Conflict & Justice

Ambassadors battling Big Brother


Britain's ambassador to Damascus has launched a blog aiming to counter what he says is the regime's attempt to cover up its killing of pro-demcoracy protests.

“The regime wants to create its own truth. We should not let it,” writes Simon Collis in his newly launched official blog from his post as British ambassador to Damascus, entitled, refreshingly undiplomatically, ‘The truth is what big brother says it is.”

Read the blog here 

The reference to George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a police state dictatorship in his dystopian classic 1984 will surely not be missed by Collis’ readers, nor the regime that hosts him.

“The Syrian regime doesn’t want you to know that its security forces and the gangs that support them are killing, arresting and abusing mostly peaceful protesters,” writes Collis.

“It doesn’t want you to know that it is preventing many from meeting peacefully to discuss reform. It wants you to hear only one version of the truth – its own. And to see only one way out – the return to authoritarian rule where fear surpasses a desire for freedom. This is a regime that remains determined to control every significant aspect of political life in Syria. It is used to power. And it will do anything to keep it.”

This first post of what Collis promises will be a regular missive on his unvarnished thoughts on the enduring crisis in Syria attracted a good deal of attention for a British foreign office blog, drawing over 180 comments within just a few days.

The launch of the very undiplomatic blog is the latest in a series of unusually bold moves by the ambassadors of Western nations opposed to President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protestors.

US ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford, an outspoken critic of the regime’s crackdown, was pelted with eggs and tomatoes by Assad supporters today as he entered an office for a meeting with a leading opposition figure.

The enraged crowd then tried to storm the building in Damascus, said an opposition activist, trapping Ford inside for about three hours until Syrian security forces showed up and escorted him out.

"The mob was violent; it tried, unsuccessfully, to attack embassy personnel while they were inside several embassy vehicles, and, while unsuccessful, it did seriously damage the vehicles," a State Department official confirmed to The Cable. 

In July, Ford drew furious criticism from the regime for what they said was a breach of protocol when he travelled to the northern city of Hama and witnessed unprecedented mass rallies by protestors demanding an end to the Assad family’s four decade dictatorship.

Read GlobalPost: US ambassador journeys to heart of Syria’s revolt 

Recently Ford was among seven other ambassadors, including the French, British and German, who attended the funeral of activist Ghayth Matar in a direct show of solidarity with Syria’s opposition. 

Shortly after the ambassadors left the funeral mourners were attacked by security forces firing tear gas.

“Yes, actually I do because what’s happening under his authority in terms of people being tortured to death, people being shot who are unarmed and no one being held accountable for it,” Ford responded recently after being asked by The Daily Caller if he thought Assad was “evil.”

“I can understand it if it was against orders and you just were trying to remake a police force or you were trying to remake a prison system and so there are a lot of orders being disobeyed, but you would want people held accountable. But because I see no accountability, I can only assume that on some level that he accepts it if not encourages it. To me that would be evil.”

Apparently responding to Ford’s Thursday meeting with opposition figure Hassan Abdel Azim a statement from the Syrian Foreign Ministry accused the United States on Thursday of inciting violence against its security forces.

"Recent statements from American administration officials...clearly indicate that the United States is involved in encouraging armed groups to practice violence against the Syrian Arab Army," it said.