This blog has been sitting in my drafty drafts-file for a long time. For a while, all it contained was a general topic, some keywords and a title. I started writing it back in the day when we still saw Assad as the main problem in Syria. Remember those days? Ah, the times when all we thought we had to do was get rid of one cruel Syrian chief and help the people “choose” a new one and get that Arab spring train on its tracks again.
And then things started to shift…
During the final months of 2014, I saw the year-review shows passing by on the different news channels and was reminded of my intention to write this blog. I remember seeing Bashar al-Assad in the year’s review and hearing him declare that he was not bombing innocent people (despite the images of bleeding children in hospitals we kept seeing on the news) but that they were terrorists, related to Al Qaeda or worse. I can still remember my smug reaction to his words at the time, shaking my fist at the TV-screen and cursing his callousness.
Speaking of Assad, where is he these days? Did he ever take the chance to say “I told you so”?
And then today, I saw some of my Facebook friends posting this NY Times article, that caught my attention. In all honesty I must admit I clicked on the link because I was fascinated to see a picture of Angelina Jolie with zero make up on and wanted to zoom in. But then I started to read. The images being described sent shivers running up and down my spine. It was only later that I noticed that the opinion piece was actually written by Angelina Jolie. She describes her encounters with refugees and their stories. It’s an incredibly moving article and it drove me straight to my neglected blog and started up the word flow that had dried up months ago and I decided to re-write the whole thing.
But back to Assad. While trying to find an image to accompany my blog, I ran into a recent article by Jonathan Tepperman in the Washington, who apparently spoke to the president about two weeks ago. I quote:
Superficially, Assad said many of the right things, appearing conciliatory and eager to involve Western governments in his struggle against Islamist terrorism. But underneath the pretty words, he remains as unrepentant and inflexible today as he was at the start of the Syrian civil war four years ago. Assad seems to have no idea how badly the war is going, how impractical his proposals sound and how meaningless his purported overtures are. Which means that, whatever Western leaders might wish, the fighting in Syria will end in one of two ways. Either Assad will defeat the rebels. Or the rebels will defeat him — and string him up by his toes.
A pretty grim conclusion there …and as if the situation wasn’t bad enough already, Mr Assad seems to be heading down Michael Jackson Road. He has created his own DisneyLand reality and everyone around him helps him uphold that delusion. He has decided that the groups that revolted against him are Al-Qaedaoids sponsored by his opponents and that his army is still almighty. The fact that there are areas being occupied by IS is merely because the Syrian army doesn’t feel the need to go there…. I want to role my eyes in disbelief, but then again… you never know….
As Tepperman says:
Either Syria’s president is an extremely competent fabulist — in which case he’s merely a sociopath — or he actually believes his lies, in which case he’s something much more dangerous (like a delusional psychopath). For why would he ever strike a deal to end a war he thinks he’s winning?
In the meantime, imagine being a Syrian! Nearly half of Syria’s population has fled their home and is on the move, either within Syria’s borders or in neighboring countries. Winter is upon them. A dire situation for the people involved and a tremendous challenge for the countries providing these displaced Syrians with refuge. In Angelina Jolie’s words:
Who can blame them for thinking that we have given up on them? Only a fraction of the humanitarian aid they need is being provided. There has been no progress on ending the war in Syria since the Geneva process collapsed 12 months ago. Syria is in flames, and areas of Iraq are gripped by fighting. The doors of many nations are bolted against them. There is nowhere they can turn.
There is a great temptation to turn inward, to focus on our own troubles.
But the plain fact is we cannot insulate ourselves against this crisis. The spread of extremism, the surge in foreign fighters, the threat of new terrorism — only an end to the war in Syria will begin to turn the tide on these problems. Without that, we are just tinkering at the edges.
To just put things into perspective real quick, this is a recent quilt… I mean map of Syria:
As good ol’ MJ once said/sang: “If you wanna make the world a better place you gotta look at yourself and then make a change”. In a way, my blog is a way to open that dialogue with the woman in the mirror. So, what can I do?
- Maybe I should check out what my political party of choice says about this and if I really agree with them on this. That is a way for my voice to be heard, but only when the next elections arrive and I don’t even know when that will be (which means it is more than a year from now because otherwise they would have been in my face by now and I would have noticed).
- I don’t really believe in donating money to the big organizations like Unicef or the Red Cross. It’s not that I don’t think my money will be spent well but I just like being able to track my feeble pennies. So maybe I should support a smaller organization, with clear and specific projects and actual boots on the ground and progress I can follow.
- I could organize some sort of event in my community and make a shipment of my own; blankets, canned food, clothing, stuffed animals… But then again, I have no idea how to get these things where they’re actually needed.
- So then what, should I go myself? Am I willing to risk my skin (and head) to lend a hand? And how much of a difference will I really make or will I only be in the way of the “real development workers”?
- Maybe I should pay refugees within my own borders a visit and see if I can help them settle in here? Or perhaps they have relatives who are in need of something back home?
Once again, there is no definitive conclusion but I will definitely be looking into all of these options.
My thoughts are with the people facing freezing conditions in the refugee camps scattered around the region and bow my head in shame for my initial reluctance to receive refugees closer to home……