Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, more than 2,000 people have been killed by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and 3,000 more have disappeared. I say President al-Assad, but that’s probably not the right way to describe him. Most presidents aren’t appointed into the position after their father’s deaths. Most don’t run for the presidency unopposed, and most don’t win with a literally unbelievable 97 percent of the total votes. It would be more accurate to call him a dictator, an autocrat, or even a murderer. But, no matter what the Syrian people want, he’s still calling himself a president, and he doesn’t seem likely to give that up any time soon.
The footage coming out of Syria is disturbing. There are tanks shelling houses, there are secret police shooting peaceful protesters, and there are so many children dying, leaving behind bodies full of bullets. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Syria was being invaded — It’s hard to accept that anyone would actually do this to their own country. But the fact of the matter is, these are Arabs fighting other Arabs, an army turned against its own people. It’s horrible to watch, but, sadly, it’s really not all that surprising. And, although, someone as cynical as me probably shouldn’t be surprised by the Arab world’s reaction (or lack of reaction) to such a brutal crackdown, I still am.
If these were Israeli tanks barrelling down Arab streets, any Arab streets, there would be a swift, angry Arab reaction. Why is this any different? Why are we only capable of a passionate response when the bad guys are foreign? Everyone knows that the Arab world is full of rulers that don’t really represent their people. I don’t think most intelligent people would argue that what’s going on in Syria is right or moral. So why aren’t we doing anything about it? Or, better yet, why aren’t we SAYING anything about it? Where is the condemnation from Arab countries? Do we still have an Arab League or have they given up pretending they stand for anything? It’s like they don’t even care that dozens of people have been dying every day this week. When the same was happening in Gaza in winter of 2008, and Palestinians were dying at the hands of Israelis, there was action, from governments and civilians across the Middle East. Where is that fire? Where is that Arab compassion today?
The fact that an Arab regime is responsible for this violence means, in my opinion, that Arabs have an even bigger responsibility to step up and do what they can to stop this. The same goes for the crisis in Somalia; people who are calling themselves Muslims have been turning their country into a wasteland, and we’ve stood back and looked the other way for years. Is it because they’re Muslims too? We can’t just turn the other way because the people doing the killing share our culture. We need to tell them that, because of our culture, because of our morals and our religion and our sense of brotherhood/sisterhood to those who share it, we won’t let them kill innocent people in our name.
As long as we’re silent, we’re complicit. There may not be much that we can do, but caring would be a good start.
Also, please sign this petition asking India, Brazil and South Africa to put pressure on Syria to save thousands of “disappeared” (read: kidnapped) Syrian civilians… And if you hear of a local protest against al-Assad’s regime, please go. It’s Ramadan and these people need your support. Just because Arab governments are going to insist on being useless doesn’t mean the rest of us have to do the same.