She thinks that Ebola could be an American military bioweapon. She thinks that the Defense Department’s advanced research arm is covertly intervening in the GamerGate debate about feminism and video games. She’s fond of extremist groups like Hezbollah. She believes the Illuminati are leaving secret clues in, among other places, the viral Kony 2012 video. Oh, and she also says she’s in contact with the Syrian Electronic Army, the hacker group tied to the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Meet the Damascus regime’s biggest fangirl on social media—at least in English language social media. Her name is Maram Susli. Or Mimi al-Laham. Or Partisangirl. Or Syrian Girl. Or it would appear, or Syrian Sister. She goes by many handles.
As “Partisangirl,” Susli has emerged from the fever swamps of online conspiracy forums and onto social media to become a darling of truthers and state propaganda channels alike. Whenever there’s unpleasant news about the Syrian military or government, Susli (that’s her surname) seems to be there to interpret the false flag semaphore for her rapt audience. The chemical-weapons attack that killed hundreds in the Damascus suburbs? The rebels’ fault. The massacre of more than 100 men, women, and children in Houla? Oh, that was British intelligence. The U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria? Just an elaborate show, since American is taking it easy on ISIS. And the ghastly videos featuring the murder of Western aid workers? Many of them are fakes.
The U.S. pulled back from intervening in Syria—well, at least for a year or so. Susli believes she played a part in that pause. “I’m not saying it’s me that did it,” she said. “But I’d like to think that I helped.”
“There’s an elite and they’re trying to manipulate people’s minds,” Susli told The Daily Beast. “It’s claimed that we’re living in a free democracy but we’re really not. It’s just an illusion. And the more people know that, the more they distrust what they’re hearing.”
The Internet’s always had a well-populated fringe and Susli’s place in its firmament might not otherwise be noteworthy. But with the help of a distinguished MIT professor—whose work has been cited by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist—she’s trying to move beyond the chemtrails crowd. Her YouTube videos have racked up hundreds of thousands of views. She’s been interviewed uncritically by Vice. A lapsed graduate student in chemistry at the University of Western Australia, she’s been brought into the academy to become a source of expertise on the chemical-weapons attack that brought America to the brink of war in Syria last year.
Eventually, the U.S. pulled back from intervening in Syria—well, at least for a year or so. Susli believes she played a part in that pause. “I’m not saying it’s me that did it,” she said. “But I’d like to think that I helped.”
Now, the U.S. is back in Syria—this time, for real. And with U.S. and allied forces dropping bombs on Syria, the propaganda war surrounding the fighting there is gaining newfound international attention. Americans who previously tuned out the long, bloody civil war are now looking to learn more. Fortunately for them, there’s an eager, English-speaking Syrian just waiting to be their gateway to understanding the conflict.
Susli, born in Damascus and raised in Australia, has been an activist since her teenage years. But when protests in Syria turned to civil war in June 2011, that activism took on a new ferocity.
Susli’s first tweet under the @Partisangirl handle, in June 2011, marked the death of five American soldiers—and hinted at the bilious commentary that would eventually blossom into 20,000-follower Twitter account and hundreds of thousands of views on her YouTube channel.
But it wasn’t until a few months later, when she began appearing on YouTube, that Susli’s popularity would take hold. She made her video debut as “Syrian Girl” on the YouTube channel of 108Morris108, a conspiracy enthusiast convinced of Jewish world domination and a “Jewish goal to mix all the races.” There, she premiered the narrative and style that would gain her fame. With airy, sing-song diction, Susli video warns viewers of the perfidies of America, Israel, their many secrets manifestations and their responsibility for the unrest in Syria.
Where most conspiracy video blogs tended to feature older men looking like they’d switched on a webcam right after rolling off the futon, Susli’s presentation was professional by contrast. She was young, female and clean-cut. Hair and makeup: overdone, but impeccable. In the right light, one could even call her looks Kardashian-esque. Her talking points and telegenic presence caught the attention of conspiracy theory king and InfoWars radio host Alex Jones, kicking off a string of appearances in truther venues and state propaganda channels like Iran’s PressTV and Russia’s RT.
It’s little wonder that Susli found her way into Jones’ orbit as conspiracies lie at the heart of her worldview, if her comments on social media are any indication. According to her, 9/11 was an “inside job.” al Qaeda and ISIS, by her telling, don’t exist in the form they’ve been presented to the global public. First off, they’re one in the same. Second, they’re a CIA front—hence the use of “ALCIAda,” a favorite portmanteau.
Despite her trolling over Assad’s enemies, despite her appearances on Assad-friendly media outlets, and despite her connections to pro-Assad hackers (more on that in a bit), Susli told The Daily Beast that she wasn’t in favor of the Syrian dictator and his Baathist party cronies. The Baathists had confiscated her family’s land; her grandfather was a general before they took over. But she was absolutely convinced that the civil war was really an outsiders’ plot, and that the rebels were nothing more than Islamist radicals.
“Mainly I am just anti-rebellion, because I always thought and I always knew that especially because of the agendas and the foreign influence that it was going to destroy the country,” Susli said. “To me, it’s basically a Muslim Brotherhood uprising.”
The @Partisangirl social-media experience bends current events through the lens of secret societies like the Freemasons and the Illuminati. She apparently sees them—in concert with America, Israel, and NATO—as the ever-present, ever-guiding hand behind current affairs. In one of her more popular videos, she explains that groups like the “New World Order” have targeted Assad’s government, in part because it doesn’t allow genetically modified crops or have “a Rothschild central bank.”
Her rhetorical allegiances can be fickle, however. When WikiLeaks was sharing details of American war efforts, Susli was happy to share the organization’s links. Once the group purportedly dumped the hacked contents of senior Syrian officials’ inboxes, though, Susli’s opinion changed. In a since-deleted video, she dubbed them “NATO’s Final Media Card,” a “cognitive infiltration operation” and a “CIA front group masquerading as a neutral beacon of truth.”
Nothing about Susli’s views would strike anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes in the comments section of an article about the Middle East as especially unique. And for a long time, they didn’t. Before then, Susli seems to have labored in misspelled obscurity at a handful online forums, earning not much more attention than the occasional ban from administrators.
Susli appears to have shared her thoughts with the Internet as “Syrian Sister” before her debut as “Syrian Girl” or “Partisangirl.” Dating back to 2005, Syrian Sister posted at ShiaChat, a discussion forum for issues in the Shiite Muslim community, and AboveTopSecret, one of the Internet’s most popular conspiracy theory forums.
“I did definitely post on AboveTopSecret,” she told The Daily Beast, without confirming her use of any particular handle. “Back in the day, those forums were the ways you communicated information.” And as for ShiaChat, “as a younger person I used to waste some of my time arguing with people” there.
There’s no way to say for sure which accounts belonged to Susli—and she has said in the past that she has been misquoted. But the “Syrian Sister” accounts on ShiaChat and AboveTopSecret shared a number of biographical details that line up with Susli’s background. The account-holder purported to be Syrian expats living in Australia, like Susli. Their choice of handle, “Syrian Sister,” echoes Susli’s email address. And their fondness for Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, expressed in posts praising and linking to his work, mimics Susli’s appreciation for the artist’s work. At ShiaChat, the “Syrian Sister” account later asked readers if they remembered her writings, saying “This is me. I’m the Syrian Girl,” alongside links to video interviews from Susli’s YouTube channel.
AboveTopSecret’s “Syrian Sister” also displayed a similar passion for anti-Israel invective and Middle Eastern politics as Susli has on Twitter and YouTube. In a thread titled “The Nazis Link to the Zionists,” Syrian Sister wondered aloud whether the genocidal Jew-hating Nazi regime were, in fact, secret Zionists. “After all the Zionists and the Nazis had the same agenda, to get the Jews out of Europe.”
It’s a situation that Susli would like to reverse in modern-day Israel. Forget separate Israeli and Palestinian states. “I don’t even believe in a two-state solution,” Susli told The Daily Beast. “I believe in a one-state solution. Muslims and Christians and Jews lived together in Palestine before the Europeans came in 1948. And they didn’t have any problems. So why shouldn’t that be possible again?”
On 4chan, a message board known for spawning Internet memes like “lolcats” and the hacktivist group Anonymous, there was also someone signing posts as “Syrian Sister.” Using a stock image for an avatar, this Syrian Sister wrote that “Though I currently line [sic] in Australia I was raised in Syria.” (The post was archived by the archive.moe 4chan archiving site.)
After deriding 4chan as “controlled by the Freemasons,” this post signed by Syrian Sister read, “I have been blessed to know martyrs before, and they will soon teach you who dwell in Europe and the USA regime a lesson you won’t forget.”
Did Susli post this ominous message herself? Again, there’s no way to know for certain. And again, Susli claims to have been misquoted in the past. Earlier this week, when asked about her activity on 4chan, Susli said at first, “I was never part of 4chan. I never got into 4chan.”
A moment later, however, Susli added, “I may have browsed the forum. I may have posted once. I was never really big into that community.” (A 4chan poster using the handle “SyrianGirlPartisan” also claimed to be AboveTopSecret’s “Syrian Sister.”)
In addition to the basic biographical details, the language in the 4chan message appears remarkably similar to that used earlier by the “Syrian Sister” account on AboveTopSecret. The “Syrian Sister” talking tough on 4chan used sentences and misspellings found almost word for word in posts by AboveTopSecret’s “Syrian Sister” five years earlier. (And someone claiming to have created the AboveTopSecret “Syrian Sister” account also claimed to be Susli.)
The Daily Beast