I saw this clip on Facebook a couple of days age. It is from Lucy Aharish, an Israeli Muslim Arab TV presenter, talking about the massacre in Aleppo that is happening this week. She speaks in English so the World might hear, so please watch it. What she has to say is powerful and moving, even more so because of her, an Arab speaking on Israeli television, choice of words.
This post isn’t just to get you to hear what Ms Aharish said, although that is worthwhile in itself, it is to try to answer the question a friend posted in response to my re-posting of it on my timeline, “But what can I do?”.
That really made me think. What can we do to stop these recurring genocides? How do we stop the vile, senseless killing of people just because they are who they are, because they live where they live, because they want to live in a society where people are free to think, speak, love & worship as they please?
To be honest, I don’t know. We can, as Ms Aharish suggests, take to the streets to demonstrate; we can write to our elected leaders asking for “something to be done”; we can donate to appeals to help the survivors, the refugees, the victims. But doing any of these won’t stop the killings happening again and again and again.
The problem is, that it is far too late to do anything now to stop the killing in Aleppo. The seeds of what is happening now were sown years ago, when the West failed to give the Syrian pro-democracy demonstrators the backing they needed because Assad’s Syria was needed to help in (or at least tacitly agree to) dealing with rebellions in Iraq. Indeed, it is possible to go back further to the West’s failure to deal with Hafez al-Assad (the father of the present President of Syria) vicious suppression of a revolt in 1982 or to the ill-fated invasions of Iraq in 1991 & 2003 which destabilised Iraq. Those with a longer time frame will see the results of the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire post World War I (see Sykes-Picot agreement) which set up the current countries of Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon & Palestine/Israel mostly just as lines on a map disregarding the different ethnic groups who lived there, creating tensions & pressures that are still being felt today.
Perhaps the lesson to be learnt is to change our approach to Foreign Policy. A lot of the problems listed above have been caused by a short-term approach, we need to sell arms to dictators to secure jobs in the UK, we need to back a tyrant as a bailiwick against another power, we must turn a blind eye to human rights abuses because we need the country to support British industry.
In many cases, this has come back to bite us, and bite us hard. We supplied arms to Argentina’s Junta that the used to fight us in the South Atlantic, we supplied arms to Iraq that Saddam used to invade Kuwait, we now have much of our national infrastructure owned by China. We can’t stop Saudi Arabia from killing civilians in Yemen because we need them to sell us oil & buy our weapons to keep British people in work. We have no influence in Turkey because we need them to control the flow of refugees into Europe
Perhaps if we (along with other Western Democracies) had a more ethical Foreign Policy, where we only supported countries that respect Human Rights; where we only sold weapons to our NATO allies or other democracies; where we worked to deal with humanitarian crises not leave them to fester and generate waves of refugees; where we are prepared to use our military force to protect civilian populations threaten by dictators & tyrants
It is too late to help the civilians in Aleppo, it is too late for the Yazidi people in Iraq, it is not quite too late for the people of Yemen (although time is running out) but we must change our approach it dealing with other counties if we are to stop more and more names of peoples being added to the sad litany of the victims of a genocide. If we don’t, then all the tears and heartache over what is happening in Aleppo are worthless because similar acts will happen again, again and again.