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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

To Kill A Mock-Nightingale: The Rebellion Begins in Hama, Part 3

July 22, 2015

Opposition Version: Killed For Singing Against the Government, for Revolution
Ibrahim Qashoush is a Syrian rebellion superstar in death - called at the time "the nightingale of the revolution." He allegedly wrote - or famously sang - the original protest song "come on Bashar, leave" in early demonstrations in Hama. But Bashar Assad's thugs allegedly kidnapped and murdered him on the 4th of July, 2011, gruesomely and symbolically; the killers cut out his throat and vocal cords, and dumped him like trash in the Orontes river.

At least, that's what these sources, citing anti-government "activists," would tell you with little to no skepticism:
* Shabab Assafir (Arabic) - July 12
* Al-Arabiya (Arabic)  - July 8
* New York Times (Anthony Shadid) - July 22
* AP, Bassem Mroue (via Huffington Post)  - July 27
* Violations Documentation Center (entry added late - martyr #1758 - after this and this from March 2012) 
The last is the source for the photo above, the less graphic of the two provided.

The Times reported on 22 July
"Residents say security forces shot him, too. But people in Hama dwelled on the detail that stands as a metaphor for the essence of decades of dictatorship: That the simple act of speaking is subversive. “They really cut out his vocal cords!” exclaimed a 30-year-old pharmacist in Hama who gave his name as Wael. “Is there a greater symbol of the power of the word?”"
His death, activists felt, "could mark a new campaign to liquidate protest leaders." (Mroue) But he wasn't a leader or even, as we'll see, the writer or a known singer of that song. And it might surprise the foolish, but his horrific slaying didn't terrorize anyone to stop singing that - in fact, it just boosted the cause; it made the song he clearly died for immensely popular, sung every Friday to defy "the regime" and its clumsy - and highly useful - brutality.

Or ... Killed For Singing To the Government, About Terrorists
As usual, the government of Syria had its own explanation blaming terrorists - bolstered here by the method they're known for. the opposing claims, far from proven or being ruled out, are at least worth considering. The Truth About Syria has what seems the definitive English-language article on this: The Truth about Ibrahim Qashoush, the Alleged Singer and Composer of the so-called “Syrian Revolution” (February, 2012 - hereafter, TAS report) This fairly notes "there are no photos of him alive nor clear photos of him singing. Qashoush is a “media bubble” that surfaced after his death not before, which indicates that the whole thing is fabricated." Indeed, for such a pivotal figure, I didn't see any videos or pictures of him in a protest, singing or otherwise.

The TAS report offers a later Syrian state TV video confession from an arrested "activist" - potentially coerced, maybe true either way - that claimed Qashoush the songwriter was a myth of the terrorists he used to roll with:
The Syrian security managed to arrest terrorist “Fadi Zreik”, and what is actually may be surprising for many of you is what he said in his confessions."
“Ibraheem Qashoush” was a normal person who was slaughtered by Syrian rebels, because they thought he was an informant who works for the Syrian government."
The report lists three other men killed in Syria first called informants and then then martyrs. These are named as Hisham Al-Kharsi, “Mamdouh Al-Akrah,” and “Muhammad Maree.” Each case is accompanied by an explanatory video claiming to show screen grabs of death threats for collaborating with "the regime," and then the victims mourned publicly as, or at least listed and reported as, victims of "the regime." The same is being alleged for this heroic "nightingale of the revolution."

Sometimes truth works this conveniently, but ... what a convenient claim by this Fadi Zreik. In this context, the removal vocal cords carries the same symbolic potency. As Anthony Shadid put it, amended: "the simple act of speaking" - the wrong things to the wrong people - "is an act of subversion" - of the plans of the subversives.

Context Consideration
And that's besides the Islamist terrorist implications of throat-cutting, one of their MOs, and Orontes river dumping. A few weeks later in the same city, at least one throat-cutting victim was among 8 executed policemen dumped, by hate-filled terrorists, into the same river on the northern edge of Hama, as explained in part 1: "Deaths by Shooting". This happened undeniably on video (although it was denied anyway). One report covered there (Storyfull, 2011), includes some efforts at blaming the government for that crime; one of these had noted that cut throat and cited this Qashoush case as a precedent:
The throat of last corpse thrown in the river seems to have been slit. Remember Ibrahim Qashush? The man who composed an anti-regime chant? His throat was also slit, and was thrown in the same river, Orontes/al Assi..
In that case, the government had to fish its own dead cops out of the river, and filmed it as just that. But here the activists found their hero first, and quickly; the imagery shows not the slightest sign of decay,water-logging, or bleaching. He was in some water long enough for his hair to get wet.

As reported, he disappeared early on July 3rd and was found sometime on the 5th (Al-Arabiya). How were they so certain July 4 was the day he was killed? It almost seems the local "activists" knew when he was killed and where he was dumped, which was convenient when it came to having the body as a dramatic prop for their story.

Was the date chosen - by whoever- to heighten the impact of the story with U.S. audiences? Specifically, were they talking about independence to the US ambassador, Robert Ford? He would visit the city of Hama, controversially, on July 6, the day after Mr. Qashoush's body was pulled up (see part 2). The activists may or may not have known that, but the authorities had apparently cleared it - just not his decision to stay until Friday's protests, as he did to scolding from Damascus. Why would they squeeze in an optional murder of a beloved songwriter just before this visit? That's just what the "activists" alleged.

July 8 was the biggest demonstration yet in Hama, half a million they said, chanting “the people want the fall of the regime” and “We will only kneel to God,” and probably singing "Come on Bahsar, leave." And they raged about the death of their nightingale who blessed them with the verses, waved olive branches, and basked in the ambassador's approval as his SUV crawled amongst them.

Can we see how well that might have all worked out? Consider also "ambassador" (saboteur ringleader?) Ford then so emphatically denied any armed rebel presence in Hama - at what seems like just the time it was really taking off.

The Real Nightingale?
The Truth About Syria adds some further video and source analysis to pin down the actual songwriter for "Come on Bashar, leave." The death of Mr. Qashouh was a huge popularity boost for the song, Its originator survived to enjoy that, and  and as one would expect, he actually appears at protests, singing the song. "According to our connections in the city of Hama," they write, the songwriter was a young guy named Abdul Rahman Farhoud. For comparison, Shadid at the New York Times heard:
Obada and others insisted that the song was actually written by a 23-year-old part-time electrician and student named Abdel-Rahman, also known as Rahmani.
Shadid spoke at length with "Rahmani," who seemed to be unworried the throat cutters would ever come after him; "Asked if he was afraid, Rahmani answered, “Of what?”"

l-r: Q. Naasan, Abdelrahman and Ahmad Farhoud
TAS identify a cohort and public singing partner of Farhoud as Quteiba Naasan, and says "the two of them escaped before a while to Lebanon then came back and joined their fellow terrorists in the so-called “Free Syrian Army”." And further,
The DJ – with the black shirt – has also disappeared for sometime to show up again in Hama.  His name is “Ahmad Farhoud”, he is Abdul Rahman’s brother. Ahmad Farhoud was among the terrorists who set up barriers in the city of Hama before the army decided to enter to restore order in the city; Ahmad Farhoud chose to be a “hero terrorist” and he was killed in the clashes.
The VDC agrees on this - DJ Farhoud, matching photo included, was killed by shooting it says, in the battle of July 31, 2011, only a week after his brother spoke so fearlessly to NYT's Shadid. That seems pretty quick, at least relative to the July 3 abduction of Mr. Qashouh. Maybe their period of absence was earlier than this PR boost for their theme song. Was it in fact just ending with their return at just about that time? That might be worth digging up.

However Ahmad died, his brother apparently lived on, as the TAS report found, getting increasing credit as “Abdul Rahman Farhoud, the real nightingale of the Syrian Revolution”. A TAS comment added later that Farhoud had also become a correspondent and analyst for the Al-Jazeera channel (see 2:47 in this video - April, 2012).

The Victim as Reported: Confused Mumbling
But at one time, it was widely believed the nightingale had died, and for that cause - like killing a mockingbird for its freedom-loving song. Or for someone else's song he was even copying. It turns out that was someone else, a mock-nightingale ... Consistent with a made-up story, what was reported about this martyr never was very clear.

Shadid wrote for NYT "no one in Hama seems to agree on who wrote the song," although he fairly establishes that as FSA "Rahmani." Mr. Qashoush was perhaps a singer of the song, but that too wasn't certain. Shadid heard the man was "a young cement layer ... from Hadir district. He was relatively unknown before July 4," and after that he was "buried in the city’s Safa cemetery, near the highway." Why kill an unknown laborer? The allegation was he was killed as the most famous incarnation of an anti-regime song.
...rumors have proliferated ... some residents have suggested that Mr. Qashoush was not the real singer, that two men had the same name, that he was really a government informer killed by residents, that he is still alive."

“"Every day in the street, just while you’re sitting somewhere, you can hear five or six rumors, and they turn out to be wrong,” said an engineer who gave his name as Adnan.
To his credit, Shadid hovered over that important, bolded, rumor for a moment:
Many here see the government’s hand in everything. Lists of informers have circulated, but some believe security forces compiled them, hoping to discredit protesters or smear the reputations of businessmen helping them. When residents hanged an informer last month, some people in Hama suggested that government agents did it to make them look bad.
Note: he didn't buy the suggestion.

Side-note: These kinds of things can make a reporter nervous about reporting on Syria and/or likely to somehow die from it. Anthony Shadid died reporting in Syria, after insisting he'd rather not go back, just in mid-February 2012. It was officially from some asthma attack, but at the same time other journalists were being murdered and blamed on "the regime." Was he assassinated with a dusty wad of horsehair dropped on his head? Horses were his super-allergy, as everyone knew. Poor guy.  (see Wikipedia for one)

Shadid heard from one resident "the man killed was a second-rate wedding singer." The Shabab Assafir report (Arabic) adds little, but emphasizes wedding singing, and seemingly better than second-rate. He sang, at weddings, other places, - he could really sing, anything, to anyone. They give no word of other work, implying he was a dedicated professional. Still no images anywhere of that guy actually singing at a protest, a wedding, in the shower, anywhere.

Al-Arabiya (Arabic, translated) noted that it was "on the morning of Sunday (July 3)," the beginning of the work week in Arab/Muslim countries, when Mr. Qashouh "was going to work out, but was kidnapped by the security forces." Did we work singing 5 days a week, starting in the mornings? Or was that just an odd gig?  (Al-Arabiya also noted the victim "was not carrying a weapon and did not join the "armed gangs"" but they know it was the regime who killed him "because his body was found Tuesday." )

The latest report, July 27, was by AP's Bassam Mroue, which heard about work:
"The 42-year-old Qashoush, a father of three boys, was a fireman who wrote poetry in his spare time,said a close friend, Saleh Abu Yaman."
Fireman, age 42, father of 3, from a friend - sounds like perhaps the most credible account yet. But this is an effort to salvage the songwiter/singer mythos that totally ignores the information above.
The hometown son's star rose with the city. At nearly every protest, the crowds were singing his most popular lyric, "Come on, Bashar, time to leave." It was put to a bouncy tune, and his poems rang with a down-to-earth, jokey "Screw you, Bashar, and screw those who salute you. Come on, Bashar, time to leave!" hundreds of thousands sang behind a singer on stage in Hama's central Assi Square during a rally at the beginning of the month. "Freedom is at our doors. Come on, Bashar, time to leave!"
Two days later, on July 3, Qashoush disappeared.
Abu Yaman says he was told by witnesses that Qashoush was walking to work in central Hama when a white vehicle stopped, several men jumped out and muscled him into the car. They then sped away.
"We immediately knew he was captured by security agents," Abu Yaman told The Associated Press.
And yet, this famed hero fireman and protest-inspirer was called by others a "young concrete layer", unknown, and professional singer, well known. 

Shadid heard he was from Hadir district (likely northwest Hama, where Hader police station is), but the VDC says he's from Bab Qibli (city center on Wikimapia). The VDC, by the way, says little: nothing on profession, activism, the arts, not even age. Just the pictures, the district, and the note "He was kidnapped and killed , his dead body was thrown in Al-Aasi near Bab El-Nahr," and a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_3JKyOqS6s 

But the one source said he was a fire fighter. That might be true anyway, and it intrigued me to re-examine what (now) seems to be an unrelated incident somewhere else and later (I wasn't sure when I started). But just in case it matters here, I may add and link to a post on how apparent rebel/defected soldier terrorists sometimes get their hands on fire fighters to murder and blame on "the regime." 

1 comment:

  1. Anthony Shadid died reporting in Syria, after insisting he'd rather not go back, just in mid-February 2012. It was officially from some asthma attack, but at the same time other journalists were being murdered and blamed on "the regime."


    As the four of us headed toward the eastern gate of Ajdabiya, the front line of a desperate rebel stand against the advancing forces of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, a car pulled up alongside.

    They’re in the city!” the driver shouted at us. “They’re in the city!” Lynsey and Steve had worried that government soldiers might encircle the town, trapping us, but Tyler and Anthony discounted it. We had covered the fall of two other rebel-held towns — Ras Lanuf and Brega — and each time, the government had bombed and shelled the towns for days before making a frontal, methodical assault.

    When they did, rebels and journalists fled in a headlong retreat.

    If Ajdabiya fell, Colonel Qaddafi’s forces would be on the doorstep of Benghazi, the opposition capital, and perched on a highway to the Egyptian border, from where we had entered Libya without visas.

    Reports confirm that British SAS were on the ground in Eastern Libya prior to the onset of the air campaign. Special Forces are in close coordination with NATO air operations. "Highly-trained units, known as ‘Smash’ teams for their prowess and destructive ability, have carried out secret reconnaissance missions to provide up-to-date information on the Libyan armed forces." (SAS 'Smash' squads on the ground in Libya to mark targets for coalition jets, Daily Mirror, March 21, 2011)

    We spotted the elite soldiers in film taken by Arab TV station al-Jazeera in Dafniya, the western-most point of the rebel lines west of Misrata.

    The elite unit is funded by the MoD via a security firm to topple Colonel Gaddafi
    We have uncovered footage of 11 ex-SAS and Parachute Regiment soldiers in Libya training the rebels.
    Blending in with the insurgents in sand-coloured clothes, peaked caps, shades and linen scarves, they are the UK’s unofficial boots on the ground.

    Highly trained with front line experience round the world, the crack unit has been in the country for the past four weeks.


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