a former intelligence officer recounts her mission in Syria

Enora Chame free a morning hors du commun: celui d’une femme, officier de renseignement français, sent moreieurs mois en Syrie pour tenter d’y maintenir la paix in 2012. Elle raconte à Yahoo son expérience dans un country devastated by torture et death.

Ten years ago, Enora Chame was sent to Syria. This former French Army intelligence officer chose to recount this mission in a book, When the shadow walks (Mareuil editions).

“It was the last chance mission”

She arrived in Bashar-al Assad’s country in April 2012, as an observer for Misnus, the United Nations monitoring mission. Her objective was to verify that the ceasefire was respected, while the Arab spring had led to arrests and violence against civilians.

A very tough mission, because the observers must record any violence committed, in this case deaths, and try to determine who is at the origin. “It was considered the last chance mission to save Syria from war,” he recalls. But the ceasefire does not last.

“Many people were taken to torture in front of us”

Enora Chame then describes a feeling of helplessness. “We felt desperate to abandon people, to see the corpses that were piling up… Many people were taken to torture, in front of us, we couldn’t save them.” Because like all mission observers, she is not armed.

In Syria, torture was practiced “on an almost industrial scale,” says the military man. The police were ordered to shoot at the demonstrators to wound them, so that they were forced to go to the hospital, where they were tortured. In Bashar al-Assad’s regime “hospitals are part of the prison system.” He also describes the mutilations inflicted on the families of deserting soldiers, “to punish them.”

“For a long time I keep the last cartridge of my weapon for myself”

This experience shaped Enora Chame’s very particular relationship with death. “There is the death of others: a death is a death for me. If I see fifty, I’m not going to cry fifty,” she says without batting an eyelid. On the other hand, in case of death “of the companions”, “the transfer is immediate”.

And his own death? “For a long time I keep the last cartridge of my gun to myself,” she says calmly. It is a “serenity factor (…) I even asked colleagues to do it for me, before letting me fall into the hands of an enemy who would hack me on the Internet, torture me, rape me and my family would have to live with that”.

“The war in Syria was much, much worse than the war in Ukraine”

Although the Syrian civil war has lasted more than eleven years, on February 24 the news broke with the invasion of the Russian army in Ukraine. For Enora Chame, the war in Syria “was much, much, much worse” than the one in Ukraine. She notes that unlike Bashar al-Assad, “President Zelensky it does not occupy itself full time with liquidating its population. And second, it’s not a civil war.”

On the other hand, Enora Chame underlines common points 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 they know what they’re doing.” .

For journalists, “it is difficult to escape manipulation”

The intelligence officer compares his experience as a war observer with that of a war journalist. The difficulties seem similar to him, and the pitfalls too. “You are the eyes of the international community and we want to guide your response, so this leads to a staging.”

“We are witnesses, it is important to be there”, but “it is difficult to escape manipulation”, he concludes. “I think it’s impossible for them to really determine the possible scenarios.”

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