“Aleppo’s people are being slaughtered. Did we learn nothing from Srebrenica?” This question was recently asked in the Guardian by Nedzad Avdic, a survivor of the latter genocide.
Avdic added that after the horrors in Srebrenica, there were promises of “never again”.
Unfortunately, this never again is happening again, as the world watches the Syrian tragedy. The civil war that began in 2011 has so far resulted in 500,000 deaths and millions of displaced people. Rockets, toxic gas, bombing, torture and summary executions are commonplace.
The United Nations has described the situation in Aleppo, the country’s second largest city, as a “complete meltdown of humanity”. The UN has reported that pro-Assad forces have entered homes and executed dozens of civilians.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke about atrocities on many civilians, and urged all sides, in particular the Syrian regime and its allies, including Russia, to protect civilians. The European Union, through its high representative Federica Mogherini has also spoken about “terrible reports from the ground” and endorsed Ban Ki-moon’s statement.
More importantly, Mogherini referred to international humanitarian and human rights law, saying that those who perpetrate war crimes will be held accountable.
In the meantime, various media outlets and non-governmental organisations are playing an essential role in sensitising the world to the situation in Syria. And in various instances, NGOs are also carrying out humanitarian work which is saving many lives.
One vociferous NGO is Amnesty International. The human rights organisation has been highlighting the Syrian government’s atrocities for quite some time. These include crimes against humanity such as enforced disappearance and torture. The latter was also recently highlighted by legendary cartoonist Ali Ferzat in his recent visit to Malta. His critical cartoons earned him terrible torture, forcing him to flee Syria to save his life.
War protestors who are so quick to organise peace protests against what they deem the ‘imperialist West’ are now conspicuous by their silence on Assad and Putin
Amnesty International is also reminding the world that Aleppo has been “flattened and transformed into a mass grave”, amid global inaction to stop the bombing of the city.
On the humanitarian front, International Medical Corps is providing primary health care, mental health care and psychosocial support, and is distributing critical supplies in Syria and neighbouring countries.
Another NGO, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), has not been granted authorisation by Assad to work in Syria, but it is operating six health facilities to the north of the country and is giving active regular support to 70 medical structures within the country.
In the meantime, winter is coming in and millions of people are struggling to survive, without adequate shelter and humanitarian resources.
Needless, to say, many war refugees are forced to take difficult decisions as to where to try their luck to ensure survival. Some try crossing the sea, and not everyone makes it.
Yet once again, humanitarian non-governmental organisations are doing their utmost to assist such people.
This includes Malta’s own MOAS – Migrant Offshore Aid Station – which conducts search and rescue missions. Like other NGOs, MOAS depends on donations from the public.
Amid this tragedy, the Maltese government decided not to allow Russian warships fuel in Malta on their way to Syria. As Foreign Minister George Vella put it in a parliamentary intervention on October 27, Malta will not be party to the obscenities being committed in Aleppo.
Unfortunately, war protestors who are so quick to organise peace protests against what they deem as the ‘imperialist West’ are now conspicuous by their silence on Assad and Putin’s carpet bombing of civilians. And this also includes a veteran high priest of ‘pacifism’, namely Jeremy Corbyn of Britain’s Labour Party.
In the age of global networks we needn’t wait for selective ‘pacifists’ to show solidarity with the people of Syria. Each and every one of us can do his part to assist the millions of people who are witnessing horror on a daily basis by donating to the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) or the various NGOs who are assisting such people. Donations can easily be carried out online through the websites of such organisations.
This Christmas we can all stand up and be counted in our solidarity with the people of Syria.
Michael Briguglio is a sociologist.