Friday, October 07, 2011

Western media fabrications? “Beheaded” Syrian woman thought to be alive

A number of sources, including the Guardian, the Huffington Post and the BBC reported the death of “Syrian teenager” Zainab al Hosni two weeks ago, who was thought to be the first woman to die in detention. Al Hosni was dubbed the “flower of Syria” and had been a symbol of the Syrian protesters. The verdict handed down by the media, that she had been killed in custody and had been beheaded and mutiliated, only to be found by accident in a morgue, was reiterated by human rights groups with Amnesty leading the charge.

On Tuesday, however, al Hosni was shown in a brief interview on the main Syrian state television channel in which she showed an identity card and said that she had run away from home in July because her brothers had abused her. According to Nadim Houry of Human Rights Watch, relatives confirmed that the woman on TV was indeed al Hosni. Damascus is presenting this as proof of Western media bias against the regime, with the station describing the interview as a way of discrediting foreign “media fabrications.”

Many still remain cynical, with the Guardian reporting one western diplomat as saying, “I wouldn't put it past the Syrian authorities to have fabricated the whole thing. "They can be cynical and manipulative to an extraordinary degree." Indeed as Syrian blogger Maysaloon has noted “the date on which she was paraded on television was the day the UN security council draft resolution was to be voted on. Like Iran, the Syrian regime is remarkably sensitive to the political calendar.” Furthermore, even if the woman in the interview is found to be Zainab al Hosni, there is still a mutilated body to be explained.

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have called for an independent investigation to confirm the identity of the woman, but whatever the outcome, this is certainly a reminder that Western media outlets must continue to be viewed with the same level of scrutiny as before the start of the Arab uprisings.

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