"Mother Agnes" and "Stop the War"
|The Syrian revolution speaks on "Mother Agnes"|
Source: Occupied Kafr Anbel
Her invitation provoked outrage from Syrians and supporters of the Syrian revolution, as "Mother Agnes" has been a widely disseminated mouthpiece for the Assad regime's propaganda, including vigorously denying some of Assad's war crimes. (Of pictures of dead children in Ghouta, for example, she claims they are only sleeping.) Her lies are widely promoted by Russian media sources, by Christian news agencies, and by the LaRouche network. There are also live allegations about her own involvement in war crimes, and in the regime murder of journalists. Below the fold, I have pasted some information about her, but some good starting points are Linux Beach, Democratic Revolution, and Pulse.
Some of the more intelligent and honourable invited speakers at the Stop The War event had doubts when informed about sharing a platform with her. (Film-maker Jeremy Scahill and commentator/activist Owen Jones said they wouldn't speak alongside her, and writer Rachel Shabi appeared to be considering this.)
Now, Stop the War have announced that "Mother Agnes" has withdrawn. [UPDATE: Mother Agnes' statement here (pdf).] However, it remains a scandal that they should ever have invited her, that they should have thought she was a legitimate voice from Syria at an "anti-war" conference. Who at Stop the War invited her? Who agreed to it? Through what channels did they invite her? What were they thinking?
While this is not true of all the speakers at the event, it is clear that the main organisers of Stop the War are not anti-war at all. They are just opposed to the US getting involved in wars. The opening words of the conference publicity are these:
In a historic setback for the organisers of the War on Terror, protest and public opinion helped stop a new war on Syria.Do they not realise that war has been going on in Syria for well over two years, that over 120,000 people have been killed, that 5 million people are displaced in Syria, that hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been forced to flee the country? How can "anti-war" people claim that as any sort of achievement?
[UPDATE: See Andrew Coates for concise summary of the issues.
UPDATE 2: James Bloodworth is a great read. "Mother Agnes is the Syrian equivalent of one of Hitler’s brown priests."]
Here are some extracts from Clay Claibourne's posts on "Mother Agnes":
Opinions vary as to the role of Mother Agnès-Mariam. For example The Irish Times carried this charge against her by a Jesuit who had lived in Syria for 30 years [since, tragically, kidnapped by Jihadists and believed to have been killed]:
Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio, who lived in Syria for 30 years and has been heavily involved in interfaith work in the country, described Mother Agnès-Mariam as “an instrument” of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “She has been consistent in assuming and spreading the lies of the regime, and promoting it through the power of her religious persona,” he told The Irish Times yesterday.“She knows how to cover up the brutality of the regime.”[...][...]On 26 May 2012, after the Houla massacre happened, Mother Agnès-Mariam's outlet, Vox Clamantis, issued a press release claiming that the Syrian army was not in the vicinity of Houla and did not bombard the area.
Fr Dall’Oglio, who has spent time with opposition activists in several restive parts of Syria, said these claims were “ridiculous” and constituted regime propaganda.“I have been there, I know the people, including the youth, who are working for the revolution, and I know that what she is saying is insane. It corresponds with the regime version of the facts,” he said. More...
Investigations and reports by the United Nations, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch all concluded that the Assad regime was behind the massacre. The 15 member UN Security Council unanimously condemned Syria for the attack and Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.S. announced that they were expelling Syrian diplomats in response to the massacre, which all but the most die-hard Assad supporters blame on his reign.
The Committee to Protect Journalists implicated Mother Agnès-Mariam in the murder of a journalist, Gilles Jacquier, by the Assad regime [as] Pulse Media reported.[...]
The Assad regime has used every means at its disposal to promote its narrative in the mainstream media and even the Catholic Church has unwittingly played a role:
For example, in March, Agenzia Fides, an official Vatican publication, republished (almost verbatim) material provided by the Syrian propaganda website "Syria Truth." The article claimed that jihadists had expelled Christians from Homs. This information eventually found its way into outlets such as the Los Angeles Times. When we demonstrated the dubious veracity of these claims, Syria Truth went ballistic. A subsequent McClatchy article corroborated our refutation.Middle East Forum wrote on 12 June 2012; they also wrote about Mother Agnès-Mariam:
Like Nizar Nayouf of Syria Truth, Mother Agnès-Mariam often assumes the slick veneer of a moderate; she even wrote an open letter to Assad about the condition of people affected by the fighting in Syrian hospitals. It's hard not to conclude that Mother Agnès-Mariam is little more than another Assad propagandist using her religious credentials to push a particular narrative.
According to the Swiss newspaper Le Courrier, Agnès-Mariam was "comfortable among [Assad's] security services," and she told their reporter it was hoped he could "dismantle the propaganda of Western media." Thierry Meyssan also conducted a revealing interview with Mother Agnès-Mariam about Middle Eastern Christians. During the interview, the mother superior repeated the typically farcical Assad line that the dictator was truly trying to "reform."
Agnès-Mariam told Meyssan that she "deplored the fact that the so-called opponents didn't accept President Bashar Al-Assad's invitation to debate with him the series of reforms which he is in the process of carrying out."(Of course, it would be of no consequence to the sister (who never recanted her earlier statements) that in leaked private e-mails Assad told his wife,"We are going to adopt [a plan that left him in power] instead of the rubbish laws of parties, elections, media [i.e., actual democratic reforms].")
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