Syria – watching the horror

“The regime’s jets aren’t circling opposition areas targeting schools and hospitals and breadlines today.”

Oz Katerji, Journalist and film maker, with special focus on the Middle East

Right now, we are seeing images from Syria of children choking, struggling to breathe, poisoned by a chemical gas which is causing trauma and death. Even in a world so violent and damaged that we have almost become desensitised to violence, the images of children struggling behind gas masks, or lying lifeless beside desperate parents crying for them to wake up, these images have shocked us. For the first time in a long time, governments are talking seriously, both inside and outside the UN, about meaningful, punitive action against Assad. The international community is split about what to do, and Assad’s allies in Russia and Iran will, for whatever morally inexplicable reason, always capitalise on global prevarication and come to his aid. The world leaders who want this to stop must not give them this opportunity this time. There needs to be a joint military strategy to at least try to end this barbaric war. If Assad cannot be removed, he must at least be stopped.

Many in the region want military intervention against Assad and his armoury now. I asked an Iraqi Kurdish friend, a professor of international politics who lives in Kurdistan, whether he thought the west should intervene. He said, “Yes”, “immediate western intervention in Syria is no longer about Relapolitik but should be perceived as  necessary humanitarian intervention on par with the NO-Fly zones established in Northern and Southern Iraq after Saddam’s defeat in Kuwait. The moral argument stood then as it stands now.” Oz Katerji, (@OzKaterji) filmmaker and journalist who specialises in the Middle East tweeted, “what people don’t realise is that even just *talk* of an impending air strike in Syria has cleared the sky of bombers. Civilians in Idlib and Deraa today can walk around free from having to cower from bombardment. Just the potential of punitive action is literally saving lives.” He told me today, “we have tried and failed diplomacy for seven years. We are frequently told “there is no military solution”, while the Assad regime vehemently disagrees with that, and has been pursuing a total annihilation policy that has successfully restored Assad’s brutal rule over large parts of his broken, terrified population. Since military action has been put back on the table, the regime has started to scatter its defences and hide its heavy weaponry. The regime’s jets aren’t circling opposition areas targeting schools and hospitals and breadlines today.” Schools and hospitals and breadlines.

People have said that military intervention “will only make it worse”. Worse for who? The children dying of gas poisoning in Douma? The thousands of people being tortured in Assad’s prisons? The men and women buried in his mass graves? The millions of displaced Syrians, living destitute in barren, disease-ridden refugee camps in surrounding countries? Or those existing, (I won’t say living), unwanted, uncared for, feared, in the streets and slums of Europe? Those dying in the sea trying to get here? Alun Kurdi, the drowned little boy who came to epitomise the world’s failure almost two whole years ago? Worse for them? Life, death, couldn’t get any worse for them. They have lived through Hell, and many of them died in Hell.

The United Nations has a responsibility to protect, and where a state fails to protect it’s people, the international community of states has a duty to intervene. Assad is not just failing to protect the Syrian people, he is actively butchering them on a daily basis. One of the MPs who has most consistently made the moral case for the principle of military intervention, is Johnny Mercer MP, a former soldier in the British army. He makes strong arguments, and no one can deny he understands the gravity of what he is advocating for British troops. I hope he is listened to, and that British politicians approach the decision about intervention, if it is put to them, with open minds, and a sense of urgency.