Friday, October 4, 2013
Mother Dearest, Speak the Truth: Mother Agnes Miriam and the Syrian Crisis
By now, I'm sure everyone is aware of the usage of chemical weapons by Syrian authorities on their own citizens, so I won't bore you with the same details that have been covered already in previous blogs. This is more of a follow-up combined with some personal input on the situation.
Within the past week, several articles have cropped up around the Syrian humanitarian crisis, regarding a nun, Mother Agnes Mariam, living in Syria and her report on what she considers to be a staged video of the August 21st sarin gas attack in Damascus. She is not questioning whether the attack actually occurred; the body count and symptoms of the victims are irrefutable. Rather, she questions the severity of the situation that the video portrays. The footage largely shows several different scenes of emaciated individuals, mainly children, lying in makeshift hospital cots, after having inhaled the poisonous gas. Having scrutinized the video and even submitted a report to the UN, she points out possible discrepancies in the video, such as seeing the same child in multiple shots that were supposed to be different locations or finding a lack of women or parents alongside their children in the hospitals. The absence of evidence of burials was another factor she outlined that would suggest doctored footage.
The main question at hand is the credibility of Mother Agnes. This video is referenced as one of the main windows for the outside world to look into this humanitarian crisis. The issue with this fact, though, is that it is one of the few windows available, and so it's hard to tell if it's tainted or not. Oftentimes, news can be taken as the complete truth because it is the only version of the truth out there. Thus, there is a possibility that Mother Agnes is right. Video manipulation, or finding someone who can alter a video, is not a particularly difficult task, and for people in the business of pushing political agendas (like President Assad and Syrian officials, or really any government), this is one of the main weapons in their arsenals. If Mother Agnes is speaking the truth, then this provides a perfect example of how technology can be abused because the US nearly found itself in another military conflict (remember President Obama's speech to Congress several weeks ago?). Even if she is wrong, it is obvious that the power of video footage and even the way the clips might be pasted together can be effective in producing a certain response. This was evidenced by the international backlash towards Syria along with the UN Security Council's passage of a motion on Wednesday to immediately initiate humanitarian aid to the Syrian citizens. It would be an interesting argument of whether or not the right to the truth would be considered a basic human right. To me, it seems more part of an unwritten code of ethics, but when did politics ever really care for ethics?