Patriarch Laham: the dead in Syrian prisons, new front in "information war"

According to Amnesty International, 18 thousand people have died in the Syrian government prisons. The head of the Greek-Melkite Church speaks of manipulated news, because "there is no access to prisons" to carry out reviews. They are revelations, he adds, of "a political nature”. The attempt to stop the new axis of Moscow, Tehran, Beijing. Summer camps and retreats in the pacified areas.


Damascus (AsiaNews) - An "information war" of lies, declarations, and supposed revelations that runs parallel to "fighting" with weapons and aims to distract international public opinion as well as the local population.

Speaking to AsiaNews Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham, comments on the news that at least 18 thousand people reportedly died from torture and deprivation in the prisons of the Syrian government since the conflict began in March 2011.

“How can you believe this figure, the correctness of the data - asks the prelate - if there is no access to prisons and there is only data based on some partial evidence”.

Amnesty International have just released a report according to which between 2011 and December 2015 there were "at least 18 thousand" victims in Syrian prisons. The report is the result of the accounts of 65 "torture survivors," according to whom there is a "systematic use" of torture, rape and ill-treatment by prison guards.

The Syrian government has strongly rejected the report, denying the allegations of torture and estimation of 300 cell deaths per month.

The AI ​​report also talks about sexual abuse in the control operations, most often perpetrated by male warders against female detainees. In addition, prisoners are denied medical care and can not wash properly to prevent the spread of diseases.

For the head of the Greek-Melkite Church these figures can neither be “proven” nor “verified”. Furthermore, Amnesty International as a "source is not independent" and in the context of the Syrian conflict "has often be proven to have manipulated information". "Behind these [alleged] revelations - adds the patriarch - there is a political agenda in the context of an information war, as happened in the past in the chemical weapons debacle".

Gregory III speaks of a "maneuver" in place to discredit "the Syrian government and Russia" at a time when a new axis is being born- that of Moscow, Tehran, Beijing – to counter the US ambitions in the region. "This is another game – he denounces - in the context of the ''war between the US and Russia".

The prelate said that his views are shared by a large part of the Syrian population, which feels itself to be the victim of a "dirty war" that, in five years, has caused 250 thousand deaths and 11 million displaced. "We patriarchs - says Gregory III – have been saying for years that a true international alliance can overcome terrorism, but there are conflicting interests." The only "voice of truth" is that of Pope Francis, who never tires "of launching appeals for his beloved Syria," denouncing the hypocrisy of an international community "that talks about peace and then sells weapons" to the parties involved in the struggle.

"In fact - says the Patriarch - the situation in some areas of Syria under government control, such as Damascus and Homs, is relatively calm and since the month of February, there have been no serious incidents of violence. The biggest problems are on the border with Turkey and Aleppo, a metropolis that is completely destroyed by bombs, a place of pure devastation. 50% of the population has fled and the city is preparing for the mother of all battles".

He notes that the situation is also critical in Madaya, where there would be at least 40 thousand inhabitants in need of medical care. "The area is under Daesh siege [Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] and government - he explains - and aid is not getting through because the terrorists mingle among the population and use civilians as human shields as they successfully did in Palmyra and Homs in the past".

Meanwhile, taking advantage of an improvement in the situation, the Church in Damascus organized scout camps, meetings and entertainment for young people. "The Greek-Melkite Patriarchate in collaboration with UNICEF - says Gregory III - has launched an educational program for children. It is being run in 45 centers scattered throughout the territory, able to accommodate up to 13 thousand children by guaranteeing them the right to education ". Finally, patriarchy has also organized days of prayer and retreat, so that "even the soul can find comfort against the traumas of war".

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