Among the harrowing images from Aleppo printed in the Western press Wednesday was a photo of a man crouched next to a wheelchair containing the corpse of his wife who died before she could be treated for wounds incurred during a regime bombardment of the city’s eastern neighborhoods.
Images like that, and UN statements citing reports of summary executions and massacres of unarmed civilians, raised fears of even greater atrocities and civilian carnage as the Syrian army and its allied militias complete the capture of east Aleppo.
But this wrenching turning point in the six year civil war that has taken more than 400,000 lives is viewed and portrayed very differently by President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Another more positive image of the Syrian army is being projected by the Syrian state media and outlets close to its ally Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside it in Aleppo – namely that the Syrian Arab army is a force that rescues civilians from terrorists (the rebels) and spirits them to safety where they are provided with food and medical care.
The pro-Hezbollah Beirut daily As-Safir
on Wednesday accompanied its Aleppo report with a picture of a Syrian soldier in the street carrying on his back to safety an elderly woman, her foot bandaged and bloodied. The text of the article blamed the devastation in Aleppo squarely on the rebels.
“The armed presence in Aleppo was ended for good and the city, which suffered from war imposed on it more than four years ago, was declared a liberated city. The armed men left behind them great destruction and streets inhabited by death and hunger but the capital of the North began to shake off the dust of this tragedy to begin a new journey of revival,” it said.
It was only in the 13th paragraph of the story that mention was made of a media “campaign” led by some Gulf states in which “there were claims of massacres in the neighborhoods the Syrian army entered, something that was denied to the letter by Syrian medical, humanitarian and military sources.”
Alongside its robust military intervention on behalf of the Assad regime, Russia has taken on a highly prominent role in the official Syrian media’s coverage, with statements by Russian leaders and officials given the same emphasis as Syrian ones. The Organization of Syrian Arab Radio and Television’s website highlighted Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov’s account of the fighting in Aleppo.
He said film crews made up of rebels were disseminating “fabricated” videos of Russian bombardments and Syrian army field executions.
Konashenkov called on the media to not “give credence to this propaganda.”
It was the rebels who were guilty of abuses against the civilian population, he said. “According to civilians, the terrorists used all forms of terrorism against any efforts to express dissatisfaction or demands to leave.”
In what appeared to be a belated response to Western criticism of the Russian air force and the regime for bombing all the hospitals in eastern Aleppo, Konashenkov said the rebels converted all the hospitals and schools into weapons-storage facilities and workshops to manufacture shells, rockets and mines.
“Until now, the team of Russian experts dismantling mines in eastern Aleppo has not found any hospital or school that carried out its educational or medical mission,” he said.
Another report on the Syrian regime website stressed that the army had transferred thousands of people who had been “besieged by the terrorist organizations” through humanitarian passages to centers where they are given food and medical treatment.
The website voiced pride in the Aleppo victory.
“There are no words to describe the greatness of the Syrian Arab army that held steadfast for six years going from victory to victory,” said one article in the opinion section. “We hail the families of the soldiers, the mothers, fathers and children and the martyrs who watered the pure land with their blood to return life, safety and security” to citizens.
The article termed the battle of Aleppo “the greatest example in modern history” of how to deter anyone who might try to harm Syria.
In an apparent allusion to the Gulf countries backing the rebels, the article said the Aleppo victory is a blow “to those who betray their nation and Arab nationalism.”
“Those who are against Syria are the enemies of the civilized world as a whole,” the article concluded.
Likewise, an article in Al-Watan
, which is owned by President Bashar Assad’s tycoon cousin, Rami Makhlouf, said Syria is prevailing against an unspecified “conspiracy” against it.
At times, it might be necessary to undertake a temporary withdrawal for tactical military reasons, “but the firmly held belief is that return of the liberty of every grain of Syrian soil and the return of every city, street and alley of the alleys of Syria is coming. No doubt that the victory is arriving and the love is arriving and the return of Syrians to their locales is arriving and the return of those forced to immigrate from dear Syria is arriving,” the article said.