NEW YORK – In 2006, at the age of 21, Syrian-born Ahed Hendi was arrested by Bashar Assad’s regime in Damascus.
His crime? Being a co-founder of a pro-democracy youth group.
He spent 40 days in prison before escaping the country and making his way to the United States.
Eleven years later, Hendi, who now holds US citizenship and lives in Washington, continues to fight for justice in his embattled country of origin and the Arab world.
Last week, he became head of the new Arab-language department at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), an international media-monitoring and educational organization. The new department will monitor the Arabic versions of major Western media outlets.
“The reason I teamed up with CAMERA is that the mandate they are working on is something that resonates with my thinking since I became an activist in 2005 in Syria, and I believe that there is very biased reporting on Israel in the Arab media,” Hendi told The Jerusalem Post last Wednesday.
“It’s important not only for Israel to correct this image or to have objective reporting on Israel, but also for the Arabs who live in all these Arab countries.”
The negative reporting on Israel, he said, has caused Arab populations to be “enslaved” by their dictators.
“[They] portray Israel as the black beast that is responsible for all of our problems and, in reality, the ruling regimes in our countries are responsible for all our problems,” he said. “When [Assad] jailed me and thousands of people, it was under one pretext: that we now have a war with Israel, Israel is a very evil enemy, and we should side with our government at this time.
“There are territorial problems that could be solved, but all these ruling regimes always insisted we have an existential problem with Israel and that Israel wants to kill us all,” he told the Post.
Ahedi said CAMERA’s new Arabic department fills a vacuum in the world of Arabic news and that he and his staff plan to review the Arabic coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict by influential networks and communicate with editors to promote accurate stories.