Communist Party of Australia  

Home


The Guardian

Current Issue

PDF Archive

Web Archive

Pete's Corner

Subscribe

Press Fund


CPA


About Us

Why you should ...

CPA introduction


Contact Us

facebook, twitter


Major Issues

Indigenous

Unions

Health

Housing

Climate Change

Peace

Solidarity/Other


State by State

NSW, Qld, SA, Vic, WA


What's On

Topical


Resources

AMR

Links


Shop@CPA

Books, T-shirts, CDs/DVDs, Badges, Misc


 

Issue #1750      September 28, 2016

Syria

The people must be centre of any deal

“A photograph, no matter how emotionally wrenching, can only do so much,” wrote Paul Slovic and Nicole Smith Dahmen on QZ.com. The photograph referenced in their comment was that of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose body was washed ashore on some Turkish beach in September 2015.

It has been over a year since that tragic photograph – of an innocent child, face-down and lifeless – haunted and captured the attention of the world, alerting the international community to the urgency of the horrific war in Syria.

Estimates vary, but it is fairly certain that somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 people have lost their lives in Syria’s ongoing war, so far. Tens of thousands of those are children. The conflict in Syria is, perhaps, the most multifarious since the Second World War. There are too many parties and too many proxy wars happening all at once.

Despite the international despair generated by Alan’s photo, the image was disturbingly used by various parties to validate their reasons for war. In some way, the photograph had itself become a weapon in the hands of the warring parties, as opposed to a rallying cry for an urgent ceasefire and eventual peace.

This reaction to Alan’s tragic death was no different from the more recent release of a photo of a five-year-old boy Omran Daqneesh. His little body was seated alone in the back of an ambulance after being dug out from underneath rubble – his tiny hands on his lap, his face dirty, bloodied and dazed.

This pitiful image was barely used as an opportunity to make a strong case of why a ceasefire must be reached and why the war must end. It was nothing more than a lost opportunity to unite the world in its anger and horror against this war.

Instead, the picture found its way into the stifling media arguments made by those who continue to stoke the fire for yet more firepower and greater military interventions.

The image of Omran was circulated not long after the beheading of Palestinian boy Abdullah Issa by a vile extremist. Instead of serving as a reminder of the revulsion against war, the horrifying video of the gruesome murder merely instigated a propaganda campaign by all sides of the war in Syria.

What has become of Syria and its people? This nation that was unparalleled in its beauty, history, poets and intellectuals (which, like Iraq, have been equally destroyed) is now encapsulated in a mere photograph – of a dead child or another dying – in photos that make an occasional buzz on social media, but eventually fade away.

It seems that the more the Syria war drags on, the more desensitised people become to its harrowing images. Quite often, the media grandstanding on Syria seems to translate to trifling or no action at all, even when a platform for action is presented.

For example, the World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul last May was rightly criticised for failing to adequately address the greatest humanitarian disaster in over 70 years.

Certainly, lots of slogans were tossed around and fiery speeches were made, but aside from verbal empathy and generalised media action plans, nothing much of practical worth was agreed upon. If the enthusiasm for war in Syria was met with similar enthusiasm in addressing its humanitarian consequences, the situation for Syrian refugees would not have been as dire as it is today.

To put things in perspective, one only needs to marvel at these numbers: Syria’s population is 17 million people, of whom 6.6 million are internally displaced in Syria itself and 4.7 million are refugees in the region (approximately 2.6 million in Turkey, 1.1 million in Lebanon, 637,000 in Lebanon, 245,000 in Iraq and 118,000 in Egypt). This is in addition to nearly one million seeking asylum in Europe, most of whom arrived on the continent atop small dinghies and of whom thousands have died trying.

According to Mercy Corps, of the whole population, 13.5 million Syrians are in need of urgent assistance, as many have died or are dying because of malnutrition and starvation.

There are two ways in which these numbers can be viewed: one, as a way to exploit them to score pitiful political points – as many, unfortunately, do. Another, as a way to recognise the hideousness of the war and unite all efforts to end it with a dignified political settlement that recognises that in a situation so exceedingly grim, there can be no winners. But that political settlement cannot be an exclusive political affair, of concern only to the great powers.

Alan, Omran and Abdullah are dead, but it is children like them who will have to carry the burden of Syria for many years to come – to heal the deep wounds of their nation, to rebuild it, to struggle through the pain of coping with its bloody past.

Alan, Omran and Abdullah and 50,000 dead children in Syria deserve better, and the world has collectively failed them. We cannot deny that, but it is never too late to do our utmost to ensure the survival of those who are still alive, subsisting in refugee camps or on the run in their own country, or whatever remains of it.

Morning Star

Next article – Cuba – US regime change still on

Back to index page

Go to What's On Go to Shop at CPA Go to Australian Marxist Review Go to Join the CPA Go to Subscribe to the Guardian Go to the CPA Maritime Branch website Go to the Resources section of our web site Go to the PDF of the Hot Earth booklet go to the World Federation of Trade Unions web site go to the Solidnet  web site Go to Find out more about the CPA