Monday, September 07, 2015

Seeking refuge

This is a nice, myth-busting piece on the refugee emergency from Channel 4's Lindsey Hilsum. Her conclusion puts events into perspective.
If we didn’t have empathy we’d have died out long ago. The story of humanity is a story of movement, migration, birth and adaptation. This is just a tiny chapter.
She's right. But let's not underestimate the severity of the problems, especially here in Greece, where the refugee and financial crises converge.

There is one thing that we should be emphasising though. This is not simply a Syrian refugee crisis, but a Syrian crisis. And though horribly late, there is one consistent demand from Syrians hoping to salvage some hope from the catastrophe - a no fly zone. It would be a limited intervention to stop the bombing, killing, starving and gassing of ordinary people. It is a proposal which has been resolutely opposed by the British anti-war movement. So much so that Syria Solidarity protested at the Stop the War Coalition's conference this summer.

As is often the case, the voices who would complicate the simple narratives are missing. So here are links to the non-violent opposition, supporters of the Syrian revolution. And what do these peaceniks call for?
Extremism breeds from injustice - the biggest killer of civilians in Syria today is the 'barrel bomb'. These are often old oil barrels filled with explosive and scrap metal and rolled out of government helicopters and planes miles up in the air onto hospitals, schools and homes. 
The UN Security Council unanimously banned them a year ago. Nothing has changed since then - nearly 2,000 children have been killed since UN Resolution 2139 was signed on February 22, 2014.

Many of us were against foreign military intervention in Syria. But in September 2014 the US-led coalition started bombing Isis in our country. Now there is a deep hypocrisy to letting the Assad regime fly in the same airspace and kill civilians. Many more than are killed by Isis.
The international community must follow through on its demands and stop the regime’s barrel bombs and air attacks - even if that means with a 'no fly zone'.
TO THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL: "Barrel bombs - sometimes filled with chlorine - are the biggest killer of civilians in Syria today. Our unarmed and neutral rescue workers have saved more than 22,693 people from the attacks in Syria, but there are many we cannot reach. There are children trapped in rubble we cannot hear. For them, the UN Security Council must follow through on its demand made last year to stop the barrel bombs, by introducing a 'no-fly zone' if necessary." - Raed Saleh, head of the White Helmets, the Syrian Civil Defence.
By all means applaud the ones who got out, welcome them, support them, but remember those millions trapped behind who have no hope of reaching the European paradise. They need help too. And even if we still end up with some dystopian settlement in a fragmented failed state, the only hope is to stop the bombs and give a chance for a recovery of Syrian civil society that still clings to life amongst the rubble. And please, listen to their voices.

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