October 21, 2014
The Islamic State and regime are both targeting media activists in Deir e-Zor. The comparative lack of interest in the province from local and international media outlets has rendered news coming out of the area scarce and poorly documented.
In response, journalists, media activists, teachers, doctors and aid workers launched the “Deir e-Zor Under Fire” media campaign to bring attention to daily abuses being carried out by the Islamic State (IS) and the regime as they battle for the province.
“The oppression, subjugation, and torture of Deir e-Zor is growing day after day without the presence of any agency or organization to criticize or document what’s happening,” Al-Baraa Hashem, the alias of a member of the “Deir e-Zor Under Fire” campaign and head of the Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union’s (SYRCU) media office in the province, tells Syria Direct’s Mohammed Al-Haj Ali. The activist asked to remain unnamed out of fear for his security.
The Islamic State “has killed and expelled many more civilians from the villages of al-Shaitat than they did in Kobani.”
Q: What are the goals of the “Deir e-Zor Under Fire” campaign, and to whom is it directed?
The campaign aims to organize news sources, investigate current events with rigor, and thereafter document these events and direct them to any interested party.
Likewise, the campaign aims to establish an organization interested in uncovering the oppression and abuses of the people of Deir e-Zor.
Q: Why did you launch the campaign at this particular time?
We launched the campaign now because Deir e-Zor has a front-row seat to the current events in Syria, but no news gets out of the province.
Even people living in the villages adjacent to the city of Deir e-Zor don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the districts because of the media blackout and the weakness of media sources in the area.
The campaign also launched at this time because the oppression, subjugation, and torture of Deir e-Zor is growing day after day without the presence of any agency or organization to criticize or document what’s happening.
Q: Who is imposing a media blackout on Deir e-Zor? The Islamic State (IS)? The regime? The Free Syrian Army? All of them?
The media blackout is a result of the absence of the Syrian conflict from [local] news agencies and newspapers and channels first of all, and the fact that Deir e-Zor does not enjoy the same media momentum as the rest of the provinces.
Deir e-Zor didn’t receive the same coverage as Kobani. Does the media know that al-Baghdadi’s organization [the Islamic State] killed and expelled many more civilians from the villages of al-Shaitat than they did in Kobani?
No one talked about these events, despite the fact that the news was readily available.
IS and the regime use the same tool, they target [media] activists and there is a report on that that will come out soon. Because of this tactic, there is a lack of sources, because of the security mindset of both parties [IS and the regime].
Q: What types of abuses do IS and the regime commit in Deir e-Zor?
First off, killing without an investigation, or what is known as field execution, without any trace of justice or judicial excuse.
Second, mass detentions, especially of young men. The regime and IS are famous for this.
The regime has used all available weapons to bomb Deir e-Zor, including warplanes, tanks, and artillery, for more than 800 days.
As for IS, they use forced migration as a new punishment imposed on anyone who resists.
Q: How have these abuses shaped public opinion towards IS?
The Islamic State is not popular, they haven’t been popular since they entered Deir e-Zor. The abuses [IS fighters] commit have done nothing but increase the hatred of the masses for them, a group which uses the sword to take power, and terrifies people with Islam—which is innocent of them and their deeds.
Q: How is the humanitarian situation in Deir e-Zor? How are people living? Is there work? Are the markets open?
The markets are open, and the economic situation appears to be more stable than in previous months, when there was a lack of work accompanied by the migration of young men, and a lack of jobs in the health and education sectors.
The humanitarian situation is bad for those who fled to the city and now live in schools. It’s bad for those forced to leave their homes by IS.
Also, the winter is coming, and there is a fuel crisis combined with the biting cold.
Finally, coalition warplanes are unloading their bombs on the primitive refineries that guaranteed cheap fuel.
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