there at the front line where civilians are crossing in and out into Alwaye, but they have to go through the terrorists' checkpoint and then they come to the Syrian Arab Army checkpoint. These people are coming out of Alwaye. Maybe they work or study in Homs or people are coming from Homs to work in Alwaye where they had worked before and they're being enabled, transit, by the Syrian Arab Army. They're not being blocked. And at the same time I saw medicines going into Alwaye. I visited a bread factory that is providing the bread for that area and the wheat is being provided by the Syrian government.

But yeah, as we stood there at the checkpoint I said, "There's a ceasefire. It's safe?" They said, "Well no. It could be broken at any time. You should step back now because they're watching us over here and they could snipe at any time." So there's that. But it's important to note that the Alwaye process is part of the greater reconciliation project that's been going on for years that no one dares to speak about because this is a Syria government initiative that has actually been quite successful.

Niall: Right. There's an ongoing process of negotiation between various groups in which there are general amnesties for weapons in exchange for safe passage.

Eva: Yes, that's correct.

Niall: Okay.

Eva: There's actually a ministry of reconciliation that again, corporate media won't speak about or if they do, they mock the concept. But it's an important concept and it's an important reality because it shows that the Syrian government, in addition to the army fighting the terrorism that's been foisted upon Syria, the Syrian government is making very real attempts at negotiating with Syrians, not with these foreign terrorists that have come from every corner of the earth, but with Syrians who for whatever reason, took up arms, but are wanting to reconcile. So they lay down their arms. They go through an amnesty program. They're given amnesty.

Joe: People have heard a lot about Syria over the past few years. They've heard of the Free Syrian Army, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front and ISIS most particularly. From what you understand, there does seem to be, or there was at least at some point in the past four years, a genuine anti-government engaged in this Syrian armed movement?

Eva: My understanding - and this through reading a lot of documentation including witness testimony in various areas of Syria - is that yes, there was a will for political change and there still is a will for political change and yes there were some Syrians that took up arms, but that this whole notion of a revolution which it is not - we can get into that, why it's not - but it's not a revolution and it's not a civil war. But this whole notion of it was pre-planned. And you have various top US administration leaders and documents, noting this were pre-planned.

But anyway, there were protests and from the beginning protestors were armed; not only in Dahla but also in Homs. The late Father Frans van der Lugt, the Dutch priest that lived there for decades was assassinated by one of these so-called moderate rebels and he was somebody that stayed in Homs until his assassination and right prior to Homs' liberation, and he was saying from the beginning he saw armed protestors among these so-called non-violent demonstrations. So that narrative, has been repeated documented, that this was never a non-violent so-called revolution.
When I was there in April 2014 with an international peace delegation we met with internal opposition members and some of them were quite vocal in their criticism of what problems they viewed with the Syrian government. But all of them said whereas they want political change and they're still fighting for political change, whether they were representatives of a Kurdish party, women's party, the SSNP, very political parties, all the ones that we met with said, "We're still going to fight for political change but right now we're behind our government because we see that this is a foreign plot on Syria. This is not the way to achieve political change."

Joe: Right. One thing you never hear in the western media is that, any kind of an armed revolution or uprising against the government of a country usually happens after a kind of protracted period of the people of that country protesting peacefully; they go out in the streets and they want some political change and they'll start having demonstrations. It's usually only after a period where those demonstrations are put down or they're violently put down and that people will then resort to armed uprisings. But it seems that in terms of Syria, as you just mentioned, the armed aspect of this so-called uprising happened right at the very beginning.

Eva: It did. And this is documented, not just from people like myself who have gone to Syria and talked with Syrian civilians in Homs, in Damascus, from Dahla, who have said they heard the sectarian chants, "Kill the Alawites and Christians in Beirut". Not only that, but it's been documented by various investigative journalists who have found that again, in Dahla, that the initial firing came from the protestors and that in fact the security forces were not firing in the crowds and the army wasn't even present until after protestors started to slaughter Syrian security forces.

There are a lot of massacres that went unspoken in the corporate media but investigative journalists like Sharmine Narwani did look into them and looked at how in the very initial months there were massive slaughters of Syrian soldiers. Interestingly in one of her early articles, I think it was The Hidden Massacre, she was looking at the lists that were purporting to be the death lists of so-called unarmed protestors in Syria and she noted that on one of these lists they included protestors who were actually Palestinians that had been killed by the Zionist forces when the Palestinians were protesting on lamb day and they were included on these death tolls of so-called unarmed protestors killed by the Syrian government.

There are so many fallacies there but as I've seen and as colleagues have seen, for example at different conference like the World Social Forum I went to in March in Tunis, I went specifically to hear what kind of talks were being given on Syria and sure enough there were a couple of talks that I attended were largely led by western leftists. They had token Arab talking heads, but largely western leftists, or if they were Syrians in exile, the point was their narrative was for the first six or seven months the protests were unarmed, the Syrian so-called regime was just massacring people. These are blatant lies that have been disputed and the truth of the fact of these sectarian and armed protests has been documented.

There's a man named Nidal from the Tartuffe area who was apprehended by terrorists who at that time may have been going - well it was initial protests. They weren't yet called the Free Syrian Army. They were just terrorists that were armed, locals that were armed and they paraded this poor man around, slashed him in the face and basically massacred him in front of a group of people because he was Alawite. And they confessed to this later. So these are the west unarmed protestors. Then the US regime continues to keep talking about moderates but there are no moderates and this is a fact. This is a major criticism of not just corporate media, but some independent medias, that they only now talk about Daesh or ISIS but in fact all these terrorists whether they're Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham, so-called FSA, they've all been committing heinous acts against the Syrian people.

Joe: So the idea then that there was some brewing or latent sectarian tension in Syria for a long, long time though just waiting to explode is a lie as well.

Eva: Based on what I have read and been told, I would say the only sectarianists that were in Syria would be the Muslim Brotherhood who had a traditional base in Homs and other regions as well and in the past, in the '80s, they committed massacres actually against the Syrian government. But every other Syrian I've met in Syria, in Latakia, in Homs, in Damascus and Suwayda, have said they're Syrian first and then if you really probe them, then they'll say whatever their faith is.

Joe: Right because most people in any country want a safe, peaceful and a normal life. The idea that the Syrian people or any significant percentage of the Syrian people would have wanted what happened over the past four years to happen is just ridiculous and it's true for every single country. Sectarian divisions I don't think in any country are strong enough for the ordinary people who would hold to different religious beliefs or whatever, to say that "My religious belief is worth destroying my country and the deaths of millions or hundreds of thousands of Syrians", that it's worth that. That is absolutely ridiculous and anti-human. So the question then comes where are these fracture point or how are they exacerbated and provoked and by whom.

Eva: Well yeah! I know many Syrians, friends of mine who are intermarried. So for example, one Shia one Sunni or Sunni/Christian, or whatever; there are intermarriages all over the place. You have the village which I wanted to mention anyhow. The villages of Al-Fu'ah and Kafriya just north of Idlib that have been besieged by terrorists for four years and very definitely locked down since I think it was March last year where these terrorists are not only denying entry of food and medicine but they're also terrorizing with mortars and missiles. They've killed over 1,000 people in those villages and the western media and the so-called human rights groups aren't talking about this. We'll probably get back to this later when we talk about Madaya.

But in those villages when the corporate media does address them, they do so very passingly and they mention two Shia villages. They are predominantly Shia, but when I talked with friends from those villages, they pointed out, "Eva, we have intermarried and we've shared the celebrations of our neighbours, our Sunni or Christian neighbours or whatever their faith is, and it isn't an issue of us being Shia. We've always shared one another's customs." And Christmas in Syria was a perfect example. Again in Homs and in Damascus and I was also in Suwayda, but in Homs and Damascus where I saw the most decorations although later when I was writing about this, you saw Christmas being celebrated all throughout Syria wherever possible, wherever they're not being knocked down by terrorists - you saw Muslims in Damascus going to church services or putting up Christmas trees.

Dr. Ja'fari who herself is a Muslim said she has a Christmas tree. She's the advisor to the Syrian President. She had a Christmas tree in her home. She's always had one and her daughters are now in their 30s and they have Christmas trees. Syrians deny the sectarianism. It's foisted upon them by these disgusting Wahhabi forces in Saudi Arabia or the Muslim Brotherhood in Qatar and Turkey. You have the Mufti of Saudi Arabia calling for all churches in the Arabian Peninsula to be razed, to be destroyed yet you have the Mufti in Syria who is the Mufti of all Syrians, not the Mufti of Muslims, espousing love to all faiths.

Joe: Absolutely, yeah.

Eva: The contrast could not be more shocking.

Joe: It's completely normal as well.

Niall: I've read that this guy, the grand Mufti of Syria gave Christmas mass in a church.

Joe: Right.

Eva: Yes, exactly.

Niall: But that's the head of Islam for all Syria.

Eva: Precisely. And on my second meeting with him in February of 2015, who was seated next to him but the archbishop Peter Latham. That's who was sitting next to him and Mufti Hassoun was saying, "He's my cousin. Generations back we were all cousins." And this is the same thing I heard when I was in Homs with a friend from the Ahasa family. He himself is Muslim. The family that I mentioned earlier are Christian. They come from one family and at some point one of their relatives became Muslim and the other remained Christian but it doesn't matter. Syrians consider themselves Syrian first.

Niall: So your prognosis, even after four years of this, is that, let's call it "sectarianization" from outside has not yet taken hold to any significant degree within Syria.

Eva: No, as we know, the terrorists that have infested Syria are primarily from outside. Yes there are Syrians that for whatever reason have taken up arms. And their reasons are diverse. Some of them it is because they think it's a revolution but the majority, I would say, have done so because they're getting paid or because for other reasons or in many places where the terrorists have a stronghold, they don't really have a choice. They do it or they're killed or they're...

Niall: Or they're finished.

Eva: Yeah. But for the vast majority of Syrians, it has become more common now to discuss one's religion but not because it's sectarianism. Suwayda is to the south and slightly east of Damascus and it's known to be a Druze area. I went there and I was welcomed and I met with different people from Suwayda and also with one of the highest Druze officials who's commonly known as Shaykh al-'Aql, the mind Shaykh, and he and the people in that it was said from the, the people of Suwayda recognize that this was a foreign plot on Syria. And there were attempts along the way, assassinations of people, attempts to create division and to turn the people of Suwayda against the government but they were able to remain united and resist this and resist the outside sectarianism.

So Suwayda is actually relatively calm. You wouldn't know there was a war going on Syria if you were in Suwayda because people have actually come back to Suwayda to invest in their community because a combination of the war and the criminal sanctions on Syria has devastated Syria's economy. So people from outside that have been living elsewhere came back to Suwayda and are investing in their own economy.

Joe: It's kind of crazy-making when you think about it because if people in the west would just stop for a minute and think about the kind of propaganda that's going on in the west and in particular in Europe and the US, the anti-Muslim propaganda and realize that that is simply a façade or a veneer that's being forced on Muslim, of which there are 1.5 billion around the world, to make them all appear to be the blood-thirsty savages that ISIS are, it's ridiculous that people would have such extreme religious beliefs that they would kill other people of a different religious persuasion which nobody's really sure about anyway in terms of religion, my god/your god, heaven/hell, I don't know, not too sure. Yeah, it's a story in a book and there are different types, but I'm going to kill you for that. And why wouldn't a woman that you just described in Syria who'd lived in a multi-religious country effectively, a Muslim woman who knows about Christians, why wouldn't she have a nice, pretty tree in her room at a certain time of the year if it's custom? Hey, it brightens up my living room. And equally why would I as a Christian - not that I'm practicing - why would I not want to hang out with some Muslim friends during Ramadan and eat some nice pastries in the evening and have some nice sweet tea? Oh yeah, it's horrible! It really offends my religious beliefs that you would ask me to eat some nice pastries and have some sweet tea! The idea is just so ridiculous and that anybody subscribes to it is a testimony to the extent of the propaganda that the western press and governments are marshalling and shoving down peoples' throats.

But still, just stop and think about it and you realize that these are just a bunch of hired mercenaries, most of them psychopaths or otherwise mentally disturbed individuals who are hired guns who are doing it for money because they like killing people because they're psychopaths. They like to go and kill people. And if you can collect enough of those, you pay them enough money; give them enough weapons to go into a country to achieve your geopolitical ends.

But behind it all is the reality of the situation which is the vast majority of normal people of any religious persuasion on this planet are totally against everything that those people do, so how do they occupy such a big place in our lives? Why is it that I'm seeing the horrors of ISIS in Europe and in America and the threats and plots and all this nonsense from this tiny, tiny group of nut jobs?

Eva: I think something important to recognize is that the corporate media and Hollywood and various institutions and so-called human rights groups, but especially the mainstream media have been relentlessly vilifying Muslims. I personally don't feel that any Muslim should have to distinguish themselves, should have to stand up and say, "What ISIS is does not represent me".

Joe: Yeah.

Eva: Because obviously it doesn't. ISIS is mercenaries that have fought and massacred in Libya, in Afghanistan.

Niall: In Iraq.

Eva: They have different names but they're mercenaries. That's all they are. It's not about religion, although this is how the propaganda works is they portray themselves as Muslims and they say that they're killing people because they're not Muslim enough. When you look at Syria it's not surprising that Muslims will attend Christian mass or Christians will go to mosque. I was talking with a national defence forces soldier. I stayed in the old city when I was there and I've stayed there a few times actually so it's been interesting and we can get into that.

But this was a man who's from the Christian area. He might even have been Armenian. I didn't ask. But anyway he was Christian and he years ago became a national defence forces soldier to defend his quarter, his children, his country. And as we're talking, without even intending, he said, "Yeah, sometimes my Muslim friend comes with me to church. Sometimes I go to mosque." He just drops it because it's natural for them. For them, like I said, they've intermarried; they've shared one another's celebrations. There hasn't been this division between, "I'm Christian. You're Muslim".
This division is coming from outside. You look at a place like Saudi Arabia or Qatar or places that have been influenced by them and sadly, you have this stereotype of what is a Muslim. The stereotype doesn't apply to Muslims I know. I have many dear and close Muslim friends and they also send me Christmas wishes, whether they're in Syria or in Canada. The stereotype is coming, again, from corporate media, from Hollywood, from false flag terrorism. That's where it's coming from.

For example one group that I met in Damascus was a volunteer group and when I met them it was accidental. I had just done an interview with the patriarch of Homs who was in Damascus and I was walking around the old city. I decided that at this time, since I didn't have any meetings, I was just going to visit some of the churches in the old city and see what they were doing. So I was heading towards what's known as the Zaytouna church because it's on Zaytoun Street and there were some people erecting a homemade tree made of metal and cloth which later on just looks fabulous.

But anyway, I saw them walking towards the church and they had these vests with the name Said Association, Said means helping or help. So I just asked them, "Oh, what's going on? Can I interview you?" They were very kind and they took me in and showed me the tree they were working on. Then they took me into a kitchen where they were baking Christmas treats and they told me they had over 1,000 volunteers, among them many children from a special needs school and they were baking these special sweets, date-stuffed cookies, that they were going to hand out to less fortunate people throughout Christmas.

As we were leaving the director, a really nice man, Isam Hebl just casually said to me "Oh by the way, most of us are Muslim". They don't only do campaigns for Christians, but the point is they do campaigns for all Syrians, right? So this is just another example. Mufti Hassoun and I'm sure President Assad has spoken about the social fabric of Syria. I know that Dr. Ja'fari, before he was a Syrian representative to the United Nations in New York City and put under a ridiculous 25 mile travel limit restriction, he was prior to that travelling around the states and meeting with Syrians in the states who were very interested to hear what he had to say. I remember watching one beautiful video of a meeting of him - I can't remember where it was in the states - but he's talking about the social fabric of Syria. He makes the point and again, most Syrians do make the point, that they are all brothers and sisters. He says it far more eloquently, but the point that there's not been any of this sectarian divide prior to this. And there still isn't.

Niall: Okay. This is a Syrian man living in the US who's under a 25 mile travel limit?

Eva: Yeah, so I met with Dr. Ja'fari. He's an amazing spokesperson for Syria. He's extremely articulate. He speaks I think its four languages; extremely educated. I met with him a couple of times now. The first time I was able to interview him and with regard to the United Nations, which is just a ridiculous institution - the United Nations has Saudi Arabia as the head of the Human Rights Council. When you look at Palestine; all the resolutions that have been passed against Israel with respect to Palestinians' rights and have never achieved anything because the United Nations in the end is not there to actually implement anything that will help oppressed people. They're just there to implement criminal no-fly zones that will kill people or further occupation.

But anyway, when the Syrian ambassador, Dr. Ja'fari speaks at the UN, frequently the news feed is cut. The video feed is cut. His mike is cut or he's limited in the amount of time he can speak. It's absolutely scandalous what they do to him because he's the representative of Syria, so in theory when you're talking about terrorism in Syria, you need the Syrian representative to speak but they routinely cut his mike or don't allow him to speak period.

Niall: That's a very typical tactic which we know well. That reminds me of in the north of Ireland where they would not allow any republican...

Joe: Sinn Féin.

Niall: ...Sinn Féin dissidents from appearing on the news and once they were eventually allowed to speak, they had to dub their voices...

Joe: An actor's voice.

Niall:'s voice.

Joe: It's hysterical really.

Niall: But it reinforced the impression in the public's mind that these were not human, or subhuman, separate from us.

Eva: Yes. And along that line, on the issue of terrorism and separate from us and whose lives are important or not, when the attacks happened in Paris, whether they happened as the corporate media reported or not, the point was people were killed, lives were lost and that is tragic anywhere. When it happened, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, all the big corporations were offering to change peoples' profile pictures or putting up logos of the French flag. Well when the bombings happened in Beirut on November 12 in Bourj el-Barajneh, the district of Bourj el-Barajneh, not the Palestinian camp, and 44 people were killed, you didn't get that same sympathy. Instead the way it was painted was Hezbollah stronghold, a militant stronghold was attacked. That's all. It doesn't matter.

I went there and I saw some of the people who had lost loved ones in these bombings and the area was not a Hezbollah militant stronghold. It was a neighbourhood. It was a neighbourhood that had yes, Shia, but it also had Sunnis and it had Christians and people that were killed were civilians. The bombings that occurred, I believe it was right before 6:00 p.m. It was a busy time. This is a street that had residential buildings. It had commercial shops. It had bakeries and small restaurants. It was a very narrow street so when these bombs went off, they inflicted a lot of damage. There was one brave man, I think his name was Adel Tourmas who prevented a third suicide bomber from exploding himself and he himself, Adel, was killed.

But the point is that these lives didn't matter in the corporate media nor did the lives of the people in the Zahara district in Homs. Various parts of Homs have been targeted with suicide and car bombings over the years. Zahara more recently was targeted on December 12 and I've heard differing reports on the number of people that were killed, but the Syrian state media says 16 civilians were killed and 54 injured including many in critical situation.

When I was in Syria I went to Zahara and I spoke with some of the survivors. People had lost siblings or children or parents, people who were themselves injured and what they told about how it happened was different than how the corporate media portrayed it and also their humanity. These were people that were suffering immensely but were stoically continuing on and who support their army and support their government. What they told me happened was a stolen Red Cross vehicle was parked near a shop, right near a natural gas delivery truck which thereby insured two massive explosions, the initial car bomb and the truck next to it. And then some hours later the attacker came back and exploded his own vest killing more people that had come to help after the initial blasts.

So the corporate media kind of glossed over their points. Again, they pointed it as an Alawite stronghold. Well, various people I talked with - journalists, residents - have said yes, it is largely an Alawite neighbourhood but there are also Sunnis living there and there are displaced people from other areas living there and there are Sunni shop holders living there. So again, this is this corporate media attempt to paint it as an Alawite therefore somehow it deserved it neighbourhood.

The area was attacked on December 28th again and there's again varying reports. I'll go with Syrian state media which was I believe under I think 20 or so people were killed, was already 20 too much. And again, little-to-no notice in the corporate media or if it was it would be with the same loaded terms "an Alawite neighbourhood".

Joe: Just on that point that pertains to the longer so-called war on terror, the idea of a suicide bomber, where do you get someone who's willing to blow themselves up for some really, at the end of the day, a fairly subjective cause against people that they don't even know? You can understand...

Niall: How much can you pay a guy to do it?

Joe: Well I can understand something in terms of a crime of passion or something like that where someone was deranged or mentally unstable and really just out of their mind that would do something like that, but in terms of the preponderance of so-called suicide bombers that there have been, starting actually in Palestine and Israel back in the '80s, one of the first ones and then it's continued on. It has been one of the major sticks that have been used to beat and demonize Muslims, the very idea that there would be such a thing as a Muslim suicide bomber when you don't have such things in the west. Eva, did you ever get any impression of what local people in Syria or elsewhere think about such things?

Eva: I actually just want to make one remark and that is the original terrorist bombers were the Zionists prior to the illegal creation of so-called Israel.

Joe: Right.

Eva: They had at least three main terrorist gangs and one of the more known suicide bombing terrorist acts was the bombing of the Kind David Hotel. I can't remember which year.

Joe: Yeah.

Eva: But that killed a number of people. The Zionists have perfected terrorist techniques so unfortunately it's been portrayed as a Muslim thing, but I just wanted to make that point. As for the terrorists in Syria that are doing it, I'd say there are different reasons. Indoctrination probably is a large degree of the reasoning and again, this is indoctrination coming from absolute non-Muslims, these Wahhabi terrorists in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and elsewhere.

Joe: Right.

Eva: But for example just the other day I saw a Syrian journalist who had shared a Facebook memory from 2014. The memory was that he had been able to meet with terrorist who had been captured and these were foreign terrorists from who knows where; Chechnya. They were foreign terrorists and he said in their testimonies they said they had come to Syria to wage so-called jihad against - I can't remember the terminology - infidels or whatever the Saudi Wahhabi terminology they've brainwashed these stupid people with, these terrorists with, he had come to wage jihad against these infidels that were massacring Muslims. This was his indoctrinated, brainwashed belief.

Again, I would say the average Muslim rejects this and laughs - not laughs, obviously it's a sad idea - but reject the concept of fighting this kind of jihad in Syria. I think that it's a combination of indoctrination; brainwashing, perhaps heavy drugs are involved as well. Let's talk about the terrorism that Syrians are suffering in addition to suicide and car bombings.

Joe: Right.

Eva: Syrians are suffering very real terrorism, hell cannons, again on these villages that I mentioned Al-Fu'ah and Kafriya - hell cannons are basically gas canisters that have been made into a rocket or a type of projectile - mortars and hell cannons on Damascus. The huge and sick irony and hypocrisy is that these mortars/rockets/missiles are coming from areas like Duma or eastern Guta or Sabadani, or areas outside of Damascus where western-backed terrorists are, where human rights groups and mainstream media are lamenting that the Syrian government is besieging areas where terrorists are embedded and where terrorists are lobbing these mortars onto civilian areas.

When I met with Dr. Shaaban, she brought this point up and she asked why do western countries keep silent - and I'm sure this is more of a rhetorical question - why do western countries keep silent about Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar who are financing, arming and facilitating terrorism in Syria. And she also pointed out that there have been various UN Security Council resolutions passed about stopping the financing of terrorism and yet this has really achieved nothing, but they have been passed. And she said that the Syrian leadership has since the beginning spoken about stopping terrorism. I personally believe that the terrorism in Syria is a combination of mercenaries and indoctrinated fools and I don't believe there's a whole lot of risk of blowback on Saudi Arabia because they are some of the ones that are controlling and financing these terrorists.

But some people believe that terrorism will spread back to the countries from which they've come so the terrorists that have come from France and trained in Turkey and waged their disgusting acts of terrorism in Syria, some people believe they will come back to France or whatever. But she was pointing out that Syrian leadership has condemned this terrorism and said that "You must stop it here so it doesn't spread". And she made a very valid point; that the way the western media treats any Syrian leadership or any Syrian period, whether it's a journalist or civilian, she said "It's the view of the colonizer to the colonized that the colonizer is honest and fair while they colonizer isn't telling the truth, is not trustworthy". And her message was that western people or people outside Syria understand that mothers, children, fathers, grandchildren, people are suffering under this terrorism and they want to live in peace and security and that people are not talking about these mortars.

In the beginning you asked me what has changed and one thing that had changed is that say in June 2014 when I spent a week in the old city and in April for a couple of weeks, the mortars were hitting every day. I would wake up to the mortars and for some reason they didn't hit the east gate area exactly where I was staying but they were hitting all around. They still hit but they're not quite as frequent. They are still killing people and that must be denounced but one of the reasons they're not as heavy is because the Syrian Arab army has returned security to places like Jobar where the mortars were being fired from before.

And this is one of the reasons why there is a military siege on the terrorists in places like Douma where civilians have been given the option and have been evacuated, people do remain for whatever reason, if they're supporting the terrorists or otherwise but they have been given the opportunity to evacuate and the terrorists that remained are under siege because these are the very people that are sending these hell cannons and mortars out on civilians, hospitals, streets, schools, in Damascus and outskirts.

Niall: Eva, I'm trying to understand this from a rough geographic point of view. A lot of these places you're describing where the terrorists are dug in long enough for them to have built these networks of underground tunnels and so on as they move between suburbs in an already demolished city, or suburbs of cities, is it that there's a kind of a standoff more or less? The Syrian army seems to be making some gains. Why is there a standoff because surely behind these terrorists there's no great big army. I'm trying to understand why the Syrian army is not able to come round the back of these guys, so say east from Damascus. Is it like it looks on most military maps that we're seeing these days? The military maps have the whole west of Syria under government control and then more or less large swathes of the east are under ISIS control.

Joe: A lot of its open desert. Is that right?

Eva: Exactly. That's an important point; most of the inhabited areas that the Syrian government or army has under control within for example Aleppo, you have hotbeds of terrorists and the army is making progress. For example when you look at the surroundings of say, Aleppo, the army has made very important strategic advances and in Latakia countryside and every village, every strategic point they capture, that does cut off the flow of weaponry supplied to terrorists. But then you have the borders with Jordan or Iraq and like you said, open desert and this is an army that's fighting and has been fighting for years and they can't be everywhere.

Niall: Yes.

Eva: But they are making advances in places like Dara'a, in places surrounding Damascus where the terrorists have had strongholds for a long time but it does take time. And one important thing to note is contrary to western media, if they wanted to they could just completely level Douma, they could completely level Dara'a, any area where there's a terrorist stronghold, but they're not doing that. They're waging strategic bombings on areas where there are terrorist embedded but not the whole area because they're trying to minimize the number of non-terrorist casualties.

Niall: Meanwhile the media's telling Europeans that the reason there's a refugee crisis in Europe is because Assad is using barrel bombs to indiscriminately bomb civilians in his own country.

Eva: So why doesn't the European media, mention that there are millions of refugees within Syria that have been absorbed into government controlled areas? Latakia, Tartuffe, Damascus, Suwayda. There are people that have come from terrorist-held areas in Aleppo in the countryside, etc., from Dara'a to Suwayda to Damascus, and they're being supported in these governments controlled and secured areas but the western media won't talk about that.

Niall: Can you give us an overview of the numbers, as best you know them? So the population of Syria; the numbers killed so far and then the numbers of refugees inside the country.

Eva: The numbers killed so far I don't think anybody can accurately say...

Niall: No.

Eva: ...because for example the UN has long since stopped collating these numbers because there's no dependable source of information. The sources of information used to be the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the one-man group based in the UK. He's long since been discredited as biased, as not having reliable sources. He's relying on so-called unnamed activists. So he's no longer a source. There's no credible source of statistics on the number of dead. People do source him but again, he's discredited.

I'm not a statistician but colleagues of mine have broken it down and the number of casualties is not predominantly civilians. It's people who are defending Syria and terrorists, of course. So right now there's no credible source of information about how many people have been killed, but if you hear numbers like 200,000, 250,000, please bear in mind that these are not 200,000 civilians. Over half of them will be people who were defending Syria.

Niall: Okay.

Eva: In terms of the population of Syria - I should know this - I believe its 23 million Syrians. Something like a million registered and perhaps 1 million non-registered refugees in Lebanon or displaced people in Lebanon. Other people have gone to Lebanon by the way, not to register as refugees but because there are areas of Syria have been decimated by terrorism and they need to provide for their families so they're working in Lebanon.

And then you have the camps in Jordan and Turkey which are from all understanding - I've not been there - but the situation in those camps is abysmal. We know that Turkey has been facilitating terrorists into Syria. It's documented. It's no longer a question.

Niall: Yeah.

Eva: They've been helping terrorists enter, they've been supplying weapons. The Turkish armed forces have themselves participated in attacks on Syria. So again, this is something the western media doesn't address. They like to talk about Syrian refugees. For example Canada has received 25,000 refugees, I believe it is. Canada is portraying itself as this benevolent country that's receiving refugees. Well Canada's part of the problem. Canada is supporting this NATO assault on Syria but by talking about refugees you detract from the real problem, the real issues which is this foreign war in Syria and the fact that the Syrian government has from the beginning made compromises, made changes to its constitution. It has dropped certain things like the emergency law. It has opened up various things that people were calling for. What were the protestors initially calling for? Freedom, well what is that. Spell it out. So they spelled it out. Some people spelled it out. The Syrian government made changes and the protestors still say, "We want freedom". Well what is that slogan?

But by talking about Syrian refugees it is sad that people have, for whatever reason, felt the need to leave Syria, but the corporate media is deliberately obfuscating on the fact that there are many within Syria that have stayed because they support the country and they are being supported by their neighbours or by the Syrian government.

Joe: On Turkey and Saudi Arabia and stuff, coming back to the broad picture, what's your understanding of why this is actually happening in Syria; why these dogs of Middle Eastern and western powers have turned on Syria or why they turned on Syria in 2011? Because it is my understanding that up until about 2010 or 2011 Turkey had quite a good relationship with the Assad government.

Eva: Not only Turkey. You see photos of John Kerry dining with President Assad.

Joe: Right.

Eva: The photos were maybe 2009 or so and John Kerry's very cosy with President Assad. It is documented that from you could say the late '90s but at least from early 2000s, the west had an agenda to destabilize Syria by any means. A lot of it has to do with Syria's resources. Other aspects have to do with breaking up the axis of resistance - Syria, Hezbollah, Iran. It has to do with so-called Israel not wanting to have this strong state. Not only is it a strong state that is allied with and supports the resistance and is largely against Israel, but also pro-Palestinian and the Palestinians in Syria had equal rights with Syrians with the exception they can't vote, but they had equal rights to work, to health care and free education, etc. This is not something they could say they have in Lebanon or Jordan or elsewhere, where they live in abysmal refugee camps.

So part of this war on Syria has not only been sectarian divide, it's also been dividing on people who support say Palestine, have been terribly misled on Syria. Some people, because they happen to be Muslim Brotherhood supporters and a lot of people who have been misled on Syria have been misled by the Human Rights Watch, the Ken Roths that tweet out these false tweets alleging to be Aleppo but it's really Gaza, all this false information on Syria, the current campaign on Syria right now is detracting from Saudi's crimes of executing 47 people on one day, of executing Sheikh Nimr, of genociding Yemen. That's not being spoken of now.

What's being spoken of now is this area outside of Damascus called Madaya in which there are terrorist embedded. They have been there for months. This will be echoes of Yarmouk if people were paying attention a year or two ago because these are exactly the same propaganda techniques. They're showing photos of emaciated men, women and children and saying that these are people from Madaya and that the Syrian government is starving them. But we have it documented. The Red Cross has said there was an aid delivery into Madaya in late October I believe. The Syrian people themselves in Madaya have held protests in support of the Syrian government and army, protests against the rebels, the terrorists, the militants in Madaya. There are videos showing them shouting at the terrorists saying, "Let us out! Let us get food!"

And yet the way the mainstream media and human rights groups are portraying this is that the Syrian government is starving the people of Madaya. We have to do something. A lot of the photos they're using are photos that have been re-circulated. They were used in a campaign against the government when it was Yarmouk. They're now being used in Madaya. There are several articles and videos I've seen where they take images that are being put forth on social media and by al-Jazeera for example, and these images are from 2009 or they're from Africa or from the UK and they're actually saying "This emaciated child is from Madaya". It turns out the girl is from, say, south Lebanon.

So there's this campaign of demonizing the Syrian government. And the parallels between Madaya and Yarmouk are very many in that both areas are infested with terrorists, terrorist steal any aid that does make it in. The government facilitates aid to getting in. The terrorists steal it and then either don't give it the people or sell it at extortionist rates. And both of these campaigns serve an agenda which is to take the attention away from the very serious crimes of other actors like Saudi Arabia against Yemen or against its own people and also of detracting from the villages that I mentioned, Kafriya and Al-Fu'ah which are actually villages that the people are starving in and in need of medicine and not able to get it because there's no way for the Syrian government to get it into Kafriya and Al-Fu'ah. The only way they can drop any supplies is by air and it's not always possible because they can be shot down.

Back to the bigger issue, the various states have different interests. They have their own self - interest. Turkey has its megalomaniac Erdogan that seems to want to be a ruler in the greater area. Bottom line, there are various interests, but it is not about freedom and it is not about political change in Syria except the kind of change that the west wants to see, which is cutting Syria up into various little mini-states which they can control. They want to destroy Syria which is always quoted as the cradle of civilization. And with this morality that it has and it's history and its culture, it truly is. And these terrorists who call themselves freedom fighters, who call themselves rebels leading a revolution, are not striking military points. The mortars are targeted at civilians. They target hospitals. They target churches. They target Syria's history, its cultural relics. This is no revolution. No revolution would do that.

But who benefits from this? The states that want to see Syria destroyed. They want to wipe out Syria's history and they want to wipe out Syria as a resistance state.

Joe: Absolutely. It's as true for Syria as it has been for every other conflict or war that has been waged by imperial or regional powers. When they wage a war they claim that they're waging a war against the government or a military but by far the largest target of any of those kind of attacks by imperial aggressors, imperial powers, is against the ordinary people of the given country. That was true in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya. And Syria, as you just said, seems to be this ISIS proxy mercenary force being funded and armed by the US's client gulf states and the US itself and Turkey are not too interested in fighting against the Syrian army. They want to subdue effectively, the Syrian population. The life of any country is in the ordinary people of that country so they're the ones that are targeted when you want to remake a country in this way.

Eva: Yes. And you'd think that the average person would have learned our lesson now, after Iraq, after Libya, after so many interventions, so many so-called right to protect, so many humanitarian interventions in these countries that are now just destroyed. You'd think that people would be a little bit smarter. It's actually shocking and sad. People like us perhaps spend more time consuming news and searching for real news but even if you don't, how can you truly believe in this day and age, after the incubator babies, after all these blatant lies, weapons of mass destruction? As Dr. Ja'fari said to the Christian Amanpur - and this applies to most corporate media - they are the weapons of mass destruction because they are the ones putting forth these lies that then lead people to support our governments in destroying countries that have done nothing wrong and that are being warred upon.

Joe: Absolutely.

Niall: Eva, what's your assessment of the Russian air strikes campaign?

Joe: Or what's your assessment of the feeling, or did you get any feeling from ordinary Syrians about the Russian air strikes?

Eva: Oh yeah! People that I met, again in Damascus, Homs, Sawayda, were very happy. Recently again when I was researching for my article on Christmas celebrations in Syria I came across a couple of cafes in Latakia that had been opened under Russian themes. They had Russian names and it was partially to serve the Russian forces that were in the area but more I think to honour them. Most Syrians I've talked with, whether in Syria or abroad and supporting Syria, see that Russia's intervention is targeting terrorist lines, targeting terrorist workshops and strongholds, convoys and supplies and because of this Russian intervention it's enabling the Syrian Arab Army and their allies to be even more effective. You mentioned earlier, the Syrian Army is waging a war against this terrorism but if the back door is open and more terrorists keep coming in, it's hard to put out the fire if you keep adding more fuel. So the Russian air strikes are not adding fuel. They're actually putting some water on the fire so the Syrian Arab Army can then wage its ground operations.

Niall: The US government doesn't think so, for what it's worth.

Eva: Well yeah, I remember watching an interaction between a Russian state journalist and a journalist named Matthew Lee who's always covering what goes on at the United Nations. But this was actually a discussion between a US state department spokesperson and this RT journalist asking him. So the state department spokesperson was saying, "We have evidence that Russian strikes have targeted hospitals in Syria." And so the RT journalist was saying, "Where's your evidence?" "Oh, we have evidence." And the RT journalist said, "Well the Russians are saying and they've shown that they have satellite imagery to show that the hospitals you allege have been attacked have not been attacked. They're still standing." And state department spokesperson responded, "Oh well we have evidence." In the end they actually had to back off because Matthew Lee finally said, "You're not answering the question. The RT journalist has given the Russian evidence. What are you saying? Have these hospitals been hit?" And the state department spokesperson eventually backed off and said no.

When they're saying it and they're blatantly lying and we know they have no qualms about blatantly lying and Al-Jazeera and the various corporate media, whether they're Gulf or western owned, have no problem blatantly lying and manipulating the facts. So when they say this then the average person in the west is going to believe Russia is targeting civilians in Syria.

Niall: Indeed. Those state department press briefings are a farce. They're mind numbing but they can be hilarious depending on your mindset. You can appreciate a little bit of humour from it if you approach it a certain way, but you can't take anything that's said there serious.

Eva: No, you're absolutely right because in that particular one - I forget the woman's name - but when the RT journalist and then Matthew Lee grilled her, she started kind of blubbering and actually saying, "Yeah, yeah, you're right." She said, "Well, we hit - we hit". It just got to the point where it's nonsensical and it was quite comedic because she clearly had no leg to stand on.

Niall: She was encountering some reality.

Joe: Yeah.

Niall: Reality distortion. Uh-uh facts? Wait. What? We touched on this earlier because it's going to be a long war. The Syrian Army can only do so much one village at a time, one suburb at a time. Is it within reach for the Syrian forces, presumably with Russian air cover, to ever recover most or all of Syria's territory? Is that an actual aim of the Syrian government at the moment?

Eva: I couldn't speak about their aims. I'm not privy to that information. I don't know.

Joe: But where do you or the people that you have been in contact with in Syria see the situation going, for example this year?

Eva: To be honest, people there are living on a day-to-day basis. They're honestly struggling to survive. Life has gotten quite expensive there. Many people have lost loved ones. I think that nobody can predict what's happening. The Syrian Army and its allies have made strategic gain and again, with Russia's help, eliminating some of these terrorist lines. But at the same time, there's this constant, constant battle, whether it's a political thing with Kerry and his cohorts keeping up the refrain "Assad must step down" or "Russia's the villain". There's always a new media campaign.

So people like myself, right now I'm struggling just to get through some notes I have from my last visit to write about the human interactions and what people told me and what they're experiencing. I'm not an analyst by any means. My focus is more to deliver the message of what Syrians I've met with have experienced and are saying. But at the same time when these propaganda campaigns come out you get sucked into just defending the truth so I can't make any predictions about how this is going to play out. All I can say is that I have immense respect for the Syrian people and their army and their government for standing steadfast after almost five years of this now.

Joe: Well I don't know what's going to happen either. Obviously nobody does, but I'm pretty sure I know what needs to happen and that's Saudi Arabia, Qatar, throw in the UAE and Turkey, all need to go the way of the dinosaurs.

Eva: Yeah. {Laughter} I'd like to think that after almost five years of this that they would realize that their little plan for so-called regime change has not worked and that they've been exposed. I'd like to think that's the way it's going to play out and that they're going to have to accept some sort of political solution that Syria's been offering.

Joe: But they do seem to be off the leash don't they? They seem to have lost the plot. They seem to be driven by the hounds of hell or something like that to continue on with this insane agenda, even international opinion, even the fact that their story isn't holding up, that Russia comes in and exposes their lies and makes them look like they really are supporting ISIS, which they are. And yet they just go, "Nah, whatever! We're going to continue with our bullshit story and keep catapulting the propaganda." It's beyond all reason at this point. In previous years, 10 to 20 years ago they had a reasonable enough narrative that if you were an average person you could believe it. But nowadays they don't seem to even care about the coherence of their narrative anymore.

Eva: I know. And again, when you have these blatant lies like Russia targeting these hospitals or the Syrian government starving this particular village and then the lies are exposed or the head of a major so-called human rights group, Ken Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, have lied again and again and again and he and many of the western media, when terrorist Zahran Alloush was killed - and he was the head of Jaish al-Islam and they were one of the primary groups that is raining mortars and hell cannons down on Damascus - when he was killed, Ken Roth and many of these leaders were actually emoting and expressing sentiments about what a tragic loss it was that this moderate rebel, this honourable person had been killed.

No, he's a terrorist. He's been replaced and the terrorism continues, but just their blatant hypocrisy and lies is alarming. Daily I have conversations with friends and colleagues and we're just baffled by how transparent their lies are. You'd think that they'd have some shame. Of course they don't. They have no shame. They have no morals. But for an honest, average person it is quite surprising how they desperately continue their lies.

Niall: Do you know where a lot of the basic supplies the Syrians need are coming from? Because I imagine most of the surrounding countries that are in on this horrific pseudo war if you want to call it that - it's a real war but it's fought under disingenuous means - how are supplies able to get into Syria at all?

Joe: Iran maybe.

Eva: I don't know. I would say their seaport is probably one of the main conveyors of supplies. Probably through official channels like the UN it must be coming through Lebanon I would imagine. But I would guess - and I don't know - either the sea or their airport would be the main sources of supplies. But that's a good question too because conversely there's a lot of supplies that are not getting in because of the sanctions on Syria. Most Syrian are very aware of the sanctions and the effect, again whether it's on the economy or on medicines and vaccines and food getting in. Well, medicine, vaccines and technology are probably the more important because Syria does have food but the sanctions are absolutely criminal and they've been imposed largely by the west and there's no reason for them except that it's a way to try to further cripple Syria.

Joe: You would imagine that Russia is kind of quietly helping out in that respect.

Eva: Quite possibly, yeah. I don't know myself but possibly.

Niall: There was a recent report in the British press. It may as well have been written by the Israeli government. It was basically a puff piece proudly showing off the IDF's medical assistance in particular, to terrorist. They would go from the border, pick up presumably from al-Nusra or whoever, or ISIS, take over the border into Israel, patch up either in hospitals and cities in Israel or in quickly put together military hospitals and then drive them back into Syria. Now this is the rumour. This was a conspiracy theory for the last two years. I think we reported on or we shared that Iranian news had been reporting it years ago, was told it was a conspiracy theory and recently the Israelis have decided to proudly advertise that they're actually doing this. And they said something like 2,000 of these fighters have been treated in Israeli hospitals in this way.

Eva: Right. This is actually something the UN itself has documented, not that they did anything with their documentation, but the forces that were in the so-called DNC, in the occupied Golan area were documenting the back and forth of Nusra terrorists into Israel, so-called Israeli soldiers into that area, into the Golan. This is documented and the Syrian representative to the UN, Dr. Ja'fari has spoken about this. So it's not just a matter of hearsay and conspiracy theory as you were saying. It is documented. I wasn't aware of this recent Israeli media campaign to actually advertise it. I'm not surprised somehow because they seem to love to be as brazen about their terrorist activities as possible.

Actually when I was in Zahara, the area in Homs that was bombed a couple of times in December; one of the families, the Hahmdahn family had four martyrs. I was talking with the son of the father of the family. So the son is actually a soldier stationed in Quneitra and he came back after his family was killed. We were just chatting afterwards and he was saying where he's stationed he sees the interaction between the Israelis and the terrorists. This is something that Syrians are very aware of. Obviously they're trying to fight it. And the west is aware of it too because this is one of the means by which terrorists are entering Syria and supplies are entering Syria. It is exceptionally brazen and again, with the knowledge that Turkey is also aiding and supplying terrorists and weaponry, it's just mind-blowing to think that anybody still believes this whole revolution narrative.

Niall: Yeah. It must be galling for the people there. They're presumably themselves being invited to believe that there is a real revolution underway and if you don't support us, say ISIS, then you're with the government which makes you an infidel. And simultaneously they're being asked to accept that as fact and also accept that, "Oh by the way, we're going to Israel for assistance in a variety of ways." Israel, which is supposed to be in the Islamic caliphate hierarchy of evilness. It's supposed to be the ultimate infidel. How do they square that one off among themselves, never mind to the people they're trying to conquer and to get on their side?

Eva: That's another glaring fallacy in this whole narrative. Let's just take Daesh, ISIS, even though they're all the same terrorists, but we'll just take ISIS; if they're supposedly these crazy Muslims, like you say they're killing infidels, Israel is target number one and yet Israeli's never been attacked and will not be attacked. But the average person somehow doesn't draw that conclusion. It's because the media doesn't tell them to draw that conclusion and unfortunately many people have stopped thinking for themselves.

Niall: Absolutely. You've mentioned various places you managed to visit when you were there recently. Did you say that you got up as far as Latakia? Were you able to visit the Northern provinces?

Eva: I did visit Latakia in April when I first went to Syria in April 2014.

Niall: Okay.

Eva: And that was an important visit. It was my first visit anyway, but it was important in many respects because for one thing we visited some centres for IDP, internally displaced people, so that was a glimpse of the fact that people have come from other areas where the terrorists are into government secured areas. So that was one interesting aspect.

Another was seeing the reality we're speaking of. I remember meeting a group of women in a park that were sitting around. And Latakia in general is calm. The difference would be the terrorists do send rockets to Latakia every now and then. But I remember seeing this group of women in a park and the park was quite busy, kids playing, etc. The women were sitting around smoking water pipe and I was playing the role of somebody who wanted to dispel this whole narrative of sectarianism so I did the unthinkable, the taboo, and I asked them what their faiths were. As I said, it's taboo. People just don't do that there because it wasn't ever a part of their line of thinking. But there were a few women that were veiled and some that were unveiled and some including the unveiled were Muslim. So you had veiled Muslims, unveiled Muslims, Christians, all sitting together. So that was another interesting thing for myself, to be able to say to people outside, "See! Syrians themselves reject sectarianism and are interfaith friends."

Another interesting aspect of visiting Latakia at that point was that we went to an Armenian church that was housing refugees from Kasab which had been attacked some months prior. And these refugees had horrific testimonies of what had happened to them and they also were saying Turkey fired the first shot. So Turkey fired the first shots, they supported the terrorists, they helped the terrorist infiltrate into Syria, opened their borders and the terrorist came and attacked this primarily Armenian town.

Also visiting one of these refugee centres I met a man from a village called Haram right near the border with Turkey and he spoke of atrocious things that had happened. They had been under siege for I believe it was three months and he was talking about how people would disappear from his village and their heads would be sent back in boxes. Now this is before Daesh was the big thing. So again, these are the so-called moderates that were doing these heinous acts.

Niall: Yeah, it precedes ISIS. We all remember. They were proudly showing off their terrorist credentials years ago before they became the villains we know in the west as ISIS. There's no break in continuity in their behaviour. Something else I want to touch on while we're talking about the really horrible stuff, the rumours about organ harvesting of refugees, both inside Syria and then also outside, apparently in Turkey. Do you know anything about this?

Eva: Inside Syria I don't know anything about it. I haven't looked into it myself but I have heard rumours outside Syria, in a very Zionist fashion too I should say, in Turkey. But I can't add any details. I haven't looked into it myself. I hadn't heard anything about inside Syria though.

Niall: Okay. I only bring it up because I believe a Syrian journalist brought it up at the UN press conference I think in 2014 and gave a figure, something like 18,000 children in refugee camps inside Turkey listed or named or claimed to having had organs removed from their bodies but presumably by people operating under the Turkish authority. But I haven't been able to follow it up. There is a second follow up in fact. There is a US military report which mentions that ISIS is engaged in this kind of thing deeper inside Syria. So there may be some basis to it.

Eva: I wouldn't be surprised and also perhaps in Jordan. As I was saying before, I've heard that conditions in both Turkey and Jordan in their refugee camps are atrocious. I believe a lot of wealthy perverts from the Gulf come and buy young women to take as brides for however long, rape them and take a new bride. Apparently this is quite common, at least in Jordan. I'm not sure about Turkey and the families there being poor get pressured into agreeing to marry off their daughters. But I can't speak authoritatively on that. I just know that the conditions are awful there and I wouldn't be surprised if this organ harvesting is going on.

Joe: Yeah.

Eva: When we were talking about Russia before, it struck me too, one thing about the Russian strikes, in addition to enabling the Syrian army and allies to do more effective ground work, cutting off the flow of terrorists or their supplies, it seems to have had an effect on these current negotiations for ceasefires or transfers out of Homs or the Alyware district or the ceasefire of Zabadane. I was reading an article where the Syrian ambassador to Russia, Riad Haddad, was saying that they're at a turning point in the Syrian Army operation against terrorist because of the Russian intervention in Syria. So I just wanted to bring that bit up.

Joe: Okay. Eva, I think we'll leave it there for this evening. You're a very brave woman. I think there's very few people who would venture to go to Syria at this time.

Niall: Currently.

Joe: A war zone.

Niall: The heart of darkness.

Joe: As far as most people are concerned, yes. So it's a real testament to your bravery and your heart as well because I know that probably the reason you went there is because of your feeling of wanting to help people and compassion for people who are suffering.

Eva: Well thank you. I'm somebody who can go. Financially I don't have that liberty. I'm struggling financially, but in terms of my ability to move, I am able to go. I don't have obligations here that tie me down work-wise. And I do feel it's important. I respect Syrian journalists and hopefully will finish an article soon on Syrian journalists and media but unfortunately there are some people, or maybe a number of people in the west, that don't take Syrian voices credibly so I always just try to realize that and be a sort of microphone for Syrian voices. As I said, I'm not an analyst. I'm just somebody who has gone in and witnessed and drawn some conclusions but largely I just try to transmit their voices.

If I could just mention one thing; you know how we were talking about Yarmouk or I mentioned Yarmouk earlier when we were talking about Madaya. Again, I guess I'd just like to caution people because I've seen well-intended people, whether it was Yarmouk before or Madaya now, sharing these photos of emaciated children and saying, "Oh my god, we have to help them!" The same lies and propaganda campaign was put against Yarmouk and now even though the situation in Yarmouk remains that there are terrorists within, nobody speaks of Yarmouk anymore because it's no longer a playing card for this war on Syrian. The new narrative is Madaya.

I went to Yarmouk this last visit and I actually got to go a little ways into the district. Just for those that don't know, it's a district that formerly housed over a million Syrians and around 200,000 Palestinians. Due to the presence of terrorists most of these people have been evacuated, either has fled to other areas in Damascus or to government centres, etc. When Yarmouk was a playing card for the interventionalists in Syria, the narrative was the same, that the government is starving and bombing people of Yarmouk. So when I went there - and this has been corroborated not only by the spokesperson I met with but also by other journalists that have gone there, Russia Today or Ruptly or other independent journalists that have gone there as well - have said that the spokesperson there who's a Palestinian, not a Syrian, Abu Kafar Hazi, who's the member of the central committee of the PFLPGC, anyway he said that 25-30% of Yarmouk has been liberated but there are still terrorists there. The security is still fighting this terrorism but the corporate media still had us believing there were 18,000 starving Palestinians in Yarmouk. Now, by most accounts, by this man's account and other journalists, it's around four or five thousand people. Again, it's impossible to know exactly how many are there in Yarmouk. Most of these people are terrorists or people who support the terrorists or people who have not left for whatever reason. But the vast majority of the population has left. And I just mention this because again, right now the focus is Madaya because this is a way to vilify not only Syria but also Hezbollah that is allied with Syria in fighting terrorism.

So I just caution people to be careful before they share these photos, to really find out if these are accurate photos and what's the real situation because in general in both situations the government has facilitated aid to getting in and the problem has been the terrorist stealing the aid.

Joe: Absolutely. People need to be aware and careful about the fact that western media will deliberately try and manipulate them emotionally to serve an imperialist agenda and anything you get from the western media that demonizes the Assad government you can either a) assume that it's false or b) actively not share it or support it because you know that it's serving an imperialist agenda which is to continue this proxy terror war on the Syrian people. So I would actively not even bother sharing anything that serves that agenda.

Niall: Especially if it's a new topic that has come out of nowhere and is suddenly getting a lot of coverage.

Eva: Yes.

Niall: They'll get as much as they can out of one issue but once the facts are revealed about that, they just drop it and move on to the next thing.

Joe: Absolutely.

Eva: And that's precisely why I went back to Yarmouk because I feel it's important to revisit these issues that have been made an example of and actually flush out the truth.

Niall: Yeah. Good on you!

Joe: Yeah, very well done Eva and long may you continue and I hope at some point we'll be able to celebrate the end of all such evil things in this world.

Niall: Eva, how can our listeners support you, support the Syrians?

Eva: Support Syrians? I would caution people in terms of aid groups. Be careful to really research which groups if you choose to donate to support Syrians because there are a lot of groups that are front groups that are actually supporting the terrorism. I think that speaking truth and sharing truth is very important and contesting the lies in the corporate media is very important. Most of the writing that I do is not paid writing so if people wanted to they can send donations but I don't care. I do what I do for the sake of truth.

Also I'm a co-founder of the If people wanted to donate to that, our primary reason for existence is exactly to advocate for Syrian sovereignty and against the war in Syria and to support truth in Syria. So there is a donate button on that website if people want to donate.

Joe: What's the name of that website again? Syriasolidary?

Eva: Yes.

Joe: Okay. Listeners should check that out it comes with a stamp of approval from you Eva, right?

Eva: We've done things. In the past we brought Mother Agnes Mariam who is a Palestinian Lebanese nun that lives in Syria and has done a lot of work on the ground for reconciliation and witnessing some awful things and speaking truth. So one of the things we did is to bring her to North America to give people here a chance to hear a different narrative on Syria.

Joe: Okay. Thanks again Eva for joining us and for sharing your experiences and for doing everything you do. It's a real service to humanity if that's not too high praise.

Eva: Well it's a bit high, but thank you very much for having me on and thanks for excellent work that you all do at

Joe: No problem. We hope to talk to you again at some point in the future then and we'll keep an eye on what you're up to.

Eva: That'd be great. Thanks so much.

Joe: So that was Eva Barlett giving us the low-down on what has been going on in Syria and it's very useful information because otherwise we have to rely largely on...

Niall: CNN.

Joe: CNN and Fox News and god help us! Jesus Christ! So I think we're going to leave it there for this week folks. Thanks again to Eva and as she mentioned, do think about supporting her in any way you can or Syriasolidaritymovement that she's affiliated with in terms of trying to get the truth out and keep the truth out there effectively for anybody who's interested in the truth I suppose. For the rest of them they can all just...

Niall: Carry on as before.

Joe: Carry on with their nose in the trough. Anyway, we'll be back next week with another show. We hope you enjoyed this one. Thanks to our listeners and to our chatter and we'll see you next week.

Niall: Until then, take care. Bye-bye.