Marria Qibtia S Nagra
HUMAN nature is quite perplexing. It has the surprising tendency to baffle you. Apart from the obvious dimensions that continue to shade the human behaviour, this bafflement emanates from the inability of human beings to gauge the true profundity and worth of a particular thing or a situation in the absence of palpable evidence. Call it a genetic malfunction or a psychological concern, till the time we do not see anything from our very own eyes, or get to hear of it from reliable sources, we fail to acknowledge the very occurrence of that episode let alone taking an attempt to thwart it by any means. It is this harrowing side of human nature that comes to the limelight through the responses of global stakeholders to dangerous international conflicts – the conflicts that are much direr than the physical repercussions they appear to entail.
Focalising this reality to the Syrian Quagmire manifests that though inexplicably harrowing episodes of violence have been breeding on in Syria since the last 5 years, transiting the heart of the Arab world into a battered heart, these deep stains on the fabric of humanity come to the notice of the global powers and the so called champions of peace and humanity, only when spine-chilling images and videos of the helpless Syrians, particularly children, reflecting their misery, their disbelief in the very dictum of humanity, make way into the social media.
A recent case in point is the heart touching video and image of the young, three years old Syrian boy Omran Daqneesh, a survivor of Aleppo air strikes. The video shows a blood stained and puzzled Daqneesh sitting on an orange ambulance chair, a shocked expression defining his face coupled with an intense emotional trauma ornamenting his eyes, shortly after being rescued. The video is so emotionally consuming, that it pricks the consciousness of the stoniest of souls and brings to one’s mind the heart wrenching image of the young Syrian refugee boy, Aylan Kurdi, clad in a red shirt and blue shorts, lying dead on one of the beaches of Turkey, after embracing the sea, since the land and its dwellers refused to own him and address the helplessness in the face of conflict, that stains the lives of millions of Syrians even today.
As clichéd as it may sound, an image unleashes a thousand realities and if anything at all, the images of Aylan and Omran are emblematic of the frighteningly horrendous dynamics of the Syrian Quagmire. They not only extricate the fact that children continue to be the greatest victims of a war, whose contours they are too innocent and credulous to comprehend but also aptly allude to the thundering silence of the international community and the so called champions of human rights and social equality over the atrocities in Syria. Going by the tender ages of Daqneesh and Kurdi and the horrible suffering of the likes of such children, it is quite obvious that a life of normalcy is something these children have never experienced. Being born into a conflict ridden state, witnessing egregious episodes of violence, such children end up maturing beyond years since the consternation defining their faces defies the credulity and naivety proposed by their numerical ages.
In a world that values material gains over humanistic emotions, exhibition of virtue for such children assumes the posture of a rarity, not a norm, since this is what they potentially imbibe from the war that rages in their land. A report published by UNICEF detailing on the horrors of the Syrian war, reveals the shocking fact that around 7.6 million children suffer directly from the war raging on in Syria. This constitutes about 63 percent of the entire children population of the world, living under excruciating circumstance, propelled by war. Out of these around 50,000 Syrian children have died, awaiting saner, humane responses from the world in their defence, but to no avail.
This reality is too ignominious to ignore yet a reality most feasibly ignored with intermittent displays of concern, that verge on sheer mockery of the Syrian quagmire. What follows every such news of inhumanity is a ritualistic condemnation by the global powers of the horrendous attacks on the Syrians. This was what precisely happened last year, when the global powers huddled for a meet up in Vienna in November to work together to resolve the Syrian mess, following an escalation in the Syrian plight, a reality they ironically woke up to only when Aylan Kurdi’s disturbing, angst generating image got viral on the social media.
Their seasonal worriment and empathy might have been forgiven had they been serious in deriving pragmatic resolutions from the Vienna Peace talks. However, the very fact that Syria was not invited to participate in talks governing its very own future, signalled the abortion of talks. Back then, while opening the Vienna Summit, the UN Secretary General had claimed that “all countries holding the key to the resolution are present”. This very statement defied logic, since the key to resolution of the Syrian mess is through engaging with the Syrians themselves, the ones who are party to the conflict, the Bashar-al-Assad led totalitarian government and the Syrian civilians. How is it possible to determine the future of a land, of a conflict by disregarding the ones who are directly involved in it? Would not such an arrangement be a diktat, which holds little plausibility for bettering the lives of the Syrians?
Therefore, if the violence that rages on in Syria needs to be curbed on an exigent basis, first and fore mostly, the Syrians need to be taken on board. Proposals initiated by global powers, be they the arrangement for a ceasefire expansion monitored by international observers, the expansion of humanitarian assistance to the Syrians or the conduction of free elections supervised by the United Nations, lose ground when Syrians themselves are not party to the peace talks.
Moreover, it needs to be realized that since the Syrian conflict has assumed sectarian contours emanating from President Bashar al Assad’s posture of being an Alawite as opposed to the large population of civilian protesters being Sunnis, resolution of this conflict can additionally be facilitated by an organization with Islamic dimension and orientation. Organization of Islamic Conference which has in the past proven its mettle in resolving Sunni-Shia schism can play a pivotal role in deescalating the Syrian conflict, a conflict that threatens global peace and security. It was OIC, under the conscientious leadership of its Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu that resolved the Sunni-Shia strife emanating from the Iraq war of 2003, a time when both sects were at loggerheads, refusing to avert their glaring advances. Conscientiousness of similar shades is required to deescalate the sectarian contours of the Syrian conflict to tolerable limits.
However, the establishment of peace in Syria would remain a far-fetched dream if the global powers do not set aside their regional interests and abandon their policy of keeping the Syrian opposition alive, rather than resolving it. Pragmatism demands that instead of continuing to provide military training to ‘moderate rebels’, or on the other hand facilitating the blatant violations of human rights rendered by the Syrian government, there needs to be a consensus on ending the Syrian plight. For the deafeningly nightmarish silence and the seasonal theatrics over Syrian losses, not only prolongs the conflict, burgeoning the ISIS in Syria, threatening global peace but also paves path for a precarious tomorrow, a tomorrow that repudiates humanity itself.
— The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. She has a profound interest in English literature, psychology & IR.