Wednesday,28 June, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1340, (13 - 19 April 2017)
Wednesday,28 June, 2017
Issue 1340, (13 - 19 April 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Martyrs of a deceitful world

Reports on living conditions of Syrians inside the country are no longer relevant. The biggest dream of Syrians today is surviving at all

Martyrs of a deceitful world
Martyrs of a deceitful world

The majority of Syrians are depressed about what has happened to their country over the past six years. There is no hope in sight; the situation is becoming more complex and Syrians are cutting ties with fellow citizens. This war has caused deep fractures and rifts among Syrians and intensified religious, sectarian and ethnic differences to the point where everyone is ready to fight everyone else.

During the Syrian revolution between 2011 and 2017 the entire country and the lives of all Syrians have been turned upside down. The regime responded to protests with live ammunition and brought in foreign mercenaries to put citizens under siege, and kill and displace natives. Arab and non-Arab regional players became involved, as did major world powers. This has caused Syrians to live as strangers in their own country, since foreign military forces are now larger than Syrian military forces on both sides of the conflict.

According to the 2016 Happiness Index issued by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Syrians are among the unhappiest in the world, coming in at 166 out of 167 countries.

The lives of Syrians were not much better before the 2011 revolution either. They were living in misery and subject to an oppressive regime, unfair income distribution, corruption, inequality of opportunities for work, education, investment and health, and security agencies controlled the daily lives of citizens. These conditions are now compounded manyfold. Around one million Syrians have been killed on both sides, and more than two million are permanently maimed as a direct outcome of the war.

Syrians inside the country live a constant nightmare in a country that is categorised as the most dangerous in the world. Syrians once sought to end years of oppression and humiliation, which they endured in silence, aspiring to change the laws and constitution to build a homeland that has room for dreams: a pluralistic democratic country with rotation of power that respects the Other and co-exists with them, and protects everyone’s dignity. However, the Syrian people found themselves in the midst of a maelstrom of endless death where mostly non-Syrian armies, groups and militias compete to make strategic gains and carry out plots that are also mostly non-Syrian and have nothing to do with the Syrian people.

Syrian citizens are now categorised as opaque or terrorist or traitor or thug or killer, depending on their loyalty to the regime or the opposition, or based on whether they are Sunni, Alawite or Shia. Depending on their religious affiliation not their nationalism, or based on whether they are Arab or Kurdish or Assyrian, or depending on their ethnicity, citizenship no longer has any meaning or presence.

Today, Syrians are very distant from their original dream and are focused on the most basic of rights: the right to live and not be killed by a stranger in their homeland. The militias the regime brought in now rule over some areas where the regime’s military or security forces cannot interfere or disobey them.

Syrians are now preoccupied with staying alive and seeing the sun rise one more day, and if possible providing food for their children. They are undoubtedly lucky to live in a safe zone, which only applies to areas under regime control. At least there are no air strikes or explosive barrels hurling down from the skies, or threats of chemical weapons. But these areas amount to no more than 28 per cent of Syrian territories. Meanwhile, areas under the control of the Syrian opposition amount to no more than 10 per cent and are subject to vicious attacks all the time from everyone: the regime, the Russian Air Force, the US-led coalition, Iranian guns, and missiles of sectarian militias from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan affiliated with the Syrian regime. The territories under the control of the Islamic State group (IS) remain the largest, about 45 per cent of Syrian territories, while separatist Kurds control 17 per cent of Syrian land.

The majority of Syrians who remain inside the country take little interest in what is happening in politics. For them, whatever happens in Geneva or Astana or decisions by the UN are irrelevant. They don’t much care whether the High Commission for Negotiations will participate in talks or not, or whether the regime’s delegation to the talks is composed of security or intelligence officers or is sectarian in nature. They don’t care who is negotiating on their behalf. What they do care about is news of military factions; who agreed to the truce, who rejected it, who decided to launch another military attack, who is complying with the ceasefire and who is breaching it.

Syrians do not follow the news about Russia putting pressure on Turkey, or details of disputes between the US and Russia, or reasons for Saudi-Turkish quarrels, or the level of animosity between the US and Iran. They know these players will never reach consensus among themselves or find common ground for their plans and plots in Syria. They will remain at odds constantly, perhaps for decades to come.

Syrians don’t care about the activities of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs or reconstruction conferences held in Europe, or Arab conferences for Syria’s supporters and donors. All they care about is that prices go down a little so they can continue buying their basic needs since the price of commodities jumped eight or 12-fold since the crisis, while wages and incomes have not risen once in six years. They understand that grants or assistance will not come until after the war ends, and even then they believe corruption will devour most of the money and they will receive mere crumbs, if that.

Syrians don’t care how most Arab news channels cover news in Syria, focusing on crimes by IS and ignoring much worse and extensive crimes by the regime. They see it as the victim becoming the accused and the murderer becoming the innocent, while ignoring the massacres committed by the Syrian, Iranian and Russian regimes.

They no longer care about the UN, which is at the centre of a recent scandal that revealed it gave Al-Assad, his wife, cousin, his agencies and soldiers millions of dollars that were sent to the victims and afflicted, and nothing was done to end the scandal.

Everyone is killing Syrians. Separatist Kurds vacated some 50 villages, displaced their residents and burnt them down just because they were Arabs and had to be removed as part of the Kurdish plan for demographic change. Air strikes by Americans make daily mistakes and kill dozens of innocent civilians in residential areas. Russia also kills dozens of civilians every day through air strikes and support for the regime under the pretext that they target members of IS and Fath Al-Sham, whereas the majority of victims are children, women and entire families. Iranians kill dozens of Syrians every day to achieve their Persian dream, using sectarian militias to control the Shia crescent expanding from Tehran to the Mediterranean via Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. And, of course, the regime will sometimes kill hundreds of citizens every day just to stay in power.

Syrians today are focussed on tallying the number of dead, documenting their names, recording violations by the regime, Russia, Iran, Hizbullah and Iraqi militias, in the hope that one day they can bring them to justice. Their perspective on time and history has changed; they now measure time by before and after the displacement of Darya residents, before and after the chemical weapons massacre in Al-Ghouta, before and after the failed Astana conference, before and after the failed ceasefire, before and after my child died of hunger, before or after my husband died.

Tombstones no longer have people’s names on them. Instead, they read: “Here lies a martyr of Astana”, “Here lies a martyr of the ceasefire”, “Martyr of hunger”, “Martyr of sorrow”, “Martyr of the siege”, “Martyr of the UN”, “Martyr of Russia”, “Martyr of the US” or “Here lies the martyr of a deceitful world”.

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