Syria: a humanitarian crisis without end

opinion February 02, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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Photos released of 11,000 murders look to back claims the regime has committed crimes against humanity

It is so unfortunate that the world appears to be growing tired of endless reports about atrocities in Syria. 
The civil war in Syria is nothing less than one of the biggest atrocities of our time. Starvation, mass killings, refugees, terrorism and the list goes on. Worse, the end appears nowhere in sight. And, the world community looks to have grown numb to these humanitarian crises. 
The challenge for stakeholders, it seems, is how to enhance some conscience on these topics. The recently released 55,000 images smuggled out of Syria by defectors highlighted the murder of 11,000 men by the Syrian government between 2011 and last August 2013. Torture immediately came to mind when one looks at these photos. 
US Secretary of State John F Kerry referred to this “systematic torture and execution of thousands of prisoners” as “an appalling assault, not only on human lives but on human dignity and on every standard by which the international community tries to organise itself.” 
A panel of jurists commissioned by the government of Qatar concluded that this account could support an argument that such incidents support claims that the Syrian regime has committed crimes against humanity.
Diplomatically, the situation is grim for Syria in spite of attempts by the international community to broker a dialogue process. The Geneva II peace conference, which concluded recently, was flawed because some of the key players - namely Iran, Russia and Hezbollah - were absent from the meeting. 
Hezbollah is in Syria because of Iran, and Russia continues to supply the regime of President Bashar al-Assad with military hardware. Saudi Arabia is doing the same but with the Sunni fighters.
The flow of arms and people fighting against and for Bashar is continuing unabated. Conflict in the region is escalating at an unprecedented rate. 
Syria is not just a civil war confined to one Middle Eastern country but a conflict that has fueled a long standing bickering between Shia and Sunni political camps in the region. The Syrian conflict has also made the violence in neighbouring Lebanon and Iraq worse.
For the time being, it may be too early to judge if the talks in Geneva will have a positive impact on the conflict. What appeared to be missing is an incentive for stakeholders to work for peace and turn their back on violence and military tactics to obtain their political goals. In real term, this means organisers must reach out to all warring sides, not just the group that they approved.
Getting the warring factions to the same table is hard enough. It will be even harder to achieve a sustainable solution and keep it that way. Needless to say, a transitional government in whatever form will have to deal with the infiltration of armed extremists under the al-Qaeda network. Already, the anti-government forces have turned their guns on these extremists. How this affects the end game is still not clear. What is also unclear is the guarantee that the minorities will not be persecuted by any power that will enter Damascus. But what is clear is a humanitarian crisis drags on without end.

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