For 8 years now we have been silent spectators to the devastating images of war and destruction surfacing from Syria. Every few weeks as fresh hostilities engulf a new region of the country, social media comes to life with hashtag campaigns demanding an end to the reign of terror in Syria. Shaken to the soul after browsing through pictures of wailing children and scattered dead bodies, we often channelize our frustration through a tirade of emotionally charged tweets and Facebook statuses, hoping desperately that our anger will effectuate change.
However, no matter how desperately we might want to believe that our words matter, the hard fact is that they really don’t.
I’m not one to side with despair, but it’s hard to hold on to hope knowing that 465,000 Syrians have lost their lives to this war that millions across the globe have been condemning for almost a decade.
From the Syrian President Bashaar al-Assad, (who was too consumed to consolidate his power to notice that his reluctance to relinquish power plunged his country into civil war) to the American and Russian leaders (who refuse to give up petty politics in favour of saving human lives), there is an acute lack of seriousness among the world leaders to end the war in Syria.
Why Bashaar al-Assad is to Blame?
In 2011 when Arab Spring spread like wild fire across the Arab-speaking world, there were hopes among the Syrian population that Assad’s regime would be replaced by a more democratic system of governance.
The first public agitation began when 15 young boys were detained for wall-chalking pro-Arab Spring slogans. One of the boys, merely 13 years old, died in custody after brutal torture. Up until then the protests were peaceful.
However, Bashaar al-Assad, offended by the public uproar gravely mishandled the situation. On his orders, hundreds of peaceful protesters were killed and scores of others jailed.
By July 2011, a significant number of Syrian soldiers had defected from the army, forming an armed rebel group, Free Syrian Army.
This marked the beginning of a civil conflict that could have been entirely averted had the Syrian President shown even the slightest signs of empathy for his own people.
Why the Muslim Leaders are to Blame?
The Muslim world has been pathetically divided over the Syrian conflict. While Sunni-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are supporting the rebels against Bashaar al-Assad (a Shia); the Shia-majority countries including Iran, Iraq and Lebanon are supporting the Syrian military action.
Each regional power has been providing arms and ammunition to the side that they are supporting. An obscene amount of money is being spent to keep the war alive in the hope of consolidating regional supremacy through a “friendly” Syrian government.
Needless to say, hapless men, women and children are paying the price with their lives and dignity for the sectarian divide in the Muslim world.
Why US and Russia are to Blame?
Like the Muslim world, the US and Russia have also made Syria a playground for their proxy wars.
The United States is out to settle a score with Bashaar al-Assad for siding with Russia on international affairs in the past. It has been actively funding and training the rebels since 2013.
On the other hand, Russia has manifested its desire to reclaim the glory that it lost following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. By putting its support behind Bashaar al-Assad, Russia is hoping to defeat the United States in Syria and to establish its return as a global power.
Both the countries have been directly involved in bombing civilians, ironically while claiming to “save” them from the oppressors.
Russia and China have also repeatedly vetoed resolutions in the UN Security Council – including one that condemned the suspected use of chemical weapons by the Assad-led regime – simply because they were tabled by western powers.
Six decades ago America and the Soviet Union were slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocent people in their proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam. They are now repeating history in Syria, reducing yet another beautiful country to rubble.
United Nations is the Only Hope for Ending the Syrian Conflict
The continuation of the Syrian conflict for almost a decade is a reminder that the United Nations has been held hostage by powerful countries for far too long. Despite consistent pressure from citizens across the globe and despite hellish images emerging from the war torn country everyday, there has been no real progress at all.
The hard fact is that unless the UN plays a more proactive role, there is no hope for peace in Syria in the near future.
The Syrian people urgently need much more than the halfhearted UN sponsored peace talks between Assad and the rebels. They need the United Nations to pressurize the regional and global non-Syrian actors to back-out from the conflict – both physically and financially. Until arms, ammunition and money keeps flowing into the war, there is no logical reason to expect peace. Cutting the funding streams for both the Syrian government and the rebels is an important first step that is likely to propel both the parties to sit across the table and chalk-out a solution.
True, that the UN has its own list of limitations to plead; including of course its desire to not out-rightly offend the countries that are its biggest donors. However, in the face of leveled cities, battered civilians and slaughtered children, no excuse is good enough to entertain further sloth on the part of the UN.
If the UN Security Council is being held hostage by the US and Russia, then the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) needs to step in and effectuate peace. If the catastrophic war in Syria does not warrant an emergency UNGA session, then nothing does!
And if these expectations are too idealistic for the realpolitik that shapes the United Nations, then the global body must relinquish any moral authority that it enjoys as a peacemaker. From what I recall, the United Nations was formed with the ideal to end all forms of war and tyranny in the world and not with the intention to merely announce the body count while innocent lives meet the dust.