The photograph we have probably seen the most since last week belongs to the two-year old Syrian baby Karim Abdurrahman. The world’s collective conscience mobilized for Karim who lost both his mother and his left eye in the bombardment by the forces of Bashar al-Assad in the Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus. Thousands of people who joined the solidarity campaign on social media covered their left eye with their hands and gave the message “You are not alone, we see you.”
In Eastern Ghouta, with a population of 400,000, which has been under the siege of the Assad regime that is supported by Iran and Russia, a heartbreaking humanitarian tragedy is taking place. Eastern Ghouta, being a place where thousands of people have lost their lives due to bombardments, medical inabilities and hunger, is one of the regions which constitutes the last stage of conflicts that have been going on since 2011. Like Ghouta, the Syrian town of Idlib and its surroundings are often the target of Syrian and Russian aircrafts.
Due to the heavy siege, it is stated that aid to Eastern Ghouta and basic food supplies are brought to the people by smuggling and bribing Assad soldiers. This also caused the prices in the region to soar. The price of one kilogram of tea is $100. The same amount of sugar is around $30. The price of ordinary medication can go up to $5-6 in Eastern Ghouta whereas the same medicine can be sold for a dollar in areas controlled by the regime. War and siege naturally created its own economy. Despite the tragedy, there are still those who take advantage of the chaos and fill their pockets.
Similar bombardments such as the one in which baby Kerim lost his mother and his left eye have almost become a part of the daily routine in Eastern Ghouta. Images of wreckages we are used to seeing (which hardened our hearts and made it immune to such spectacles) are the same images we had been seeing in Aleppo until around this time last year. The regime and its supporters who brought Aleppo to its knees want to capture Eastern Ghouta with same methods. And nobody cares how many civilian lives this will cost. Opposition groups controlling Eastern Ghouta face the risk of losing the support of the people as the blockade grows.
On the other hand, a statistical report was published regarding the barrel bombs dropped by the Syrian regime on various parts of the country since 2012. According to this report, the number of bombs that could be detected is 68,334, and the number of people who died in these attacks is 10,763 (734 of whom are women and 1,689 of whom are children). Considering the fact that the bombardment still continues in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta, it is clear that these numbers will require updating.
* * *
As these are happening in Syria, the “diplomatic process” still continues outside the country. The eighth round of the Astana talks led by Russia and Iran concluded. Within this framework, the opposition submitted a 44-page report to Staffan de Mistuıra, UN’s special envoy for Syria, and shared “concrete” evidence of the coordination between the Syrian regime and PKK-PYD. It is estimated that the Astana leg of the diplomacy will be expedited with some critical subjects like prisoner exchanges.
Putting aside the technical details of the matter, these are the questions which need to be asked in Syria from now on:
One way or another, since the Iran-Russia-Assad alliance are the victors of this war, how is “peace” going to be ensured in Syria now? Since these events, which started with peaceful protests in 2001 and then turned into a war between the regime and the opposition with the involvement of external factors, were caused by the anger that has been accumulating for decades, what are the precautions taken to prevent similar potential breakouts? Will the Muslim world, which failed to find a solution for the Syria crisis among themselves, be able to learn their lesson after what happened? After joining the war with all of its power to prevent “foreign powers” from entering Syria, is Iran going to work toward establishing a fair government in the country where it is a “foreign power” itself, or is it going to try to turn Syria into a Shia colony? How will the influence of Russia, who set out to enter Syria for good by taking advantage of the war, be controlled?
Of course other questions can be asked. The intellectuals, philosophers, scholars, politicians and opinion leaders of the Muslim world have to study the situation in Syria carefully by being impartial and leaving their emotions and dreams aside. More than 500,000 people who have died (and are dying) faced this because they did not study their history lessons sufficiently.
Next generations who will replace us in the coming years and centuries shall be able to find reasonable solutions for the conflicts of their time by looking for the answers to questions such as “How could all this happen in Syria?” “Why wasn’t there an intervention?” and “Why did the Muslim world watch as innocent people died?” We have failed to find an answer to these questions.
Although every wound in the region was dressed and bandaged, they all bleed again eventually. Many conflicts today is the result of bandaging wounds without healing the completely. What we have witnessed in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Egypt are the examples of pains that were ignored in the past, and turned into deadly diseases later. If only politic experts of the Middle East could see history and geography in this perspective.