PHOTO: The Douma “River of Blood” image — whether or not it is real, the deaths and destruction are

Last week we wrote with regret and sorrow about the media’s oversight — even as it was interviewing a President Assad who insisted, “We have no barrel bombs” and do not deliberately kill civilians — of the hundreds of civilians killed and wounded by the Syrian regime’s airstrikes and artillery shelling of Douma, northeast of Damascus.

See Syria Special: How and Why Media Are Failing to Report the War
Syria Op-Ed: How the Assad Regime Wins the Propaganda War as It Kills Civilians

This weekend two stories broke through the silence.

On his blog Diary of a Misanthrope, journalist Oz Katerji posts videos and the “River of Blood” photograph of the deaths and devastation and quotes a local activist:

We have had more than 200 people martyred during the last 10 days in Eastern Ghouta, including hundreds of wounded women and children. People are shocked and scared…over a third of the dead are women and children.

There are 300,000 civilians still living in Douma, over 40 per cent of them are children. We want humanitarian corridors and to stop the bombing of civilians.

While regime supporters continue to question the authenticity of the Rivers of Blood photo, the footage (Warning — Graphic Images) is beyond dispute:

Equally notable is the recognition of the carnage by the British newspaper The Independent, given that two of its leading writers — Patrick Cockburn and Robert Fisk — have repeatedly upheld the legitimacy of Assad, derided the opposition, and downplayed the civilian deaths caused by the regime.

Breaking with that narrative, the newspaper headlines Lizzie Dearden’s article, “The Harrowing Stories That Show Why the Atrocities Committed by Assad’s Forces Must Not Be Forgotten”.

Dearden does not specifically reference Douma. However, she quotes at length from a Medecins Sans Frontieres report on an airstrike on the Damascus suburb of Hamouriyeh on January 23, which killed scores of civilians and injured at least 147. A doctor testifies:

Around 200 to 250 people were gathered in the public square when it was bombed by a fighter jet. Ambulances were immediately directed to the area to evacuate the wounded. The first batch of wounded arrived few minutes later: 20 bodies and 15 wounded. The triage started right away and priority was given to people with life-threatening wounds.

Paramedics were running and bringing in more wounded people, so I realised there was a catastrophe going on. It was not the “routine” shelling we have become used to….

The area was hit again as ambulances tried to evacuate the dead and wounded, causing more injuries, including among paramedics. Thankfully, their wounds were not serious. But one ambulance was hit and totally destroyed and a second was damaged. We could hear the explosions and the sound of the fighter jets. I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of a raid on the hospital, as this had happened before and we lost two of our colleagues….

The final toll was very heavy. We received 128 victims. We managed to save the lives of 60 people, but 68 of our patients died.

Amid Dearden’s story are images from Douma:



Would The Independent have covered the deadly airstrikes had it not been for Medicins Sans Frontieres or the Internet summary of a Oz Katerji, relying instead on the “expertise” of columnists like Fisk and Cockburn?

Possibly not. But the exception of Dearden’s article offers the hope that the mainstream media might have to take notice if others refused to be blinded.