In a packed Los Angeles church on Nov. 9, Mother Superior Agnes-Mariam of the Cross from Qara, Syria, spoke to an audience of mainly Syrian-Americans and anti-war activists as part of her U.S. and Canada tour. She presented an alternative view to the corporate, pro-imperialist media’s depiction of the situation in Syria concerning the “rebel” forces and their impact on the people there.
Mother Agnes first received worldwide notoriety when she exposed the falsehood of the rebel-made video, which indicted the Syrian government for a chemical weapons attack. She asserted that the facility depicted could not have held the children shown in it, since they had been missing for months before the video was supposedly taken. She asked, “Where are those children and who took them?”
Pro-NATO forces in the United States have accused her of complicity with the Syrian government, while mercenary and rebel forces in Syria have threatened her. “The Emir of Qatar offered me whatever I wanted if I would just shut up,” she reported. However, she has not wavered.
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies are collaborating with the United States to bring down the Syrian government, using mercenaries and religious forces who oppose a secular Syria, in order to replace it with a pro-U.S., nonsecular entity.
In Qara, Mother Agnes has sought the release of those detained by the government. She believes that only the Syrian people should make any needed changes regarding the Assad government, not outside forces. “The U.S. created the Taliban and Al Qaeda to topple the Russians in Afghanistan, and fund these Islamic supremacists in Syria with France … [and with] the blessing of Israel.”
Mother Agnes differentiated between the “rebel” Islamist forces and the Muslim majority, saying: “There [are] no Christian Syrians and Muslim Syrians. We are all Syrians and cannot be separated.” People of many ethnicities and religions function alongside each other within Syria’s secular state; most identify as Syrians, while acknowledging their religions or ethnicities.
Mother Agnes asked why anyone who professes to bring democracy and freedom to Syria would first destroy it: “Why destroy the gas and electricity facilities, the schools, the hospitals, why burn ambulances, why loot museums?”
The U.S.-sponsored forces have destroyed much of Syria’s heritage, even sacking the oldest remaining cities in human history. In Aleppo, rubble lies where historical landmarks stood for thousands of years. “In Aleppo, thousands of factories have been dismantled and taken out of Syria,” said Mother Agnes. The city was looted for gold, relics, manuscripts, anything that could be sold.
Advocating talks, not violence
Mother Agnes is confident that a “third way” of negotiation and reconciliation is possible between the Syrian “rebel” forces and the government. However, she insists, “I will dialogue with anyone, except the foreigners. They must go back to their own countries.”
She described negotiations with government and rebel forces, which allowed her to bring 7,000 civilians and 650 rebel soldiers out of Moaddamiya, territory which the rebels control. This was despite having to deal with the lack of clear leadership or unity among the rebel forces, who even began shooting at each other.
Because a “big leader” wanted his family out, there were four days of negotiations. For this success and for exposing the truth about the rebel forces’ torture and mutilation in Homs, which corporate media blamed on the government, the rebels have targeted Mother Agnes for death.
Mother Agnes said she isn’t taking sides and wants to protect everyone in Syria from government or rebel violence, but she must report that rebel forces are killing civilians, which the media never mention.
When asked whether she thought the “Assad regime” should leave, she replied, “First, this is not a regime. This is a government with many good ministers in it. It is not a ‘regime.’” She said negotiations and elections are the way to change the government, not violence.
Constitutional changes, elimination of martial law and an increase in political parties from one to seven resulted from negotiations between the government and the opposition in 2012. But violent attacks by mercenary and religious rebels sidetracked this process. Although elections are still set for 2014 and the majority of Syrians will participate in them, many of the rebel forces will not.
A rebel leader told Mother Agnes, “We’re not interested in democracy and freedom.”
Parker was part of an International Action Center solidarity delegation to Damascus in September after the U.S. threatened Syria with missile attacks.