Photo taken from http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54769: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, four-year-old Esraa and her brother Waleed, three, sit on the ground near a shelter for internally displaced persons. Photo: UNICEF/UN013175/Al-Issa‘
‘A Civil war,’ wrote St Antoine de Saint-Exupery, ‘is not a war but a sickness.’ In Syria, and most recently Aleppo, this sickness torments the combatants, driving them to commit the worst atrocities of our generation. In turn these violent symptoms show in others as they seek revenge, in a tragic and brutal violent cycle. The sickness indiscriminately targets women and children, who, exposed to the disease can’t defend themselves. The sickness targets brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, friends. In these circumstances, the sickness targets humanity.
Three sides of this conflict are locked in a satanic struggle where they outcompete each other in their brutal, indiscriminate treatment of innocent civilians and opposing combatants. Women and children raped, murdered, and tortured; a father requests to euthanise and bury his daughter, wife and sister to save them from their fate; corpses lying unidentified in the streets; families too scared to bury their loved ones; overflowing graveyards; incessant bombing; bodies trapped underneath the rubble; soldiers massacring indiscriminately; bodies piled into makeshift mass graves: Aleppo has become a living hell.
We haven’t learned, and don’t learn.
Strains of the sickness are pervasive throughout the world. We tend only to hear about it when it suits the Western world’s popular Manichean, black and white, myopic worldview.
Some Western media, content on selling their own sensationalist brand of worldview, have swept the brutality of Aleppo under the carpet. Some have even called it a ‘Liberation’. Is that surprising when many politicians, such as Theresa May, weren’t even present in parliament’s Aleppo debate? Human Rights abuses seem a distant and far off irrelevance for most, unless it can be used to suit their cosy and simplistic worldview.
The people of Aleppo are victims to the failure of international cooperation. It is clear that Russia in its support for Assad is complicit in these atrocities. But again, this is hijacked by the media, painting Russia as the inherently immoral enemy. Russia’s actions are clearly lamentable, but they would rightly say that so are those British and American in supplying arms to Saudi Arabia to bomb hospitals and starve children in the Yemen- and this is to name just one example. The West cannot take the moral high ground while turning a blind eye to other atrocities, and hence has difficult actually negotiating in this process.
Both sides are hypocritical, and their bickering further enables the brutal massacre of innocent people in Aleppo and across the world. Both sides create double standards making it nearly impossible to combat Human Rights abuses. Both sides favour their strategic and economic interests over stopping the brutal and inecusable treatment of so many people. Neither side has a leg to stand on when criticising the other. Neither side is fully committed to stopping Human Rights abuses.
We will never be able to stop Human Rights abuses from happening, but we can try and manage them when they do. By opposing them whenever and wherever they occur, we can try to stamp out the hypocrisy plaguing international discussions and start to tackle these issues more multilaterally.
We can’t act, and don’t act.
As our media ignore and blame, our parliaments stalled in inactivity, in Aleppo men, women, and children continue to be blown up, massacred, raped, and tortured. We need Human Rights abuses to be at the forefront of discussion, always opposed when they occur, and never swept under the carpet even if they do challenge how we view the world. We all need Human Rights; they should never be taken for granted. It is our duty to make them an issue that the world takes seriously.
Prize your human rights, and remember the tragedy that is Aleppo.
George Penn (Twitter handle: @gtcpenn67)