The legitimate Syrian revolution has long been buried with the rise of new enemies including ISIS and western airstrikes
James Foley. Steven Scotloff. David Haines. These are the names of the western journalists reportedly killed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a group receiving great attention from the international community.
What has been under-reported is that ISIS is also responsible for the killing of thousands of Syrians, including Syrian journalists, such as Bassam Raies. But this isn’t a competition; no one is elbowing their way through the media to present themselves with a who-has-suffered-more-at-the-hands-of-ISIS award. This is because the answer is clear: the suffering of Syrians – whose plight the world has brushed aside as it becomes increasingly aroused by the notion of “fundamentalist Muslims” – will ultimately be the forgotten victims of this conflict. Although ISIS has been involved in perpetrating many unforgivable and inexcusable acts, this does not downplay the root cause of their creation, which is the existence of a brutal regime and the deliberate, calculated and systematic massacres this regime has carried out over the last four years.
The beheading of western journalists by ISIS is apparently the “green light” the international community requires to carry out air strikes in Syria, with Barack Obama and David Cameron stating that they will show that “Britain and America will not be cowed by barbaric killers” and that they “will be more forthright” in the defence of their values. Yet the Assad regime has also been involved in the killing of many western journalists, such as Marie Colvin, and humanitarian workers, such as Abbas Khan. These incidents do not seem to generate enough political energy to “defend our values”. Double standards are rife.
The scale and horror of the atrocities wrought by the regime are such that no one in the international community is able to quantify how many Syrians have been killed with any degree of accuracy; a ballpark figure of 200,000 was given and now “in excess of 200,000” is usually stated. The international community has done nothing when confronted with evidence, in the form of over 55,000 pictures showing more than 11,000 prisoners of the regime being tortured to death, and 150,000 more at risk of suffering the same fate.
The Assad forces have continued to do as they please with very little international media coverage and attention. The country continues to undergo further devastation on a daily basis, with the destruction of vital infrastructure being used as a weapon to starve those who oppose the regime, and leaving half of the country’s rapidly declining population in desperate need of emergency humanitarian assistance. Most people have forgotten that on 15 March 2011, an uprising began against a tyrannical regime. Given the way that events have unfolded, many have begun to question the legitimacy of the Syrian revolution and its place in the context of other events across the Middle East. In addition to this, many have been influenced by the regime’s rhetoric in classifying the uprising as a sectarian movement consisting largely of extremists. All of this has resulted in the Syrian struggle being draped in the garbs of anything other than that which it initially sought to represent. However, amid the terrors of the conflict, many Syrians continue to strive for what they set out to do with awe-inspiring levels of hope, charisma and fortitude.
Since the very start of the uprising, social media has been engaging those involved in the revolution, through mediums such as Facebook, where voters choose a theme every week. The themes range from showing support to individual regions in Syria, which may have significantly suffered during that particular week, to showing solidarity with conflicts elsewhere in the world. This process is still ongoing and highlights important issues that ordinary Syrians feel strongly about.
The people of Kafranbel continue to paint comic pictures and raise banners with slogans addressing current affairs in the context of the Syrian revolution. Without fail, whatever happens in any region of the world, from the death of Robin Williams to one of Obama’s speeches, the people of Kafranbel provide their own take on what they see, and they always add their own sincere, and often humorous, touch. This has continued in the face of the ongoing violence in Syria.
In areas not under ISIS or government control, councils have been set up to try and ensure that lives continue to function as normal, for example, by ensuring a safe and adequate supply of water and food. In fact, aid-workers in Syria frequently comment on how such areas are more willing to address issues than in government-controlled areas.
Aside from the politics, many in Syria have come together for the betterment of their current lives and for the lives of future generations. The protests that continue in Syria, the many social-based initiatives that have been born, and the continued struggle most Syrians face without any serious international acknowledgement of their situation is undoubtedly admirable. What needs to be emphasised is that although some positive initiatives have been outlined above, it shouldn’t overshadow the dire situation most Syrians are living in, but rather demonstrate that, for many, the essence of their original uprising is still the core of their work and belief. This essence that has been lost in international talks.
Beyond the tales of destruction, there are glimmers of hope. But as the situation evolves, and as the international community decides which stories are worth discussing, the situation is only deteriorating. International air strikes have killed at least 20 civilians, as this human rights source reports. Although the ultimate aim is, allegedly, to weaken and destroy ISIS, it is a somewhat farcical endeavour given that no serious action was taken to deal with the reason for ISIS’ existence – the far-bigger killing machine of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
The Syrians face many enemies, including the government, ISIS and international apathy, and they now have to deal with international air strikes. The air strikes will bring yet more death and destruction to a region that has more than enough of both.
Image from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-air-strikes-president-obama-undergoes-damascene-conversion-as-isis-forces-america-to-change-tack-9751912.html
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