The UK public are under the impression that the militant group Daesh is responsible for more deaths than Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, an exclusive report in the Sun has revealed.
The results of a study conducted by research agency Survation for the Syrian activist group Families for Freedom, revealed that 40 per cent of respondents believed that Daesh and other militant groups had conducted more violence against civilians, compared to 34 per cent who recognised the role of Syrian government forces.
More than half of the 2,000 people surveyed had not heard about the hundreds of mass detention and torture centres operated by the Assad regime in Syria.
More than half a million people are believed to have been killed in the Syrian civil war over the past six years; the vast majority have been killed by President Bashar Al-Assad’s government. The regime has also used chemical weapons against civilians and prevented aid from reaching those affected on the ground.
Hundreds of thousands of opponents have been imprisoned, with Amnesty International estimating that nearly 18,000 prisoners have died in custody as a result of torture in Syria’s jails.
Wafa Zaidan, a Syrian journalist based in London, told MEMO that the report’s findings agreed with her own experiences of interacting with the British public with regard to Syria.
“I have done some reports in which I went to the streets and asked the British public… I would only find the… educated public aware of what’s going on in Syria. They would know that there is ISIS [Daesh], but the main cause of death and torture is Assad.”
“There is a problem of understanding whether news sources are credible or not and understanding the situation in Syria,” she highlights, pointing to the relative acceptance of news outlets such as Russia Today, which she says cannot be relied upon for impartial coverage, due to Russia’s support for Assad’s government.
Zaidan believes that stories covering Daesh have been prioritised in the British press, as such groups are perceived as an imminent threat to the UK, whilst the struggle of the Syrian people is rarely addressed.
“For Britain, Daesh poses a direct threat, whereas Assad is just posing a direct threat to the people over there. That’s why this topic gets covered widely in British media.”
“Honestly, I think this has affected the discourse here on refugees; [refugees] appeal to the public and tell them about torture and what happened in Syria, but they [the UK press] tend to talk more about ISIS [Daesh], because it seems more true to the public than talking about Assad.”
She emphasised that it was important for journalists and Syrian activists to increase awareness of the government’s crimes, by presenting the information in a way that the public would be receptive to.
“I believe that reports in simple language, asking people on the streets, this would raise awareness. The same thing goes for activists.”