There’s no point. There’s no way to cross.
It makes no sense to keep on. There’s no way.
I have been trying to get back to Syria for months. I have tried it all. All the smugglers, all the commanders I know. All the activists. No way. A few times it’s been a matter of bad luck. Of true bad luck. But in the end, that comes with the territory. And now, it’s the last thing I’d like to do, really, the last one – but I have no other choice than leaving.
It makes no sense to keep on.
There’s no way.
No, however. It is not as you think: it is not because of jihadists. Of kidnappings. No. That time is over, fortunately. Syria, it goes without saying, is still the realm of all sorts of criminal gangs, but the risk of going missing is now roughly the same you would run in a country like Lybia. Like Yemen. The problem is not with jihadists: it’s with the border. The problem is with Turkey. After the wave of ISIS attacks it went through, Turkey ramped up controls, and changed the rules, that vary for NGOs, for refugees. And for journalists. For which the border is simply shut down. And that’s why there is none of us inside Syria. Not because of jihadists. But because if you try to cross illegally, the police opens fire. It really opens fire.
And I only know that if this were Gaza, rather than Syria, if it were Israel to stop us, as it did in 2008, during Operation Cast Lead, we would be all here complaining.
But this is only Syria.
And Syria has dynamics of their own.
For Syria we have different standards, different logics.
For years, for five years and 500,000 dead, we have been stand watching, we have been asking: Aleppo? What’s Aleppo? – as if the war, here, didn’t exist. And now, we’ve just decided that it is over. That there is a truce, that there are these areas of so-called de-escalation: and so it’s all quiet. It’s all fine. And it doesn’t matter that in Syria there are still aistrikes. That the truce doesn’t cover quite unspecified “terrorists”, that is, basically, whoever doesn’t surrender. It doesn’t matter that these ceasefires are actually only a tool of Assad, who in fact, is still blocking humanitarian aid and starving people into submission, it doesn’t matter that their model is the Four Cities Agreement, negotiated last March – when fighters and activists from Madaya and Zabadani, two Sunni towns near Damascus, gave up and moved to Idlib, while those of Fuaa and Kafraya, two Shia towns near Idlib, gave up and moved to Damascus: it doesn’t matter that rather than true ceasefires, they look like population swaps. That through these local ceasefires, Assad is simply gathering all his opponents in Idlib. Where al-Qaeda, moreover, which has now rebranded itself Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham, to simplify his job, is now attacking all non-jihadist groups: so that when Assad will have eventually amassed everybody there, and will start bombing, and erase Idlib from the map as he’s erased Aleppo, the world will have nothing to say. Because in Idlib in the end, no?, there are only terrorists.
Even though Syrians in Idlib have been rising against al-Qaeda for months.
And that’s, actually, why I’ve been trying for months to go there.
But it’s pointless. There’s no way to cross.
Information is a right, it’s my right to be in Syria: and above all, it’s your right to have me inside. Because public opinion today plays a key role, in every war. In every war, in spite of ourselves, we are part and parcel of the strategy of those who are actually fighting on the ground, both me and you, we are not neutral: never. And access restrictions, which in war have always existed, yes, but this doesn’t mean that they are normal, and that they should be accepted, access restrictions are somehow like the axioms of theorems: they are the premises our work derives from. Is shaped by. Because they set what we can see, the way we can see it – or, no?, you’d rather think that we can’t enter Syria because we’d get kidnapped by Syrians. Because they are all terrorists.
But nobody says anything, here. Nobody complains.
Even though if it were Gaza, we would be all here shouting at Israel.
And instead it’s only Syria.
And so for months fellow journalists have been asking me: Where the hell you are?
Well. That’s where I was. You, actually, where were you?