“…Public pressure on western governments to do more to help has, if anything, declined as the war has raged endlessly. Sympathetic western opinion has been dulled by a pervasive sense of hopelessness.” – Simon Tisdall for the Guardian, 11 Feb 2018.
If there is anything that the past week has shown us, it’s that the Syrian war is very much raging on into it’s 8th year.
The siege on Eastern Ghouta is considered to be the bloodiest episode of this horrific war in years, with over 229 people killed in the last 4 days including 58 children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Most of the photos that foreign correspondents are receiving from Eastern Ghouta are considered too graphic to publish. (In fact if you look up the #EasternGhouta hashtag on Instagram, chances are half of the images will have been blurred out by the Instagram servers.) It’s like hell on earth.
Simon Tisdall provides a clear and important overview of the entire Syrian conflict (and the west’s failure to stop it) in this article – but his brief mention of the sense of ‘hopelessness’ / significant decline of pressure from western nations to act is what really struck a chord for me when I read it today.
With a conflict that has become as epic and as unbelievably complicated as the Syrian war, it’s easy (as western civilians) to feel as though there is nothing we can do about it. I think that’s why it becomes easier and easier to tune out or ignore the news of another siege, another chemical weapon attack, or another massacre of innocent civilians caught in the conflict – because knowing about it but feeling helpless to change anything is a terrible feeling. That’s how we grow numb. That’s how hopelessness sets in.
If you fit into that category, all I can say to you is this: do not forget that you have a voice. Don’t forget that our world leaders are supposed to represent us on the international stage. To date, it’s clear that the western nations (us!) have really lacked the courage to fight for western values or democracy or for the Syrian people… but I am always optimistic, always hopeful that deep down, people do care enough about others to speak on their behalf. People WOULD help, if they thought they could. I hope so, anyway. True, much of the blame for this conflict lies on our own world leaders and politicians – but we actually share in that blame for our apathy, our silence, and our unwillingness to fight for each other.
Sharing photographs of babies with their legs blown off or of fathers holding their limp children never attracted many ‘likes’ on Facebook, and nobody – myself included – really wants to be confronted with that kind of horror. It breaks me. I hate it. But I’ll tell you why I keep sharing content like that: because it’s real, and because these people matter, and because democracy matters and because we always have a part to play in it.
Maybe if enough of us paid enough attention or cared enough to keep up the pressure on our government to intervene for these people – just do our little bit – that would be enough to shift something on a larger scale. Maybe if we were to take responsibility for and protect our own sense of ‘hopefulness’, our collective opinion would eventually be heard. Maybe maybe.
We belong to each other. So as members of an international community, we must have the courage to keep speaking up for our neighbours. And even if I am being too idealistic – there is no denying that what has unfolded in Syria over the past 7 years is a sobering indicator of what happens when we collectively don’t!
Don’t look away, don’t quit fighting and for goodness sake, don’t lose hope!
- Petition to evacuate Eastern Ghouta available via Amnesty International here: https://www.amnesty.org.au/act-now/syria-ghouta-evacuation/
- Images via Sophie McNeill for the ABC: http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-11/syria-eastern-ghouta-children-starve-bombed-trapped/9420026?pfmredir=sm