• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Honoring Aylan Kurdi by Ending the War in Syria

“A photograph, no matter how emotionally wrenching, can only do so much,” wrote Paul Slovic and Nicole Smith Dahmen in QZ.com.

The photograph referenced in their comment was that of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed ashore on some Turkish beach in September 2015.

It has been over a year since that tragic photograph – of an innocent child, face-down and lifeless – haunted and captured the attention of the world, alerting the international community to the urgency of the horrific war in Syria.

Estimates vary, but it is fairly certain that anywhere between 400,000 and 500,000 people have lost their lives in Syria’s ongoing war, so far. Tens of thousands of those are children. The conflict in Syria is, perhaps, the most multifarious since the Second World War. There are too many parties and too many proxy wars happening all at once.

Despite the international despair generated by Aylan’s photo, the image was disturbingly used by various parties to validate their reasons for war. In some way, the photograph had, itself, become a weapon in the hands of the warring parties, as opposed to a rallying cry for an urgent ceasefire and eventual peace.

In fact, current talks between the United States and Russia seem largely focused on achieving an accord that meets the political interests of two fiercely competitive countries and, to a lesser extent, their war proxies. The interests of the Syrian people – the likes of Aylan and his family – hardly seem paramount.

This reaction to Aylan’s tragic death was no different from the more recent release of a photo of a five-year-old boy, Omran Daqneesh. His little body was seated alone in the back of an ambulance after being dug out from underneath rubble – his tiny hands on his lap, his face dirty, bloodied and dazed.

This pitiful image was barely used as an opportunity to make a strong case of why a ceasefire must be reached; why the war must end. It was nothing more than a lost opportunity to unite the world in its anger and horror against this war.

Instead, the picture found its way to the stifling media arguments made by those who continue to stoke the fire for yet more firepower and greater military interventions.

The image of Omran Daqneesh was circulated not long after the beheading of Palestinian boy Abdullah Issa by a vile extremist. Instead of serving as a reminder of the revulsion against war, the horrifying video of the gruesome murder merely instigated a propaganda campaign by all sides of the war in Syria.

What has become of Syria and its people? This nation that was unparalleled in its beauty, history, poets and intellectuals (which, like Iraq, have been equally destroyed) is now encapsulated in a mere photograph – of a dead child or another dying – in photos that make an occasional buzz on social media circles, but eventually fade away.

It seems that the more the Syria war drags on, the more desensitized people become to its harrowing images. Quite often, the media grandstanding on Syria seems to translate to trifling or no action at all, even when a platform for action is presented.

For example, the World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul last May was rightly criticized for failing to adequately address the greatest humanitarian disaster in over seventy years.

Certainly, lots of slogans were tossed around and fiery speeches were made, but aside from verbal empathy and generalized media action plans, nothing much of practical worth was agreed upon.

If the enthusiasm for war in Syria was met with similar enthusiasm in addressing its humanitarian consequences, the situation for Syrian refugees would have not been as dire as it is today.

To put things in perspective, one only needs to marvel at these numbers:

Syria’s population is 17 million people, of whom: 6.6 million are internally displaced in Syria itself and 4.7 million are refugees in the region (approximately 2.6 million in Turkey, 1.1 million in Lebanon, 637,000 in Lebanon, 245,000 in Iraq and 118,000 in Egypt); this is in addition to nearly one million seeking asylum in Europe, most of whom arrived on the continent atop small dinghies, and of whom thousands have died trying.

According to Mercy Corps, of the whole population, 13.5 million Syrians are in need of urgent assistance, as many have perished to death or are dying because of malnutrition and starvation.

There are two ways in which these numbers can be viewed:

One, as a way to exploit them to score pitiful political points – as many, unfortunately, do.

Another, as a way to recognize the hideousness of the war and unite all efforts to end it, with a dignified political settlement that recognizes that in a situation so exceedingly grim, there can be no winners.

But that political settlement cannot be an exclusive political affair, of concern only to the great powers.

Aylan, Omran and Abdullah are dead, but it is children like them who will have to carry the burden of Syria for many years to come – to heal the deep wounds of their nation, to rebuild it, to struggle through the pain of coping with its bloody past.

The best way to honor these children is by understanding that the future of Syria’s children cannot be determined according to the whims of American and Russian politicians but the Syrian people themselves.

Meanwhile, we should all refrain from fetishizing Syria’s tragedy without having to contend with the roots of its conflict, or playing a constructive part in pressuring various governments to find a solution that would end the ugly war and spare the lives of children.

Aylan, Omran and Abdullah and 50 thousand dead children in Syria deserve better, and the world has collectively failed them. We cannot deny that, but it is never too late to do our utmost to ensure the survival of those who are still alive, subsisting in refugee camps or on the run in their own country, or whatever remains of it.

More articles by:

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 16, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
How Turkey’s Invasion of Syria Backfired on Erdogan
Chitrangada Choudhury – Aniket Aga
How Cotton Became a Headache in the Age of Climate Chaos
Jack Rasmus
US-China Mini-Trade Deal: Trump Takes the Money and Runs
Michael Welton
Communist Dictatorship in Our Midst
Robert Hunziker
Extinction Rebellion Sweeps the World
Peter A. Coclanis
Donald Trump as Artist
Chris Floyd
Byzantium Now: Time-Warping From Justinian to Trump
Steve Klinger
In For a Dime, in For a Dollar
Gary Leupp
The Maria Ramirez Story
Kim C. Domenico
It Serves Us Right To Suffer: Breaking Down Neoliberal Complacency
Kiley Blackman
Wildlife Killing Contests are Unethical
Colin Todhunter
Bayer Shareholders: Put Health and Nature First and Stop Funding This Company!
Andrés Castro
Looking Normal in Kew Gardens
October 15, 2019
Victor Grossman
The Berlin Wall, Thirty Years Later
Raouf Halaby
Kurdish Massacres: One of Britain’s Many Original Sins
Robert Fisk
Trump and Erdogan have Much in Common – and the Kurds will be the Tragic Victims of Their Idiocy
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal in the Levant
Wilma Salgado
Ecuador: Lenin Moreno’s Government Sacrifices the Poor to Satisfy the IMF
Ralph Nader
The Congress Has to Draw the Line
William A. Cohn
The Don Fought the Law…
John W. Whitehead
One Man Against the Monster: John Lennon vs. the Deep State
Lara Merling – Leo Baunach
Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Not Falling Prey to Vultures
Norman Solomon
The More Joe Biden Stumbles, the More Corporate Democrats Freak Out
Jim Britell
The Problem With Partnerships and Roundtables
Howard Lisnoff
More Incitement to Violence by Trump’s Fellow Travelers
Binoy Kampmark
University Woes: the Managerial Class Gets Uppity
Joe Emersberger
Media Smears, Political Persecution Set the Stage for Austerity and the Backlash Against It in Ecuador
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize, But It Takes Two to Make Peace
Wim Laven
Citizens Must Remove Trump From Office
October 14, 2019
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
Class Struggle is Still the Issue
Mike Miller
Global Climate Strike: From Protest To Power?
Patrick Cockburn
As Turkey Prepares to Slice Through Syria, the US has Cleared a New Breeding Ground for Isis
John Feffer
Trump’s Undeclared State of Emergency
Dean Baker
The Economics and Politics of Financial Transactions Taxes and Wealth Taxes
Jonah Raskin
What Evil Empire?
Nino Pagliccia
The Apotheosis of Emperors
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A Passion for Writing
Basav Sen
The Oil Despots
Brett Wilkins
‘No Friend But the Mountains’: A History of US Betrayal of the Kurds
John Kendall Hawkins
Assange: Enema of the State
Scott Owen
Truth, Justice and Life
Thomas Knapp
“The Grid” is the Problem, Not the Solution
Rob Kall
Republicans Are Going to Remove Trump Soon
Cesar Chelala
Lebanon, Dreamland
Weekend Edition
October 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
CounterPunch in Peril?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail