The Civil March on Aleppo has the Foreign Office’s Prints All Over It
Barbara NcKenzie, Dec 23 20916
This article follows on from The British Foreign Office and the Propaganda War on Syria
The role played by the British Foreign Office and other government departments in the unremitting propaganda against the Syrian government is unquestionable. The British government is determinedly pursuing its policy of regime change in Syria, and sees gaining public acceptance of that policy through propaganda that demonises the Syrian government and glorifies the armed opposition as essential to achieving that goal. Companies like Incostrat and Mayday, both British in origin, who are involved in ‘strategic communications’ projects in Syria, are open about their contractual relationships with the British government to deliver propaganda. All major propaganda projects in Syria that are financed by the British taxpayer have one explicit message: the call for a no-fly zone in Syria, similar to that was which was imposed on Libya, with the well-known disastrous consequences. The ostensible purpose is humanitarian intervention; the aim is to destroy Syria as we know it.
The Civil March on Aleppo
The constant stream of allegations of war crimes on the part of the Syrian government and its allies is supported by specific propaganda projects, such as The White Helmets and @AlabedBana (see Appendix). The Civil March on Aleppo is another such project. The Civil March on Aleppo will set out from Berlin on 26 December. The March has all the hallmarks of a slick Foreign Office production: the quick development, the expensive-looking advertising, the feel-good values presented (families, peace) camouflaging the brutality of the desired outcome, ie. a no-fly zone and the bombing of Syria by the NATO coalition. According to the manifesto , ‘this war can be stopped’ by the following actions:
We want to stand up to our politicians and show them that we had enough of their inaction and we want an immediate decision on how to stop what is happening. We stand up for the no-fly zone in Syria. We demand the humanitarian corridor. We want to demonstrate our solidarity about Syrians’ situation and let them know that we care. We want to draw people’s attention to what is happening in Syria. We want conversations, interests, comments, instead of scrolling down the Facebook feed.
The humanitarian corridor is of course a red herring. Humanitarian corridors have been provided by the Syrian government, only to be blocked by the terrorists in the east, with those fleeing often shot dead. The intention of the march is to support the demand for a no-fly zone, which is mentioned twice elsewhere in the manifesto ‘We need the no-fly zone and humanitarian corridor’. ‘We don’t want to get into politics – we only want a no-fly zone over Syria and humanitarian corridors so that help can get to the people in need.’ There are a number of assumptions that are not argued but taken as read: civilians are being massacred, bombs are dropping, children’s hospitals are being targeted. There is no mention of insurgents or terrorists, Russia or Assad, government-controlled western Aleppo versus eastern Aleppo. However, anyone who follows the mainstream media (or looks at the postings by Civil March activists) will assume the massacres referred to are those attributed to Syria and Russia, likewise the targeting of children’s hospitals. According to the manifesto, ‘The only affiliation is peace. And hope.‘ Which is nonsense. The Facebook pages of both the Civil March and its organisers show that the organisation is affiliated with the armed insurgency, ie the terrorist groups. This is demonstrated by: FSA flags; promotion of known terrorist supporters such as Bilal Abd’ul-Karim; overt support for the White Helmet and Bana Projects, both of which have close ties with the al Zinki gang; the constant repetition of propaganda derived from those projects or elsewhere, most of which is easily disproven. Imposition of a no-fly zone has no other motive than to satisfy the NATO agenda. The acquiescence of the United Nations to a no-fly zone in Libya was promptedly interpreted as an invitation to bomb Libya to smithereens; NATO states are desperate to get the green light to do the same thing to Syria. Fortunately, the response of Russian and China has been determinedly ‘fool me once …’.
[The manifesto of the Civil March has since been amended to remove all three references to a no-fly zone.]
The timing is somewhat strange. By the time the marchers arrive at the Syrian border the last terrorist will be gone from Aleppo, and it is most unlikely there will be any bombing going on in the city, at least on the part of the Russian and Syrian airforces. Furthermore, a lot of truth will have been revealed by then; even Jackass has conceded that some of the groups have been preventing civilians from leaving. Some have already joked that the Marchers will end up going to Idlib or Raqqa, though the organisers have indicated their hope that their mission will be achieved (presumably the no-fly zone) before arriving at the Turkish-Syrian border. The intended destination is probably Gaziantep in south-east Turkey, which provides a hub for terrorist support operations (Mayday, which runs the White Helmets on behalf of the FCO, has a base there), a number of minor NGOs whose chief function is to propagandise against the Syrian government and also for Western journalists.
The plan is the UN and all other institutions or entities that can stop the massacre of Syrian civilians hear us before we stand on the border.
The project was initiated, apparently, by an ordinary mother, Polish in origin, living in Berlin. On Nov 20 Anna Alboth was galvanised into action after reading an article in the British newspaper The Independent about premature babies. It’s very hard not to think of Saddam Hussein and the Kuwaiti incubator hoax. As with Bana, there is the same sense of a campaign carefully planned externally and ready to go. There appears to be no record of Anna putting out feelers to friends or tossing ideas round, but by Nov 28, the Civil March on Aleppo had a Facebook account complete with professionally-designed logo and cover photo, followed by use of the hashtags #StoptheBombing and #CivilMarchforAleppo. On Dec 1, a video was uploaded.
Anna Alboth focuses on the need of ordinary people to get past their feeling of helplessness and do something: ‘I would like to transform these tears and this anger into some action. I would like to go to Aleppo.’ Anna’s words are very indefinite, but the photos in the video convey an unmistakable message. The video provides the usual incestuous reinforcement, showing many tweets from the other FCO projects, @AlebedBana and the White Helmets. There are tweets from @AhmadAlkhtiib, a Syrian journalist who tweets mostly in English on behalf of the ‘FSA’ and the ‘revolution.’ One tweet clearly warns of genocide in Aleppo. The mostly Facebook page, almost all in Arabic, of one Mohammed al-Khatieb is shown (does Anna really speak Arabic?). The video finishes with a chorus: ‘I’m going to Aleppo. We are going to Aleppo.’ The video has high production values, and it is impossible to believe that it was designed by anyone other than a professional media company. However according to Alboth, the video was made by young chef Tokarski Jørg Jarek as his contribution to the project.
Who are We?
More information became available on Dec 2:
There’s a lot of misinformation when it comes to who we are and why we’re organizing the march. We’ve read and heard it all: CIA, Assad, Putin … The truth is a lot less sensational and a lot more mundane, I’m afraid – we’re just an international bunch of travelers, lawyers, journalists, social, office and corporate workers – your typical guys and girls next-door – who are sick and tired of feeling powerless when it comes to the crisis in Syria and beyond.
So the same company who used the line about the White Helmets being just ordinary Syrians, bakers, tailors, etc, are almost repeating themselves, but this time with a strong middle-class angle.
The jocular suggestion ‘Is it CIA? Assad? Putin?’ (anyone but MI6) is a mantra repeated yet again in the biography of another enthusiast loaded that day (‘Is it CIA? Assad? Putin? No. It’s people like Marta.’) It shows poor judgement on the part of the project managers, as Assad and Putin are clearly a ridiculous option, given that the intent of the March is to highlight their alleged war crimes, and strongly points to a deflection away from the real sponsors, with MI6 or the Foreign Office high on any list of possible suspects. According to their blog, Anna Alboth and her husband Thomas endeavour to live a lifestyle which combines journalism, family life and travel. However their travels did not take them anywhere near Syria, and there is no indication that Anna had the slightest interest in the Middle East or peace activism before Nov 2016. The manifesto gives a long list of people who support the Civil March on Aleppo. Just first names are given but some full names appear elsewhere on the facebook page, a few of which I have checked out.
Stefan Oeknigk, a German living in Poland, describes himself as a project manager, responsible for the transport and logistic team for the March. His LinkedIn CV shows project management, team building, information technology, management of web design projects. He seems a likely candidate for overall management of the Civil March project. He does not appear to be a big user of social media. His twitter account @DayDreamer1969 is protected but shows little activity.
Marta Kusnierska describes herself on twitter, @martakusnierska, as a consultant for social impact and entrepreneurship / business and innovation strategy. According to her LinkedIn CV she has worked as a brand ambassador and marketing strategy consultant. Like Anna, she has shown no interest in peace activism or the Middle East before November, but now actively promotes the Civil March.
Joanna Nowak posted about Anna’s plan even before she did, on 19 December. Again, there is no indication on her facebook page of any previous interest in Syria. However from then on her page is dedicated to standard propaganda in support of the militants in Aleppo, posting about the White Helmets, Bana Alabed, the last cat man in Aleppo, the FSA, with reports from known terrorist sympathisers Bilal Abd’ul-Karim and Waad al-Kataeb (latest reports give Waad’s current location as the al-Nusra stronghold of Idlib). In one posting, Aleppo is glibly compared to Warsaw 1944.
Paulina Kuntze made a comment on the Civil March’s first post of Nov 28. On the public pages of her facebook account there were indications of an interest in Syria prior to this, in particular a video posted on Nov 21 from Orient News, a pro-terrorist media organisation, its propaganda intent is reveaded by the fact of the video portraying a huge demonstration in support of Assad and the Syrian government (with red white and black flag) as a protest AGAINST the government). Paulina Kuntze has an interesting twitter history. Her account was opened on Jul 27 2014, and since then has functioned purely as an anti-Syria propaganda vehicle. Most days she did not tweet at all, occasionally just one or two tweets, but some days there was a huge number, eg on Jun 1 2016 there were 150 all about Syia, while on Jun 2, via mobile twitter, she tweeted 130 times. Most tweets have pictures and there are very few retweets. She appears to have put in an enormous effort, but very few were ever ‘liked’ and possibly none retweeted. The account seems to have functioned purely as a filing system, and nothing has been added since Aug 11.
On Dec 10, the Civil March posted a report on the publicity in the media to date. One of the first to cooperate was the German tabloid Das Bild, well known as extreme in its anti-Syrian views even as corporate media go, which reported on Dec 7 that it had spoken with Anna Alboth several weeks previously. The article was written by Julian Roepcke, often referred to on social media as #jihadijulian for his pro-terrorist viewpoint, and is essentially a promotion of the March. A video is included, which appears to be a first draft of the one loaded on Nov 30, with Anna uttering almost identical words. The snazzily presented twitter shots of the later video are missing, but the Civil March logo and banner are displayed. In recent days there have been calls for the donation of equipment, and a crowdfunding campaign was announced. This by no means negates an external sponsor: while the Foreign Office have been open about their responsibility for the White Helmets, they have been a great deal more discreet about projects such as @AlabedBana and the Civil March on Aleppo. The media campaigns face huge obstacles which they have not been able to surmount.
- Its advertising: It is hard to create a swept-up, maximum-impact campaign without it looking exactly that, a maximum-impact high-end advertising campaign. The projects, therefore, contain a fundamental flaw: the advertising techniques that are so effective are the very things that give the game away. The careful posing of Omran on the orange chair was loved by the uncritical (or complicit) corporate media, but are a big red flag to any impartial observer.
- The players: All these campaigns rely for their message on the supposed involvement of ordinary decent people, whether Syrian or Polish. Unfortunately for the project managers, the only trustworthy partners for the Foreign Office’s propaganda projects are people committed to the ‘revolution’, i.e. terrorist supporters. Many of them look, speak and behave like thugs, and in any case they cannot conceal their connections with unsavoury organisations. It is questionable, therefore, how many people who have seriously looked at projects like the White Helmets actually buy the product. The petition in favour of the White Helmets getting a Nobel Peace price only garnered 3000 signatures. Very few of twitter respondents to @AlabedBana are genuinely taken in: most are trolls of one description or another, either pushing the NATO narrative or ridiculing the Project. In the case of the Civil March there appear to be very few genuine responders, apart from critics. One has to wonder whether the Foreign Office is prepared to pay for 3,000 extras to march on Aleppo.
Appendix: White Helmets
The ‘Syrian Civil Defense’ (not to be confused with the real Syrian Civil Defence), also known as the White Helmets, are defined as a humanitarian first responder organisation, which according to their website is staffed by ordinary Syrians:
Bakers, tailors, engineers, pharmacists, painters, carpenters, students and many more, the White Helmets are volunteers from all walks of life.
In reality we are dealing with a multi-million dollar enterprise, designed on behalf of the British government. Its sole function is to operate as a propaganda arm for al Nusra and allied groups in Aleppo and Idlib, by creating the image of brave and selfless heroes who stage dramatic rescues, usually involving small children, which are videoed by the Aleppo Media Center. Few people from eastern Aleppo seem to have heard of the White Helmets, but when RT’s Lizzie Phelan tracked down some who had dealings with them the escapees had little good to say about the ‘first responders.’ The White Helmets have all the elements of a major advertising campaign or serious company launch, with logo, catchy ‘White Helmets’ brand name and distinctive helmet, new and freshly ironed uniforms, Facebook page and Twitter account (not yet signed up to LinkedIn, though I did find this little promotion). Salaries, uniforms and other accoutrements are all paid for with targeted funding from NATO and allied countries, to the tune of more than $100m to date. The White Helmets vigorously demand a no-fly zone in Syria and have a petition to that effect on their website.
Bana Tweets from Aleppo
Bana Alabed is the face of the Bana Project, which was based on the concept of a little girl tweeting out of Aleppo, begging the world to do anything, even declare WW3, if it saved Aleppo from Assad and Russia’s bombs. As with the White Helmets, Bana was greeted with scepticism by Syria watchers from the beginning, and even the NYT has expressed doubts. Ostensibly, ‘Bana’ should have been a completely different sort of campaign, without logos or expensive equipment. However, that it was a sophisticated operation was clear from the outset: the contrived opening tweet ‘I need Peace,” the reiteration of the message (we are bombed, save us), uploaded videos from day one, the purchase of huge numbers of followers to give the impression of support, and a supporting Facebook page. In recent weeks Bana’s close links with the most barbaric gangs terrorising eastern Aleppo have become increasingly apparent, to the total indifference of the corporate media.
(Image from Panchi Belaunde)
Bana and her mother constantly beg for active intervention from external forces.