When Is The Syrian ’Opposition’ Syrian?
By André Vltchek | ZNet
At the outskirts of the city of Adana in southern Turkey is located an enormous US Air force base called Incirlik. It is actually only nicknamed ‘the US base’, in reality it is being utilized by the United States Air Force, the Turkish Air Force and by the British RAF. Of course for the United States it may be one of the key overseas military facilities; Incirlik is a home to about five thousand US airmen, ‘complimented’ by several hundred airmen from the British Royal Air Force. But the primary unit stationed at Incirlik is the 39th Air Base Wing (39 ABW) of the US Air Force. One look at the map and the significance becomes obvious: several ‘important’, ‘strategic’ countries appear to be in a relatively short flying distance from here: Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Iraq to name just a few. But recently the base is gaining new infamy: “There is plenty of evidence that they are now training so called Syrian ‘opposition’ on the premises of Incirlik”, I was told by renowned Turkish investigative journalist Huseyin Guler in the city of Hatay, near the Syrian border.
The base propels the economy of the entire area, both formal and informal. We park at the entrance of “Mujda’s Café & Restaurant”, near the main gate leading to the base. At Mujda’s, all prices are exhibited in US dollars, not in Turkish liras. Photographs depicting US military hardware, airplanes and the officers with all their decorations and medals on display are covering the walls. The exhibits are out of place alongside the kebabs, beer and yoghurt drinks. “Do people around here talk about the Syrian crises?” I ask. “They do, of course”, answers the waiter. “Do they talk about the training of the so called ‘Syrian opposition’”? I press further. “Some do”, he smiles evasively. There is a girl working nearby. We ask her about surveillance. “Of course my phone is tapped,“ she replies. “But that is nothing unusual. They are tapping everyone’s phones around here. Other things happen as well, but I can’t talk about them.” My colleague and friend Levent (he has to be identified only by his first name, for safety reasons) joins the discussion: “Wiretapping is just one of the most innocent things this government does. It is not only used for collecting intelligence, but also for character assassination of those who dare to stand in its way. For instance, the phones of the generals who declared their outrage and opposition over western involvement in Turkish affairs had been tapped, their conversation flow recorded and broken up to be fabricated into ludicrous but extremely damaging sentences, electronically.”
Incirlik however – is just the beginning of our journey. We drive 200 kilometers to the city of Hatay – a culturally and religiously diverse southernmost Turkish metropolis near the several border crossings to Syria. Most of the way the highway is suspiciously smooth and fast, perfect for the deployment of troops. It is clear that in Hatay almost everyone is afraid to talk, from the local barbers to shop owners, hotel receptionists or even the majority of common passersby. Suleyman, an owner of a huge coffee shop with several impressive water pipes is one exception, but even he prefers to keep his full name and the name of his business anonymous:
“People that the west describes as ‘Syrian opposition’ are considered here, in Hatay, as just a bunch of renegades and bandits. It is hard to believe they actually call them refugees! Refugees with guns, roaming our streets; get real! They are not good people. Almost all of them wear beards, carry guns and make our citizens frightened.”
A uniformed police officer appears at the door as we speak. He gives us an inquisitive look and disappears as suddenly as he entered. “90% of Syrian people are in favor of Assad’s government and only countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supportive of the ‘opposition’, and of course the West,” continues Suleyman. Soon a small circle of people is formed around our table. Once they hear that I am not ‘one of those official media people’, they begin gesturing and talking over each other, explaining that Hatay – the city they love and feel proud of – is renowned for the peaceful coexistence of various ethnic and religious groups. “There are Syrians living here for ages, as well as Armenians, Jews and other diverse ethnic groups. There are Sunni, Shia and several Muslim sects. We used to all live in peace!” “Hatay is very close to Syria”, explains an old man, sipping his strong tea. “90% of the people here are somehow linked to the major city of Aleppo just across the border. And this place – Hatay – even used to be an independent republic; it only joined Turkey in 1939.”
“Of course you do realize that those people are not really ‘Syrian opposition’. They are modern-day legionnaires collected from various Arab countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, paid by western imperialist powers. Some are members of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Most are militant Sunni Muslims. One could describe them as rogue elements hired to fight the Assad government. It is important to point out that some 90% of Syrian people are still supporting Assad and I think he is now actually winning the war, although reading the western media you would never think so. Assad is enjoying the support of China, Russia, Latin America, Iran, Hezbollah, and many other countries and movements world-wide. The Turkish government is clearly in decline, supporting those terrorist elements the west calls the ‘Syrian opposition’.
Read the full article at: zcommunications.org
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