THERE ARE no words to express my fury and distress at the horrendous scenes shown on our screens. What kind of world is this that does nothing apart from holding conferences when hospitals are being pounded, the bodies of small children are being pulled from bombed-out buildings while wounded toddlers scream for their dead mothers! The words of a small boy forced to bury his baby brother because there is no one left still ring in my ears. “Why was I not taken instead?” he said through his sobs.
In recent days both a hospital run under the auspices of Doctors Without Borders and a clinic in Aleppo have been destroyed. The sick and the injured have nowhere to go for treatment when even medical facilities have become targets. These are serious war crimes and it is my fervent hope that those responsible will be made to pay a heavy price, even though no price can ever compensate for so much pain and suffering caused by man’s inhumanity to man.
What kind of ‘President’ sends his fighter jets to bomb his own people lying in their hospital beds? He does not even have the guts to admit it. He is nothing but a monster ultimately responsible for robbing the lives of over 400,000, displacing over half the population and reducing four-and-a-half million to refugee status, fleeing to countries where they are treated little better than criminals.
Five long years have passed since this nightmare began. All efforts to quell the bloodshed have turned to dust. Countries and coalitions have no other solutions than bombs and more bombs, talks and more talks.
Shame on President Vladimir Putin for protecting this barbaric regime! Shame on President Barack Obama, the great champion of human rights, so-called, for not intervening in any meaningful fashion! Shame on the United Nations for failing in its peace mission — and, yes, shame on us Arabs!
Syrians are our brothers and sisters; their children are our children. Have you seen the terror in their eyes? Have you heard their despairing cries? They have done nothing to deserve this hell on earth. They are crying out to be saved but it seems the decision makers who can make a difference, those who can call upon air power, ground troops and sophisticated weapons to bring to bear against the regime and the terrorists, are not really listening for if they were they would send in their armies without delay.
The Saudi-led 34 nation Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition should unite against the greatest terrorist of all, Bashar Al-Assad before cleansing this ancient land of DAESH, al-Qaeda and its affiliate Al-Nusra, so that Syrians can return to their homes, their children can return to school instead of having to beg in the streets of Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, and the dignity of Syrian womanhood can be preserved.
News that large numbers of our Syrian sisters are sacrificing themselves by becoming old men’s temporary brides, or worse, just to survive and take care of their families is heart wrenching. For me this is a case of déjà vu. I was similarly disturbed by the crippling US sanctions on Iraq during Bill Clinton’s watch believed to have caused the death of up to half a million Iraqi children.
Two UN officials resigned calling the sanctions “genocidal”. The then US ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright, when asked whether the death of so many children was worth it, answered, “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.”
Bill Clinton told Amy Goodman, “If they are hungry or if they’re not getting medicine it’s his [Saddam’s] fault.” I was furious. I railed at them for taking the bread from the mouths of Iraqis and for putting decent Iraqi women in positions where some chose to sacrifice their honour to keep their kids alive. Clinton drove nails into Iraq’s coffin and George W. Bush hammered them in. The invasion of Iraq was a crime whitewashed by false pretexts.
Yet when faced with a righteous cause, a humanitarian cause, Barack Obama turned his back on the Syrian people and abandoned the Free Syrian Army not to mention ordinary Syrians who left their jobs and their fields to defend their homes encouraged by US pledges of support.
Syria remains one of the greatest man-made tragedies of our time. If we wait for the United States or Russia or the UN to find a cure, there will be little left of Syria fit for people to go home to. Assad is the stumbling block. He has to go one way or the other before any semblance of peace can reign. I appeal to the leaderships of the GCC and their Arab allies to make every endeavor to ensure that he does.
In a recent column, I saluted the new independent spirit of predominately Sunni states to stand up to their enemies. Now I am pleading with them to hold out a lifeline to our Syrian brothers and sisters who have been left alone and adrift without hope. The world may consider Syrian lives cheap but what is our excuse? We like to trumpet our Arab honour. Well, here is the greatest test of all and it is one that we must not fail. God in his mercy may forgive us for not even trying, but the Syrian people, their children and grandchildren certainly will not.
By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor