The total number of casualties in the Syrian civil war are estimated to be around 470,000. Out of these 207,000 are Syrian civilians which include 55,000 children and around 23000 females as of February 2017.
In Stalin’s words “the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.”
This quote wandered in my head for days when I read it for the first time but I didn’t witness it in true sense then. We have become so accustomed to read headlines such as ’98 Syrian civilians killed in car-blast by the ISIS’ or ‘the death toll in Russian air attacks rises to 45’. We feel distressed on hearing about such incidents at first but the next moment become immune to them as it happens every other day. We don’t have the equal amount of compassion for the same people that we had earlier. We change the channel, turn to a different page or click on a different link. Does turning a blind eye towards something ceases its reality?
Syria got its independence from France in 1946 and completed 71 years yesterday on 17th April. But is it independence in true sense or is it just passing the whip from one master to another. Syria is a republic with an authoritarian regime which means that the authorities(here, president) have all power of the state once they assume command.
After Syria became self-standing, there was a lot of instability in the country. A tripartite government was established under a democratic regime. Constant peasant uprisings were held.
Among these three parties, the socialist ba’ath party consisting mainly of military forces was against these class movements. A coup led by Hafiz-Al-Assad, who was an Alawi (minority community, 12% Muslim population) in 1970 overthrew the other two parties to establish a single party rule and maintained good relations with the Sunni Muslims(majority, 74% Muslim population) making the nation more stable and united. It might have struggled financially but literacy rates surged greatly.
As the new century was about to arrive, Bashar-Al-Assad after the death of his father inherited the leadership by popular referendum in 2000. Many expected him to take on the various required social reforms as soon as he came to power. There were protests on the streets ever since 2001 but they were repressed violently and thousands were killed but amid that he was re-elected as president for the second term in 2007. In 2011, the protests took a new dimension when the government passed the restrictive emergency act which included powers like arrest without charge. The act was repealed but another one with minor twists and replacements was enacted. Also, Assad did not resign as it was demanded. There has been a consistent violence ever since, between the armed forces and the opposition.
The rise of ISIS in the country since 2013 that refuses to accept the current rule and wishes to establish a Muslim statehood has just deteriorated the existing condition. With an annual funding of around 1 billion USD they have been carrying out constant attacks on the armed forces, opposition and civilians.
The peace talks arranged by the UN at Geneva in 2014 between the Syrian National Coalition(opposition to current Assad’s government, recognized by 130 countries as the rightful representative of Syrian people) and the existing government to resolve the conflict didn’t meet any expectations.
Till date, around 11.6 million people have been displaced, 7.6 million in their own country and the rest of them are facing a huge refugee crisis around the world as many developed nations are shrugging the responsibilities off their shoulders with recent reforms like cancellation of US visas for Muslim nations under Trump presidency and Brexit.
Without proper government legislation and laws, Syrian men, women and children have long been a subject to forced labor and human trafficking. The refugee women are being forced into exploitative marriages, prostitution and children are being forced to beg and take part in combat by both the armed forces and opposition.
(7 year old Ahmed, soldier of free Syrian army; Source: Google Images
The death count is rising everyday as beside government forces, foreign powers like USA and Russia are bombing the state continuously. The killings under ISIS also constitute a major portion of overall death toll.
So the questions we must be asking ourselves right now while we are sitting comfortably on our chair reading an article on our computer screens
- Aren’t the Syrian people under an equal amount of threat at this very second?
- Was it their fault to be born within certain geographical boundaries where quality of life is worse than savages. Does it make them less humans?
- Are they predestined to live under grave poverty and hunger?
- Should they learn to treat themselves in absence of proper medical care?
- Don’t the children deserve to go to schools and receive education?
- Is it necessary for their weary eyes to witness a bombing or gunfire every time they turn their heads?
The Syrian calamity clearly proves the humans can be evil. But they are certainly capable of good too. Right now, the former is way more likely from a Syrian’s point of view.
All these facts are sickening at a time when we hear phrases like ‘Every life is important’. We have seen countless cases of rescue missions where governments spend millions to save one citizen(another statistic) then why this prejudice with the Syrians when a little effort by every country could result in preventing the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world ever.