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Syrian TV host: 'I felt like a murderer'

September 18th, 2012
08:18 AM ET

By Samuel Burke & Ken Olshansky, CNN

For a year and a half Syrians have been watching state television and been hearing there's no uprising in their country.

They've been told that the violence is a terrorist conspiracy against their leader, Bashar al-Assad.

Many of those reports came from anchorwoman Ola Abbas, who for years was a familiar face and voice in the Syrian media, controlled by the government.

Then this summer, Abbas posted a message on YouTube:

"My dear people of Syria: Since the regime unleashed its first attack against this land, we have been one. And we share the same dreams of a free, fair and independent Syria. Liberate yourselves from the oppression and victimization."

And with that, Ola Abbas quit the regime and joined the revolution. She says she had enough of the lies and the bloodshed. 

She defected from Syria, leaving behind her fiancé and her family. After more than 20,000 deaths, unabated violence and hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives, Abbas said she could no longer lie to her listeners.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Abbas said she regrets not having the courage to defect at the beginning of the revolution.

"I came in late. The reason I didn't defect is fear. That's why I didn't defect earlier. What made me finally defect is my responsibility as a person. Being a Syrian citizen and witnessing how the regime was slaughtering innocent people and bombing civilians in towns and villages with planes and mortars."

Abbas told Amanpour she wasn't even able to read a report about demonstrations until three months after they began.

"It was the first time they reported that people were starting to gather. And I thought that was kind of a step forward. For three months there was no mention of what was going on the streets of Syria, even though there were a lot of innocent martyrs. The Syrian media was schizophrenic about what was actually happening with the regime and the president Bashar al-Assad."

Syria: Rebels deny $25M Assad bounty

Abbas says there were "keywords" the government banned, words like "demonstration" and "revolution."

But other "keywords" came into play.

"When we used the word 'conspiracy,' we were referring to the conspiracy against the regime and against Syria. We used to refer to demonstrators as terrorists or armed gangs or insurgents."

Abbas' mother is one of the very people buying into the narrative, says Abbas. Like Assad, Abbas and her family are Alawites; she says her mother continues to supports the Syrian president.

Abbas says it was painful reading the words that even her own family believed.

"Truthfully, I was suffering. I felt guilty. I felt like I was in a complex collaborating with the regime in the slaughtering of the Syrians. I didn't feel like myself. I felt like a murderer. I felt exactly like a murderer.

"To me, anyone who worked for the Syrian media is a murderer. When you tell lies for Bashar al-Assad in support of slaughtering civilians, then you're using the media to kill the Syrians."

Assad says she is confident the revolution will bring down Assad.

"History is in our favor. The regime is going to be toppled. It's going to take longer, because America and the Western world are not doing anything. I ask the American people to pressure the administration to take a serious and firm stance and not be a partner in the killing of the Syrian children. But the revolution against Bashar al-Assad will end eventually because humanitarian reason and logic say that the regime will be toppled because murderers cannot prevail."

Life inside a Syrian refugee camp

CNN’s Claire Calzonetti produced this piece for television.

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Osarenren Ihaza

    It obvious al Assad is losing this war. All those under Him should defect now that they have a chance.

    September 18, 2012 at 8:32 am | Reply
  2. wes sahrawi

    so tired of watching the same stupid 15 second ad over and over again for every 30 second vid clip on CNN. I am so close to deleting CNN from my browser!!!!

    September 18, 2012 at 8:49 am | Reply
  3. okezie isaac

    God bless you for having a good conscience. Al-AAssad shall lose this war of genocide in the end shamefully.

    September 18, 2012 at 9:05 am | Reply
  4. Contras712

    I imagine this pure propaganda CNN "journalism" must be paid very well to compensate for the loss of the millions of the independent thinking readers.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Reply
  5. CDN

    Hope ur are not trying to seek new Tv job in our new coming government.

    September 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Reply
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