What is Aleppo?”, was the question the Libertarian nominee for president of the US, Gary Johnson, responded with when he was asked what he would do about the carpet bombed Syrian city if elected president this year. His comments were quite rightly mocked and disparaged and he was clearly out of touch with reality.
But come to think of it, his response was sadly indicative of the world’s indifference to the plight of the Syrian people and those in Aleppo in particular. The city in northern Syria has come under intense bombardment from Russia and Assad’s forces and little is being said or done by ordinary people. Whilst governments talk tough on Putin and “suspend co-operation”, in reality this amounts to nothing. Putin is free to continue backing the Assad regime to the hilt as his government deliberately targets civilians to terrorise them and force the reality of his governance upon them. The international community has ultimately failed the people of Syria.
The intentional targeting of medical facilities in particular has reached a new low. No humanitarian law seems to apply to the Assad regime which unleashes frightening barrel bombs on its women and children, hiding behind the excuse of “attacking terrorists”. There is consensus that the problem of ISIS in Syria is in fact one of Assad’s making; he needs ISIS to gain legitimacy for his war and to say he is attacking them and they need him to prove they are creating an “Islamic Caliphate” away from the secular state. Assad is trying to be both arsonist and fireman. It cannot and must not work both ways.
Whilst we see the global population mobilise for various movements and against countless wars which are no doubt noble efforts, we see extremely little on the Syrian issue. Do people really see it as complex? There is no need to go into extreme nuances – a campaign to force Assad and Russia to stop barrel bombing Syrian civilians would be a good start.
Or more worryingly, one worries whether the era of “post-truth politics” has well and truly arrived. Are people slowly beginning to believe the lies of Putin and the Assad regime? Has hatred for the West and our own governments reached such a level where even the condemnation of the Assad regime by a politician provokes us to back the opposite of our government? Whilst one would hope this is outlandish, our silence on the horrors of Syria is deafening.
What started as a democratic uprising against the Assad regime has descended into a multifaceted transnational war between various factions and states, with more than 400,000 killed and millions more displaced since March 2011.
When the US holocaust museum begins to raise awareness on the Syrian issue then it is clear that the situation there is dire. If only we could have been proactive and stood with the Syrian people sooner…
Zaki Kaf Al-Ghazal
(Image courtesy of Agence France Presse)