Category Archives: Ethics and values

The Meaninglessness of War: Aleppo

Here my 6th photo series from Aleppo – hashtag #keepfocusonaleppo.

Lund, Sweden – March 24, 2017


Can the almost total destruction of Eastern Aleppo be used constructively?

Only if we are willing to ask and dialogue about this:

• Why does the world go on investing US$ 2000 billion annually in warfare and US$ 30 in all the UN does – only to create destruction of people, places, past and future?

How absurd, how meaningless – indeed how far must it go to destroy the West itself – before we learn to conflict intelligently?

I’ve see much destruction during my work in conflict zones the last 25 years. But nothing Continue reading

“Vittnesrapport från Aleppo, en annorlunda konfliktanalys och vägar till fred i Syrien”

Videoinspelning av Jan Öbergs föredrag i Stockholm februari 2017


Inspelningen är uppdelad i två delar:

Del 1: Vittnesrapport från Aleppo
60 min.

Del 2: Debatt och vägar till fred i Syrien
45 min.

10-14:e december 2016 vistades Jan Öberg i Aleppo. Med sin unika erfarenhet från staden ifrågasätter han den gängse massmediarapporteringen, argumenterar för ett nytt sätt att se på konflikter på och ger förslag till den nödvändiga fredsprocessen.

Anders Björnsson, författare

Lördag 25 februari kl. 14-16, Bagarmossens Folkets Hus, Stockholm

Föreningen Syriensolidaritet, Folket i Bild Kulturfront – Stockholmsavdelningen, FiB-juristerna m.fl.

Jan Öberg rapporterar
– Jag kunde fritt tala med vem jag ville, och fotografera som jag ville. Jag gick omkring utan säkerhet, polis eller annat skydd. Många tackade mig för att jag var i Aleppo vid befrielsen.

– Förstörelsen av Aleppo är värre än jag någonsin trott – efter att ha sett Sarajevo, Mostar och Vukovar. Den stora förstörelsen är från gatustriderna – en mindre del ifrån luften.

– Ingen av dem många jag pratade med hade sett de Vita Hjälmarna. Däremot träffade jag frivilliga från Syriens Röda Halvmåne som var mycket professionella.

– De jag pratade med uttryckte sin glädje över frihet efter fyra års belägring och uttryckte tacksamhet över regeringens och ryssarnas insatser.

Öbergs fotoberättelser
Se också Jan Öbergs fotoserier med bakgrunds- och förklarande text här.

TFF PressInfo och andra artiklar – av vilka många handlar om Syrien – finns på TFF:s blogg här.

Keep focus on Aleppo and global dimensions of Syria


Soldiers and volunteers from Aleppo University hand out food to IDPs having come in from Eastern Aleppo. December 14, 2016 © Jan Oberg 2016


TFF PressInfo # 405 

Lund, Sweden – February 24, 2017
Failed conflict analysis

To analyse a conflict is as necessary as the diagnosis for the doctor: You either get to a solution/treatment or you don’t.

If the diagnosis is deficient, you don’t. You instead risk killing the patient.

And it’s deficient of you stare only at “evil” cells and blame the patient for a life style that has increased the risk that she would attract cancer.

That doesn’t bring healing.

A typical, deficient or irrelevant approach to international conflict is to a) focus on the violence but not the underlying conflicts its a symptom of; b) to apportion guilt and c) believe that we will solve the conflict if ‘good’ violence is used to defeat ‘evil’ violence.

After failed conflict analyses in Afghanistan, Serbia-Kosovo, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Iraq, Ukraine and Libya, Western politicians and subservient mainstream media have done it once again in Syria:

Contributed heavily to tremendous human suffering, made everything much worse than it was before and failed to achieve anything good.


Moral superiority lost

In terms of ethics, there exists no political goal whatsoever that can justify the killing of 300.000-400.000 people and the destruction of houses, livelihood, economy and milieus that has forced 7 million to flee inside the country and 5 million to leave the country – i.e. more than 50% of the population.

Yes, the “regime” and the “dictator” and Russia have participated in this destruction – very much so –  but it’s anyhow time to ask:

How does the West/NATO and its allies such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Gulf States and Israel morally justify their contribution this the largest humanitarian crisis on earth since 1945 with 13 millon people in desparate need of humanitarian assistance.

It’s not only untrue, it is morally unacceptable to keep on blaming everything – everything – on one person and one leadership with no self-reflection.

The self-assumed Western moral superiority fell with the liberation of Aleppo.

Aleppo’s liberation: A golden opportunity for a new policy

The liberation of Aleppo is a golden opportunity to do just that.

But instead that turning point has been deliberately forgotten and the victims of the occupation of Eastern Aleppo have been disappeared by media and politics.

The war and destruction will continue because such a biased approach leads only in direction: More war.

Very soon, presumably, we shall witness US boots on the grounds. Massively.

There is woefully little constructive-creative peace thinking the whole way around the political and geographical spectrum.

And without a better vision, continued killing will look to many as the optimal way ahead. 

However, for the millions of victims in Syria it just isn’t.

Aleppo should become a turning point toward peace instead of more war.



From the Jibrin Reception Center in Aleppo, December 14, 2016. Note the footwear © Jan Oberg 2016


Geneva negotiations

One must fear that the negotiations just started in Geneva will not yield any better results than before – because they don’t build on a comprehensive understanding of this – hugely complex – conflict.

Even the way the tables are arranged is counterproductive…

TFF PressInfo # 405 walks you through a few principles of professional conflict analysis and provokes you to reflect a bit on:

a) What is it “we” have done so wrong and:
b) How can we help Syria’s people to stop an even deeper descent into hell.


TFF PressInfo # 405
Keep focus on Aleppo and global dimensions of Syria

TFF PressInfo # 404:
Unique Aleppo photos seen by 100.000+ but not in the mainstream media

See also the PressInfo 398 and 397 below.

TFF PressInfo 398: Syria and Aleppo: Old news media falling

TFF PressInfo 397: Syria’s destruction – When everybody thinks power and no one thinks peace.

On Trump endorsing torture

Human rights is not my field but we have to speak up against Trump’s personal endorsement of it. This is nothing new, the US has used it all the time.

But isn’t it tragic that almost 70 years after torture was prohibited in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we see 141 countries still using torture – according to Amnesty International.

Here my short comment on Iran’s PressTV



Faces of Aleppo

Fourth photo story from Aleppo: “Faces of Aleppo. Just out of 4,5 years of occupation hell”

January 25, 2017

Unique photos from Eastern Aleppo in Syria when it was finally liberated on December 11-12, 2016.

The people you see here have just come out to freedom from 4,5 years of the occupation by what can be called RIOTs – Rebels-Insurgents-Opposition-Terrorists – mostly the latter.

And most of them with some kind of support by NATO countries.

Western media, politics and humanitarian organisations focus on the victims from Eastern Aleppo who left to RIOT territories elsewhere, such as Idlib, after the liberation – family members and supporters of the occupiers.

That’s not the whole truth about Aleppo.

They conveniently ignore the thousands of other Aleppians: Those who were happy beyond words to see all of Aleppo back under the control of the Syrian government.


Man from Eastern Aleppo in the Jibrin Reception Center – relieved, smoking and getting a little food. In freedom © Jan Oberg 2016 

These are the people in this photo story. They are among the 13 million Syrians who, according to the UN in Syria, are in need of humanitarian assistance – thanks to U.S. – non-UN – sanctions since 1979 and thanks to the war since 2011.

They too need and deserve the world’s attention and help.All of them and not just the politically chosen few.

Until the immense historical significance of the liberation of Aleppo is understood much better by many more and the biased Western media coverage has changed we will continue to highlight important but hidden dimensions of the conflicts in Syria.

Because peace will be impossible within the present dominant Western narrative and discourse.

And given the incomprehensible suffering of the Syrian people and the destruction of their society since 2011 possibilities for peace – rather than war – should occupy anyone with a human heart.

If you agree, please use the hashtag: #keepfocusonaleppo

* * *

If we do not care about the single individual, can we care about humanity?

My other stories have had quite a lot of texts. You may check them out to get the background and situation.

Here I just want you to see and reflect on how the Allepians I met expressed happiness, despair, hope, kindness but also anger at one and the same time. Pictures can say much more than words, particularly when we contemplate mindfully on what there is to see in every and each face of these victims of what is often called high politics – which often implies low morality.

So, please don’t rush. See and empathize.

© Jan Oberg 2017. Under no circumstance may the photos in this series be reprinted, reproduced or otherwise used without my prior consent.


MS – Markedsført Sandhed og Syrien? Med tillæg om en god dialog

Introduktion tilføjet den 7. februar 2017

Som det fremgår i en kommentar under denne artikel blev både MS’ forkvinde, Helle Munk Ravnborg og generalsekretær, Tim Whyte, kede af min udlægning omkring MS “markedsføring” og holdning til Syrien. Naturligt nok.

Mit indlæg var skarpt formuleret – der skal af og til sparkes i løgsovsen også for den gode sag som MS i sig selv jo er. Men de valgte alligevel til min store glæde at invitere mig til en snak.

Det møde havde vi så i dag den 7. februar over deres kaffe og min medbragte mazarintærte.

Jeg indledte med at undskylde at der i min artikel (som står herunder som den blev skrevet) findes et par formuleringer, der kunne tolkes af de to som et personangreb; det var ikke tilsigtet og jeg mener jo som alle andre fornuftige mennesker – oh, Gandhi! – at man skal gå efter bolden og ikke spilleren.

Vi havde 90 minutters sober snak og gensidig lytten, udforskning af vigtige temaer. Man kan sige at min konfrontation ledte til dialog og endog nogle konstruktive idéer til fremtiden.


Jeg lærte at det er svært at balancere når man – de såvel som jeg – bliver vred over den lidelse vi ser uskyldige udsættes for. Og at man let kommer til at tage parti i kampens hede for den ene eller den anden part i stedet for måske at tage afstand fra alles vold.

At det kan være svært at have alle fakta på plads (og at vide hvad der er empirisk holdbart og hvad der er fordrejning) inden man tager stilling og mobiliserer opinion. Aktivisme går jo gerne gå lidt hurtigere end det dér 5-10 årige forskningsprojekt.

At MS ikke – som jeg havde fået indtrykket af – har et markedførings-firma, der hjælper dem med den stil, de har på hjemmesiden, på blogger og i taler; det er deres egne folks måde at gøre det på.

At de er dybt bekymrede over at mennesker føler så stor magtesløshed og at det vigtigt at organisationer som MS forsøger at skabe møder, pladser og forløb hvor denne magtesløshed – der er så farlig for demokratiet – kan erstattes af fællesskaber og konstruktiv aktivitet.

Og at MS så at sige arbejder med sig selv og har en løbende intern debat om både form og indhold i kampagner.

Jeg følte både åbenhed og respekt og det er jeg glad for.

Derfor delte jeg også lidt af min erfaring med hensyn til hvordan man kan analysere de underliggende konflikter, som volden er symptomer. Jeg mener at symptom-diskussioner let leder til golde debatter om skyld. Det ville være bedre at fokusere mere på konflikternes karakter over tid end på “hvem der er værst” til at bruge vold – fordi symptom- og skylddiskussioner ikke kan lede frem til dialoger om fredens muligheder.

Og at det er freden, der er MS’ historie eller essens og ligger både Tim Whyte og Helle Munch Ravnborg varmt om hjertet – ja det er der jo ingen tvivl om.

Jeg foreslog så nogle konkrete ting som jeg mener MS måske kunne tænke over og måske gøre fremover og at det er vigtigt at være for nogen eller noget snarere end at være imod – og de blev opfattet med stor interesse.

Så meget at vi blev enige om at mødes igen når jeg er hjemme fra næste rejse til Syrien.

Dét ser jeg meget frem til. Så tak for idag, kære venner.

• • •

Mellemfolkeligt Samvirkes nye stil og måden at håndtere Syrien på bør blive en parentes i organisationens liv. For der må være tale om enten uvidenhed eller uhæderlighed.

Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke er slået ind på den amerikansk inspirerede linje med professionel markedsføring, reklamesprog og iscenesat aktivisme samt – og ikke mindst – en bestemt politisk holdning vedrørende visse internationale spørgsmål.


Den nye humanitære industri

Det er muligvis en del af den nye humanitære industri hvor regeringer, humanitære og menneskerettigheds-organisationer samt medier gør fælles sag vedrørende krigszoner. Det indebærer selvsagt at “N” i NGO, Non-Governmental Organisations, kommer til at stå for “Near” og ikke “Non.”

Civilsamfundet tenderer at udhules og demokratisk dialog mellem folk og regering forsvinder. Langsomt men sikkert.

Organisationer som Læger Uden Grænser og Human Rights Watch påtager sig roller som både partiske medier i felt og politiske eksperter og gør det politisk korrekt i forhold til især vestlige militære interventioner.

Det er altsammen affødt af den kendte men tvivlsomme doktrin om humanitær intervention eller Responsibility to Protect (R2P) – hvor spørgsmålet i en begrænset verden er: Intervention hvor? Mod eller med hvem? Af hvem? Vil vi gøre mere skade end gavn? Og hvor gider vi ikke intervenere?

Svaret på det sidste er: dér hvor største menneskelig behov findes og hvor der samtidig ikke findes strategiske interesser eller mulighed for at bruge våben.

I dagens verden flyver de fleste landes humanisme F16. Også det officielle Danmarks. Ren humanisme, medmenneskelighed og ægte solidaritet er faldet ud af den politiske værktøjskasse.


M for Markedsføring – og USAs valg

Vælger man denne let smarte markedsføring-og-politik strategi i denne nye industri skal man være godt klædt på forinden.

Det findes der, som jeg ser det, to årsager til at MS ikke synes at være. Continue reading

The little girl from Eastern Aleppo

New year’s night, January 1, 2017

This girl had come out of Eastern Aleppo after four dark years of occupation by Western-backed terrorists – too many to name. People who for no reason had destroyed her home, her part of that beautiful city.

Perhaps half of her life living in fear, perhaps having lost family members.

I do not know.


“The Little Girl From Eastern Aleppo” – © Jan Oberg 2016

I met her on December 14 at the Jibrin reception and registration centre in Western Aleppo where Syrian soldiers and volunteers from Aleppo University had just given her this bread with some vegetables inside.

She was one of thousands, old and young people who had been hit by unspeakable evil, death and destruction.

Victims of the dozens of conflicting parties and their criminal games. Destroying her life, her family, livelihood and her home town.

Of which there is nothing left. Nothing.

It was a rainy gray day. She was in a queue to get this little and she was so very grateful.

So hopeful. A little to eat to begin all over again.

Her standing there, her gesture. And the media tell you that Eastern Aleppo fell, that it wasn’t liberated?

Ask this girl.

Grasp her gratitude for what little most of the world take for granted. And those eyes.

I could not hold back tears in mine when I shot this image. Neither while I returned to process it and now writing this.

I’m a peace researcher and art photographer. The two sides come together in this image.

It’s the most important among thousands of pictures I took in 2016. Perhaps in all my years.

I have no wishes for myself this year. Have everything.

But I have many other wishes.

That this little but formidably strong girl and the thousands of other children and adults of Aleppo will live in some little peace in 2017.

That they will have the strength to return to what is left of their homes, if anything, and rebuild them. Go to a school and play in safety.

That the inhuman international “community” – it is no community – will lift the sanctions on Syria and show their humanity. Sanctions only hit innocents like her.

That she will live forever in security and peace and that she will not carry traumas from her childhood for the rest of her life.

That she will be able to, eventually, forgive the satanic forces who did this to an innocent child.

And that I may go back in 2017 and find her and ask how I can help her.

That’s the very very least I can do in gratitude for what she has taught me about the utter meaninglessness and cruelty of war.

No I can’t. I can’t wish anybody dead.

But I can express my rage through Bob Dylan. Who, fifty-three years ago, spoke to “The Masters Of War” – and I include the arms traders among them – thus:

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand over your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead.