The world has failed the Syrians

opinion March 19, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

Russia has played a notorious role in protecting the brutal Assad regime



In less than two days, the evacuation of civilians and Syrian rebel fighters from the besieged eastern Syrian city of Aleppo erupted in chaos when Russia announced that the window has been shut because there are no more people to evacuate except the die-hard anti-government troops.

No one said the evacuation from Aleppo would be a smooth one – eight hours of waiting before vehicles would be permitted to leave the war-ravaged area, only to be fired upon.

“All the women and children in areas controlled by rebel fighters have been taken out,” the Russian statement read, adding that those who remained behind were those who wished to stay.

Russia puts the number of evacuees at 9,500 while Turkey said the number of civilians was 7,500. The figures could not be independently verified. 

“In certain districts, there remain groups of radical fighters and irreconcilable gangs who are firing on Syrian forces,” the Russian statement read. “Units of the Syrian army have resumed” operations in the areas.

The choice of words – “radical fighters and irreconcilable gangs” – reflects the political positions of the party that issued the statement – in this case Russia. 

Sad, but true, that this conflict which has caused so much pain and suffering to the people on the ground has long been a proxy war of major powers as they bargain with people’s lives to maintain their strategic interests. 

Another sad fact is that the world has seen brutal events like this before. As American ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council this past week, the massacre of Aleppo stands with the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, the 1995 massacre of Srebrenica during the Bosnian war and the 1988 gas attacks on Kurds in northern Iraq. 

These are events that “define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later”.

Since the war erupted five years ago in the aftermath of the Arab 

 Spring protests in the country, about 400,000 people have been killed, 4.8 million have fled the country and 6.6 million are internally displaced. 

Moscow’s intervention pays lip service to the need to curb terrorism but one can’t deny the atrocities that Russian air raids have inflicted upon the innocent civilians. In fact, just about everybody fighting the government is lumped together under the label of “terrorist”.

Instead of working with the regime and the international community to find a political settlement to the war, Moscow ditched a chance to take the moral high ground and chose to help its despotic ally so they could maintain their only eastern Mediterranean |land presence – a base in Syria. 

The extent of Russia’s intervention reflects the country’s global ambitions. A year ago, the Syrian regime was facing imminent defeat. But Russia helped the government regain its lost territory through horrible violence, all in the name of counter-terrorism. 

It’s sad how such a concept has been hijacked unabashedly to serve the interests of major powers around the world. 

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia has the veto power to block any resolution condemning the atrocities in Syria or moves to push through sanctions. If no one can condemn the atrocities there, one can forget about referring to this hideous violence as war crime. It would be a miracle if the International Criminal Court gets to hear the case.

With the fall of Aleppo, one can be certain that the regime will be even less interested in negotiating a political settlement. In the eyes of the regime, anybody who challenged the power of the government is a terrorist. And with Donald Trump in the White House promising more friendly relations with Moscow, the future doesn’t look so good for the people of Syria. From the look of it, the regime doesn’t seem to mind killing every single person who opposed them. And Moscow has no problem standing by and let them do it, either.