There were two important developments in Syria on Monday. The day started with a large protest in the central Midan district of Damascus, the opposition's test the regime's promise to meet the Arab League's demand for reforms. The regime failed that test, opening fire on one of the largest protests in Damascus in months and killing up to three people.
By the end of the day, however, this headline was eclipsed by others: as many as 48 civilians had died nationwide, and 70 (or 72) soldiers had been killed in Jebel al Zawiya in Idlib Province in the northwest, as they tried to defect. The combined total of deaths, reported by some activists,would make Monday one of the bloodiest days of the crisis.
By late Monday night, however, a series of controversies had arisen. Neither the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria nor the Free Syrian Army nor any of EA's contacts had any direct knowledge of the defectors. Indeed, we were wary of the report because it did not come through traditional sources. EA's earlier note that a source had spoken to one of the defectors, was a misunderstanding --- the source had read an account from the original source, the Syrian Revolution General Commission. In-fighting began to set in, as some activists doubted the validity of the claims.
Since then, some of the fears have been dampened. A group of activists claim that they will be releasing the full list of names soon. The Free Syrian Army said it would not have known about these defectors because they were in the act of defecting, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights posted some details:
A defected soldier has told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that dozens of defected soldiers were killed today in gunfire by machine guns. They were killed while trying to run away from their military positions on the way between the villages of Kensafra and Kefer Quaid, in Zawyia Mountain, in Idlib district. He added that the Syrian authorities have dragged the bodies of the soldiers. The defected soldier who was wounded himself said that almost 60-70 soldiers were killed.
This was not the only example of "fog of war" in Syria. The LCCS had earlier reported that a young child was killed in Midan, but that child was only injured and appears to have survived her wounds.
So who is at fault for any false reports? According to the LCCS, it is the regime:
The LCC reported yesterday on the death of Hala Al-Monajed, a child, in the Midan district of Damascus after security forces and Shabiha opened heavy gunfire at a student demonstration.
The information was provided based on corroborating testimonies by eyewitnesses and activists in Midan. The events were followed by a massive funeral for the child this afternoon, when thousands flocked to the funeral, only to find that the corpse had disappeared. At the time, it was believed that the corpse had been secretly buried at night, as frequently occurs due to security forces’ pressure.
However, it has become apparent that the child, struck by a bullet in the groin area, is alive and undergoing treatment at a Damascus hospital.
The LCC congratulates the child and her family on her safety, and apologizes for the unintentional error. The LCC calls upon its reporters and the correspondents of other Coordination Committees to ensure greater accuracy in their reporting, with the full understanding that due to pressure by security forces, access to the full truth is difficult in many cases.
In light of the present circumstances surrounding the dissemination of information in our country, we hold the regime fully responsible for the lack of clarity or accuracy in any information. It would be better for the regime to refrain from its lies and from prosecuting those who pursue freedom of the press, and allow media into the country. This is especially true as while the regime was spinning lies about the death of a child and attributing all events to a "cosmic conspiracy," the Shabiha were firing on a funeral just a few meters away from the hospital where the child is being treated, and mutliple people were injured and killed.
Our struggle against the tyrannical regime is not only for freedom and dignity; it is also for the truth.
Welcome to the world of reporting news from Syria. We sometimes spend hours, even days, checking reports before posting. At other times, confirmation comes more quickly. However, in a country where the regime dictates the media coverage, and sometimes even cell phone reception, this is never easy, especially when so many rely on anonymous sources because the label of embedded reporter for the opposition may be a death sentence.