Syria’s continuing human tragedy

August 22, 2016 02:28 am | Updated November 17, 2021 02:31 am IST

The image of five-year-old >Omran Daqneesh , sitting alone in the back seat of an ambulance, his face bloodied and dusty, has turned the spotlight again on the sheer barbarism of the >Syrian civil war . Omran was rescued from the rubble of a building in the Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, hit by air strikes by the Russian or Syrian regimes. Nearly a year ago an image of another Syrian boy had shaken the world’s conscience. Aylan Kurdi, who had fled the civil war with his parents, was found lying dead on a Turkish beach, provoking strong reactions from around the world. But the war continued, killing and injuring many more Syrians. According to the UN Special Envoy to Syria, around 400,000 people have been killed in the civil war over the past five and a half years. Besides, millions have been displaced, triggering one of the worst refugee crises since the Second World War. The complete disregard for human life displayed by almost all the actors of the Syrian civil war is impossible to comprehend. A government that bombs its citizens; a group that is employing mass killing as a weapon to terrorise enemies; the world’s two largest military powers that don’t care much about “collateral damage”; and a multitude of rebel factions, backed by regional powers, who compete with the regime in brutality. All of them must share the blame for turning a pluralist country of 23 million people, relatively stable and peaceful till six years ago, into the largest zone of human suffering.

What is more tragic is that this man-made disaster could have been avoided had there been a proper diplomatic intervention in the early days of the civil war. If the regime was more receptive to voices of dissent, if the protesters stuck to peaceful methods as their counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia had, and if Syria’s rivals in West Asia stayed away from exploiting the conflict, the story would have been completely different. Of course, it is too late to mull over such questions. But the images of Omran and Aylan expose both the monstrosity of the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the miserable failure of the international system to intervene. Finding a way out of the current spell of war will not be easy. But for the players involved in the conflict, there seems to be no other option. But how long can Mr. Assad kill his own people in the name of fighting the rebels? And how long can the rebels leave at the mercy of Syrian jets the people in the territories they control? Syria needs an immediate ceasefire between the regime and the rebels, followed by constructive talks backed by regional and global powers.

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