Enora Chame provides an extraordinary testimony: that of a woman, a French intelligence officer who was sent to Syria for several months in 2012 to try to keep the peace there. She tells Yahoo about her experiences in a country devastated by torture and death.
Ten years ago, Enora Chame was sent to Syria. This former French army intelligence officer decided to narrate this mission in a book, When the shadow advances (Mareuil editions).
“It was the last chance mission”
She arrived in the country of Bashar al-Assad in April 2012 as an observer with Misnus, the United Nations monitoring mission. The aim was to verify that the ceasefire was being respected while the Arab Spring had led to arrests and violence against civilians.
A very difficult mission, because the observers must identify any violence committed, in this case fatalities, and try to determine who is behind it. “It was seen as the last chance to save Syria from war,” she recalls. But the ceasefire doesn’t last.
“Many people were taken to torture before our eyes”
Enora Chame then describes a feeling of helplessness. “We felt a desperation to let people down, to see the bodies that were piling up… Many people were being tortured before our eyes, we could not save them”. Like all observers on the mission, she is unarmed.
Torture is practiced in Syria “on an almost industrial scale,” says the soldier. The police were ordered to shoot at the protesters in order to injure them so that they would be forced to go to the hospital where they would be tortured. In Bashar al-Assad’s regime, “hospitals are part of the prison system”. She also describes the mutilations inflicted on the families of defecting soldiers “to punish them”.
“For a long time I keep the last cartridge of my gun for myself”
This experience shaped Enora Chame’s very special relationship with death. “There is the death of others: a death is a death for me. When I see fifty, I will not mourn fifty,” she says without blinking. On the other hand, in the event of the death of “the comrade”, “the transfer is immediate”.
And his own death? “I’ll keep the last cartridge in my gun for a long time,” she asserts calmly. It’s a “serenity factor (…) I even asked comrades to do it for me instead of letting me fall into the hands of an enemy who would dismember me on the internet, torture me, rape me and my family would have to Life.”
“The war in Syria was much, much worse than the war in Ukraine”
While the Syrian civil war has been going on for more than eleven years, a new one broke out on February 24 when the Russian army invaded Ukraine. For Enora Chame, the war in Syria was “much, much, much worse” than the one in Ukraine. Unlike Bashar al-Assad, “President Zelenskyy is not constantly busy liquidating his people. And secondly, this is not a civil war,” she notes.
On the other hand, Enora Chame emphasizes similarities between the Russian soldiers and the Syrian soldiers: “They are prisoners of their system, they obey orders and that must be abominable. I’m not sure if they know what they’re doing.” .
It is difficult for journalists to evade manipulation
The secret service officer combines his experience as a war observer with that of a war journalist. The difficulties seem similar to him, as do the pitfalls. “You are the eyes of the international community and we want to direct your response, so this leads to staging”.
“We are witnesses, it’s important to be there,” but “it’s difficult to evade manipulation,” she concludes. “I think it’s impossible for them to really determine the possible scenarios.”
VIDEO – Wladimir Klitschko: “In my worst nightmares, I could not have imagined seeing so much blood and atrocities”