'Humanity is dying': Syrians feel abandoned by the world

'Humanity is dying': Syrians feel abandoned by the world
Syrians have been abandoned for almost nine years by the international community, who they accuse of being blind, deaf and mute to the endless, daily atrocities by the Assad regime.
7 min read
15 January, 2020
Syrian government airstrikes hit the rebel-held Idlib province [Getty]
As the poet John Donne famously noted, 'No Man is an island'; all peoples on earth are interconnected on the large and small scale, with our destinies intertwined.

Solitary confinement is commonly used as a form of punishment because, on the small or large scale, without our fellow humans we are isolated, hopeless and, after long enough, even suicidal.

This has been proven true on the international scale for Syria, whose people have been abandoned for almost nine years to date by the international community, which has been wilfully blind, deaf and mute to the endless, daily atrocities by the Assad regime and its allies against civilians.

Despite the mountains of bodies, the video and photographic documentation, the thousands of testimonies and all the rest of near-limitless evidence of this industrial-scale carnage, the world has looked the other way and continues to do so.

Since the beginning of 2020, things have not got any better nor has the bombardment of civilians stopped. On January 1, Reuters reported, "At least eight people were killed when the Syrian army launched missiles that struck a shelter for displaced families in the country's northwest, witnesses and residents said."

This climate of wilful ignorance has created a culture of impunity for evil, enabling the regime, with Russia and Iran backing, to reinforce and intensify the systemic injustice that the people rose up to overthrow in every area it has recaptured, razing towns, villages and cities, terrorising, murdering, 'disappearing' or dispossessing millions.

In late March 2015, the Idlib governorate was almost freed from the control of regime and Iranian forces; the regime saw this as an opportunity to begin forcibly displacing those in other areas which had dared to demand freedom to the Idlib region.

Among the citizens forcibly displaced to Idlib were all those who refused to accept the regime's fake 'settlements' or to believe its transparent lies about ensuring peace and dignity, which were more especially unbelievable since the revolutionaries' main demand – the fall of the regime – was never addressed.

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As a result of this forced displacement, at least three million people fled or were transferred to Idlib governorate from across Syria, joining the people of the region which was one of the first to rise up against Assad in 2011. Despite years of enduring the horrors of bombing, siege and terror by Assad and others, Idlib's people never stopped calling for justice, dignity and humanity.

All this took place against a background of international agreements and ceasefires which the regime-Russian alliance never abided by, such as the de-escalation agreement signed in May 2017 and the Sochi agreement signed in September 2018, while the international organisations nominally responsible for protecting civilians passively watched the slaughter.

Since April 2019, the Idlib region has seen a massive military escalation by the regime and its accomplices in an effort to control Idlib, killing hundreds of civilians, including children and women, and destroying dozens of schools, hospitals and places of worship.

The problem for Syrians is that they are sacrificing their lives and their children's lives waiting for someone to make a move to end this bloodbath

The problem for Syrians is that they are sacrificing their lives and their children's lives waiting for someone to make a move to end this bloodbath, being profoundly aware that they've been abandoned by a world that makes speeches about human rights but does nothing to defend the defenceless, and left wondering about the real function and usefulness of international bodies like the United Nations and its various organs like the Security Council, or the 'Friends of Syria' whose friendship seems more like enmity.

For the UN, Mark Cutts, the UN Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, stated on January 7, 2020: "I am alarmed at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Idlib, northwest Syria, where over three million civilians remain trapped in a war zone – the vast majority of them women and children. At least 300,000 civilians have fled their homes in southern Idlib since mid-December, following a sharp escalation in hostilities."

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Having noted this, Cutts then continued his statement by saying, "On Sunday, we received reports of at least nine civilians killed and 20 others injured in Ariha, following airstrikes in the area. According to humanitarian staff on the ground, the airstrikes resulted in destruction and damage to buildings, including a school, a kindergarten and a mosque."

As with all the UN reports since 2011, Syrians are left wondering: Did anything change? Has the UN become a news agency now? And when the rest of the world is progressing and moving towards greater modernity and development, why are its attitudes towards Syria's humanity going in the opposite, regressive direction?

Speaking about the hopelessness of the current situation, a media activist and photographer in Idlib, whose name is withheld here to protect his safety, said, "During the last two weeks, every kind of weapon was used, including the Syrian and Russian warplanes. We see aviation squadrons of helicopters dropping barrel bombs over the areas daily, concentrating on the eastern suburbs of Ma'aret al Nu'man.

"The most heartbreaking thing I saw was in Ma'saran town. When I arrived there, I saw people fleeing using cars, motorbikes and even running on foot. I saw people carrying their children while running and screaming after an airstrike which targeted the centre of the town. People weren't even safe after that. They were targeted with artillery by the regime while trying to flee, killing a woman and a man, and injuring several others."

We're not waiting for anything from the international community, the Arab League, human rights bodies, animal rights bodies or anyone else. We're dying

It's not only the deprivation and harsh winter weather conditions that make life hard for the people in Idlib, but the constant fear of regime attacks even on refugee camps; as a report published by the Syrian Network for Human Rights on December 13, 2019 noted, the Syrian regime carried out another attack on the Qah IDP camp located on the Syrian-Turkish border on November 20, using cluster munitions that killed 16 civilians, including 11 children and three women. As the SNHR pointed out, this was only the latest of dozens of similar attacks on refugee camps.

Heba, a college student and resident of Idlib, says "We are really facing a catastrophic situation, having a hard time in dealing with every kind of death, not only the literal death that you know of, but other kinds of deaths and terrors like fear of the unknown, of displacement, of being injured and so on.

"No sane human can see the tears streaming down people's cheeks, the body parts all over the place, the children in camps, and stay silent for no reason. Humanity is dying – are there any saviours? Please move and stop our blood from being shed!"

And what was the world's reaction to this atrocity, as to all the other thousands of regime attacks on camps, homes, hospitals, schools? It was the same polite 'thoughts and prayers' concern given for any minor accident, and the same failure to attribute any responsibility.

The international bodies issued their usual statements 'without assigning responsibility'. For Syrians, this shrug of indifference is one more indication of the world's contempt that disregards any sense of interconnection or shared humanity and reassures tyrants they're free to do as they please. There is nowhere to turn for safety, with the world's indifference helping to strengthen injustice.

As another Syrian warned, "Either humanity will prevail, starting in this land, Syria, or it will be a black hole devouring everything that remains – and what will remain when there's no humanity left?"

Ibrahim, a young man displaced from Damascus suburbs now living in Idlib where he currently works at a gas station, said, "People have lost faith in the international community and humanity; we haven't followed any conferences or international news for so long because we all agree or have a feeling that the international community is conspiring against us.

"We have learnt from the lesson of the 'red lines'; we're not waiting for anything from the international community, the Arab League, human rights bodies, animal rights bodies or anyone else. We're dying."

Dani Qappani has worked as a media and human rights activist in Syria since the beginning of the popular uprising in March 2011 in his hometown, Moadamiyeh city, west of Damascus city. He lived under-siege imposed by the Syrian regime and affiliated militias between 2012 and 2016, before being displaced with his family to the north of Syria.  

He is a survivor of the August 2013 chemical attack and a large number of other attacks and massacres in his city at the time. He is now based in the Gaziantep province in Turkey.

Follow him on Twitter: @Dani_Qappani