Weekly Media Digest August 26

Curated Reading List

SyriaUntold brings you a new edition of our digest. We want to share with you the features, investigative pieces and long-form essays that we read and thought would interest you.

26 August 2019

(Artwork by Sulafa Hijazi)

An independent media platform advancing critical perspectives on Syria and Syrians.

How Assad Played the U.S., Committed Brutal War Crimes, and Won the Syrian Civil War (Vice)

Vice News presents a review of the policies that shaped the US position in Syria since the beginning of the uprising. In a series of interviews, former ambassadors and state officials agree that the US policy in Syria was a failure, and discuss what could have been done to change the course of the war.

"But Obama didn’t give the CIA the same kind of power they had in Libya, and the rebels were never able to gain the upper hand. According to former CIA Director Leon Panetta, who was secretary of defense at the time, "There never was that comprehensive effort to really pull the opposition together in Syria. And because of that, everything about Syria became a quagmire.”
Over 400,000 people have died in the conflict. Assad will go down in history as a war criminal. But he will also go down as a leader who could outsmart U.S. leadership."

What ‘Victory’ Looks Like: A Journey Through Shattered Syria (The New York Times)

Three NYT reporters were granted rare access to Syria, and they travelled throughout the country. This article describes their impressions of the war-torn country and what the Syrian regime victory looks like; a country in ruins with no prospects for reconstruction in the near future. The middle class has vanished, and countless families lost their young sons on both sides of the conflict. Accompanied by minders at all times, their Orwellian depiction of the country is haunting, but they conclude by leaving us with the knowledge they enjoyed the Kabab!

It is not only infrastructure that needs rebuilding. The Syria we saw was missing a middle class, its members having fled or fallen down the economic ladder. The United Nations estimates that more than eight in 10 people are now living in poverty, making less than $3.10 a day per person.
Even as the displaced trickle back home, young men are still being forced into the army, and dissidents, or those connected to them, are disappearing into grim prisons. People are still fleeing the country, though their numbers are far below what they were at their height.
With no reconstruction aid coming from international donors, the Syrians we met were doing what they could to patch the bullet holes in their walls, feed their children and find a paycheck.

'It's not legal': UN stands by as Turkey deports vulnerable Syrians (The Guardian)

Thousands of Syrian refugees have been involuntarily deported from Istanbul and sent back to Idlib. While the Turkish authorities crackdown continues against Syrians who don't have a legal residence permit in Istanbul, many vulnerable Syrians found themselves in life-threatening situations. This article is about Ward, a transgender woman who was deported recently, and whose friends say she faces a certain death under HTS.

"Ward, who is a transgender woman, was legally residing in Istanbul and had been assigned a UNHCR protection officer who specialises in cases of LGBT refugees.
While detained in a cell full of men, she feared a worse fate could befall her in Syria. Ward contacted friends who contacted UNHCR, and a legal aid counsellor was dispatched.
But they were too late – she was deported the next day.
Less than 100 metres after crossing the border, Ward was taken by HTS security officers."

Putin’s Mercenaries Are Using Syria as a Training Ground (Lobe Log)

Nicolai Due-Gundersen writes about Russia's use of private military contractors and mercenaries in Syria and beyond. The article discusses in details the Wagner Group and links it directly to President Putin. The group is believed to have deployed 2,500 troops to fight alongside Bashar al-Assad.

In addition to achieving Russia’s goals in Syria, deploying PMCs like Wagner Group changes the politics of foreign intervention. With Wagner Group concentrated in sensitive Middle East zones, Putin can lower the political costs of achieving his geostrategic goals. Plausible deniability is easier with contractors. Indeed, continued use of mercenaries allowed Putin to officially declare a withdrawal of Russian troops from strategically vital parts of Syria, knowing full well that mercenaries could replace state soldiers. At the same time, their involvement in the Middle East can still be promoted as a form of propaganda. Take Russia’s so-called ‘ISIS Hunters’. Closely linked to Wagner Group, the Hunters have been given Russian and even Arab media coverage since their 2017 augmentation of Syrian forces against the Islamic State. 

 The Syrian Women Feeding Egypt… A Success Story (Raseef22)

Mostafa Fathi’s writes about Um Lu'ay, a Syrian housewife and refugee who became a famous chef. Um Lu'ay was trained by a local NGO, and now her pastries and dishes are highly in demanded. 

‘"I dream of opening my own restaurant soon, and prove that Syrian women are not just numbers in Egypt but successful migrants who have much to offer to the society that welcomed them with open arms" said Um Lu'ay, a rising catering chef in Cairo.’

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad