Obviously, the April 4 Syrian gas attack on the rebel-occupied areas was painful, frustrating and infuriating for us. After all, what was it like to see the images of the victims and children suffering from the effects of the gas attack?
Some activists claimed that the toxic substance was delivered by Syrian and Russian jets during the attacks on the regions held by the rebels. Once, there were provinces like Damascus, Khan Sheikhoun and Idlib – now, there are just heaps of debris and flesh.
In fact, things haven’t been the same since March 15, 2011, when the civil war started.
Personally, it intrigues me that as observers, we objected to the method of the recent slaughter, but not the slaughter that Syria has witnessed over the past six years. Here, it is certainly clear that the importance of numbers has significantly diluted. I mean, for us, 4,70,000 (the death toll of the Syrian civil war till February 2016) is just a number, right? Syrians have been butchered by bullets, mortar shells and barrel bombs. There is no discrimination here – they have been killed both by the dictatorial regime and by the armed opposition to this regime.
Let me come straight to the point. I think a lot of people observed the recent attack closely, because there is something horrific about death by air or by breathing in chemicals. There is something particularly tantalising about this harrowing evil. Clearly, it is a way that makes you see it blatantly and in plain view. Don’t you think we have become a little desensitised to other ways by which people are being killed?
The problem here is simple – the dehumanisation of Arabs, Muslims and Syrians in the global imagination and the worldview. In an interview with the CNN during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump said, “I think Islam hates us.” That’s the 45th President of the United States of America, supposedly one of the primary decision makers in world politics, for you. It is this dehumanisation that has led people to believe that Syria’s current state was inevitable – and that it was merely a question of their culture and religion.
A part of the reason why we are willing to let Syria ‘disappear’ is the fact that we have become accustomed to really monotonous narratives about Arabs and Muslims. In the fast-changing political scenario, we can see a change in the worldview. We are also seeing the transition to an era where leaders like Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen flourish. Unfortunately, we are also seeing how statements like, “They will never have refugees or better ‘rapeugees’ in their backyards” go unpunished in the public consciousness. On the other hand, the masses feel that this is all justified, which is the saddest part.
If these are what consume our headlines, then don’t you think that we should probably try to learn something about them and their place, to address the problem?
Yet another part of the problem is that most of us have no idea about who the Syrians really are or about their nation – even though it has a great and illustrious culture and civilisation.
Unfortunately, over the past six years, only the Syrians have been mourning the loss of Syria. On the other hand, the global community should also be mourning this loss, because this has been our collective loss.
The places may not completely disappear, but the people who make these places may well disappear. It would be a tragedy if we came to know of it too late to do anything about it!