Monday November 23, 2015
The standard mainstream narrative of the war in Syria is that President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents only took up arms after his regime cracked down brutally on peaceful protesters in March 2011. The New York Times, for example, in a piece this week on ISIS reminds that “after a brutal crackdown by government forces, Syrian protest groups morphed into fighters”.
The problem with this narrative is that it is false.
Here’s what the Times is referring to: On March 25, 2011, it described how tens of thousands of peaceful protesters took to the streets and were met with regime violence that killed a reported 38. The protests had begun seven days before (March 18), according to the Times.
Likewise, CNN begins its timeline of events in March 2011 with the killing of dozens of protesters in Daraa, and Reuters pinpoints it a couple days before the Times, on March 16, when security forces broke up a protest in Damascus and arrested 30.
It was only after this mid-March crackdown, according to the Times and the rest of the media, that the regime’s opponents took up arms.
Yet already on March 21, Israel’s Arutz Sheva reported that in addition to four protesters, seven police were killed and a courthouse and the Ba’ath party headquarters in Daraa were torched.Arutz Sheva described how the police “opened fire on armed protesters” (emphasis added).