Coverage of Recent ISIS Attacks Shows Syrian Civilians Are Only Humanized When It Serves a Pro-Intervention Agenda



Amid the recent successes of Syria’s military in retaking much of the country’s south from rebel groups, a devastating terror attack ripped through Syria’s Sweida early Wednesday morning, resulting in the brutal murder of more than 220 people and injuring nearly 180. Daesh (ISIS) later claimed responsibility for the attacks and boasted of its “success,” citing the high civilian death count

In keeping with Daesh’s reputation as an international terror group known for its savagery, hundreds of Syrian civilians were murdered execution-style in their homes — many of them killed as they slept — during raids, while suicide bombers also ravaged towns and villages in the area. Still, more civilians were kidnapped, their fate unknown

Despite the gravity of the attacks and the international consensus condemning Daesh, many Western media outlets treated the terrorist attack as though it were simply a battle between warring factions in the Syrian conflict. The reporting of those outlets on this particular incident is particularly stunning, given that those same outlets often strongly condemn Syrian military operations for their effect on civilians but failed to do that when a reviled terrorist group was to blame for the deaths of hundreds

Reuters, for example, did not even mention the involvement of Daesh in the headline of its article on the attacks, which was titled “More than 200 dead in Southwest Syria amid government offensive.” As the title hints, the article itself suggests that the killing of civilians by ISIS was just a consequence of the Syrian government’s military offensive in the south. I also fails to label the attacks as an atrocity — instead asserting that the more than 200 dead were merely “killed” as a result of fighting, not bothering to mention that many were murdered execution-style or killed in their beds

Another Reuters article, written in tandem with the Associated Press and Israeli newspaper Haaretz, was titled “‘At least 96 killed in ISIS Suicide Attack in pro-Assad Syrian City Near Jordan Border.” By using the term “pro-Assad” — which is often used in the Western press to dismiss critics of the foreign-funded Syrian opposition — to refer to the civilians that were targeted, it is by association labelling them as supporters of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, who has been demonized as a murderous despot in the Western press for years. It is an association that subtly dehumanizes the attack’s many victims. In addition, as did the previously mentioned Reuters article, the authors suggest that Wednesday’s ISIS attacks were a logical consequence of the Syrian government’s offensive through the South, which works to subdue outrage regarding the senseless violence of the attacks