A fifth anniversary of the Syria crisis is tragically looking all too likely
The fourth anniversary of the uprisings in Syria has passed. The reality for most Syrian civilians is as grim as it was on March 15 2015 as it is today.
For Syrians hiding from barrel bombs and missiles, there is still no respite. For those fleeing sectarian thugs seeking to impose their medieval vision, there is still no respite. For Syrians wondering why the UN won’t step up its cross-border aid convoys in places where it doesn’t need the government’s permission, there is still no respite. For the disappeared or detained Syrian human rights activists, who are still the best hope for providing a vision for a safe and prosperous Syria, there is still no respite.
And a compelling vision of a future Syria is vital but agreeing on it, resourcing it and implementing it is another issue given the multiple states, priorities and interests involved. And there’s the rub. The 2011 uprisings in Syria - gritty, uncoordinated and organic - were not something the elites of the so called “international community” ever really wanted and the so-called “friends of Syria” have reluctantly and only half-heartedly assisted Syrians seeking to change authoritarian rule in the country.
Even appeals for purely humanitarian assistance are met with mostly callous indifference from rich states in Europe and the Gulf. The funds required by the UN to meet what is the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet are still not being given. The most vulnerable of Syria’s refugees are still being denied life-changing and lifesaving resettlement in many countries across the world.
Deliberate attacks on civilians continue - the vast majority of them by Assad’s forces. Aid is still denied full entry across Syria’s borders and across conflict lines. The international community still hasn’t used all the tools at its disposal to live up to its responsibility to protect civilians and enforce Security Council resolutions designed to save lives. Displaced and desperate Syrian civilians look on with disgust.
The sad reality is that those messy uprisings in Syria always needed credible international support if there was ever to be effective stabilisation, transition to a unified governing authority and long-term development. Key countries ostensibly opposed to Assad’s brutal rule had their own interests in ensuring that monumental and incredibly complex process in Syria didn’t threaten their own or their allies’ corrupt and brutal rule. In short – a prioritisation of elite interests over the human rights of ordinary Syrians has, tragically, ensured that hopes for an end to authoritarianism in Syria are fading quickly.
Hope is of course not totally extinguished. It is still too early to say Syria will never see a state where citizens have a genuine sense of personal security, a government which works for them rather than bombs and starves them and a sustainable, human rights-based development policy which seriously tackles core drivers of the 2011 uprisings such as poverty, corruption, repression and impunity.
But this vision, the dream of many Syrians in 2011 and now, will never happen as long as those claiming to be against Assad are failing Syrians on the humanitarian front or worse, committing their own war crimes and human rights abuses or facilitating those abuses through reckless weapons transfers and sectarian ideology. Syrians justifying abuses or turning a blind eye to them are just as destructive – this can’t be emphasised enough. That sounds harsh given the massive crimes against humanity committed by Assad’s government and facilitated by key backers like Russia and Iran but that’s the clear eyed truth.
Yes it’s true the main cause of the carnage in Syria is the Assad governments destructive attachment to power and entitlement but unless those opposed to the authorities in Damascus conduct their armed operations (or any activities for that matter) according to the laws of war and human rights standards then on the fifth anniversary of the Syria uprisings on March 15 2016, we’ll be talking about maybe 300,000 dead, more starvation, more torture, more disappearances, more tears and more misery. Assad’s regime feeds off human rights abuses – it’s smarter not to feed the monster at the heart of this.
Some say Syria isn’t a black and white issue – but in a sense it is. Syria is collapsing in a battle between those who value the human rights of all Syrians and those who don’t. The former are well and truly in the minority and if the equation stays so imbalanced, the Syrian tragedy will see many more sombre anniversaries in the future.
Kristyan Benedict is on Twitter as @KreaseChan
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