Syria Is The World's Test Of Humanity. We Are Failing.
It’s been going on since 2010.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE
When you start to write something on Syria and you are absolutely flawed on where to start...
This is the predicament I’m in. You see, I am lucky enough to have been born in Australia (made in Syria to Syrian parents), lucky enough to have experienced Syria before the war and unfortunate enough to continue to care about it to the point of emotional exhaustion.
I could write and explain the complexities of this proxy war that is playing out with Russia and Iran versus the US, Saudi Arabia and other western interests. I could even explain the Qatari’s involvement and their powerplay which is simply based on acting like aggravated teenagers wanting attention (despite the fact it results in extreme loss of life).
Of course, there’s also ISIS, but let’s remember, they didn’t even come into existence until mid 2014 and by that stage already 2 million people had fled Syria. And then of course there’s the chemical attacks and the politics around that: is it fake news (no) and who is responsible (Assad).
But if I wrote about all this, you’d probably stop reading. So I am going to tell you about the human story and why I hurt when I think of Syria.
At the height of the Arab Spring, I never imagined Syrians would start demonstrating, because they were always so severely oppressed in terms of political engagement. There was a strong grip on any political dissent.
I remember from an early age when visiting family in Syria, being instructed by my mother never, ever to say anything about the regime publicly because there was such a fear about any recrimination.
I was seven when she first told me this.
The regime has utilised the resources and institutions of the state for its own survival, including the military and security forces, the national media and international humanitarian aid.
It’s hard to believe, but Syrians were very much like Australians. Highly educated, middle class, valued family and school, enjoyed having a backyard for their kids.
What does it take for you to want to pack up and leave your country? It would be a threat to your life, your family. That there was no where else you could be.
Most Syrians had nothing to do with this war. They were just being collectively punished by barrel bombs and had no other choice but to flee. Barrel bombs are the stuff of nightmares.
They’re made of scrap metal and high explosives and get rolled out of regime helicopters onto hospitals, homes and schools. These aerial attacks are the biggest killer of civilians. They drive extremism.
Now, there are more than 5 million Syrian refugees in other countries and 6 million internally displaced within Syria.
Having spoken to dozens of Syrian refugees at Zaatari refugee camp, there were three constancies in their actions and motivations.
The first is they all waited until their situation became completely unbearable before they decided to seek refuge outside Syria. It is often the option of last resort — leaving your home, your family, your community and seeking safety beyond one’s borders.
Syrians want what we all want as human beings: safety, shelter, food.
The second constancy is that they were fleeing the repercussions of Assad’s barbarity. There is no denying this. They were in Jordan, in Lebanon and in Turkey before ISIS even came on they scene.
And finally, the third constancy is: the refugees living beyond Syria’s borders will not return if they do not feel safe. Until these people have their voices heard, until the international community starts factoring in their concerns, their solutions, their hopes, we will continue to see the Syrian civil war play out into a Cold War maelstrom.
Syria is a test of our humanity. It’s been going on since 2010.
We said never again to the Holocaust. We said never again to Srebenica. We said never again to Rwanda.
Will we ever really mean never again?
Ranya Alkadamani is the Founder of Impact Group International. Previously press secretary to former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd