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Where's the Outcry for Syria?

Naser Khader

Recently the conflict between Israel and Hamas has brought into focus the many innocent victims on both sides that have been killed during the numerous attacks. Luckily, the ceasefire is holding at present but it doesn’t affect the loss and many souls that have been affected by the conflict. We can only hope the armistice holds.

It is perfectly understandable and rightly so that in Denmark and in the Arab world there have been outcries for the many civilians and especially children that have been hit. It has been terrible to witness the images of mutilated corpses and tiny wounded bodies. Nothing can justify that children suffer war.

In Denmark, especially the left, the self-proclaimed Friends of Palestine and the Danish-Palestinian Friendship Association have been quick to shine the light on the victims of Israeli rockets. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But they have held their tongues on the subject of the many rockets that Hamas have fired at civilian targets in Israel. The EU considers Hamas a terrorist organization. And it has not yet recognized Israel’s right to exist. It is an organization that has never shown a will to peace, and that has destroying the state of Israel as a declared goal.

Hamas was built on terror – it is an essential part of its foundation. And it is an organization that has totalitarian tendencies.

Hamas continues to damage the Palestinian cause has done its level-best to spoil the peace agreements.

Netanyahu has not shown great peace will either, although Abbas and the PLO have repeatedly reached out to Israel. And it is this lack of peace willingness on both sides of both the proverbial and literal fence that is to blame for the fact that time and time again innocent civilians suffer.

When it comes to the Palestine-Israel conflict, there are outrages and outcries, every time Israel makes the tiniest move – but where is the outcry for the more than 35,000 civilians – including many Palestinians for whose deaths Assad is responsible?

I wish those same voices (the left and the self-proclaimed Friends of Palestine) would express a similar outrage at the many innocent Syrian victimes that are hit every day in Syria, and that it would also spark an international outcry.

You cannot justify a comparison of the number of fatalities, and measuring the degree of pain to a country is futile. Nor is that my errand. Yet, I am amazed that people speak so heatedly and often about the approx. 100 civilians that have been killed in Gaza during the conflict, without ever mentioning the 35,000 fatalities in Syria, including the 3,000 children that were killed in 2012, according to the UN. Every single day between 100 and 200 civilians are killed in Syria. As I write this article, mortar attacks have killed 28 children in Damascus .

The violence taking place against children in Syria is indescribable. According to Bianca Mothabaki, head of child welfare at Human Rights Watch, the Assad regime has killed at least 3,000 children. Some of them have been hit by rockets and bombs dropped from airplanes, but we also hear reports of children that have been tortured to death. One can hardly believe it, but it’s true and Loay Saffi of the Hague Tribunal agrees with Mothabaki. They have verifiable evidence that children have been tortured, where one of the methods is the tearing out of fingernails, which can also be seen on YouTube. On the Red Cross website you can read the most heartbreaking eyewitness accounts from children who have both witnessed and been exposed to the ruthlessness of war. Children have watched, as other children have been tortured to death. Or they have been suspended from their wrists and beaten. Loay Saffi says that a little girl of only four months was tortured to death to get her father to confess.

Fifteen School children started the Syrian freedom struggle by writing graffiti on the walls of the city of Daraa. All 15 were thrown in jail, and their only crime was to demand freedom. They were tortured, and their parents were mocked when they demanded their children released.

As adults we find it difficult to tackle seeing dogs eating the corpses floating in the street, how can we expect children to cope? According to one of the Red Cross eyewitness accounts, she overheard two soldiers make a bet. She did not understand what the bet was about, but then suddenly heard a shot. She turned and saw that an eight-year-old boy had been hit, and now laid suffering in the middle of the street. He had been sat playing quietly and alone. The boy’s mother screamed from inside her house and, of course, wanted to run to her wounded child, but soldiers fired at her and said teasingly that she would not get to her child. The boy died a few hours later…

In what world do these methods belong? Bianca Mothabaki has worked with children and war for many years, and says that what is happening in Syria is the worst she has ever seen.

According to UNICEF, more than one million children are affected by the conflict in Syria; more than 100,000 children are displaced to countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. They lack things as basic as water, sanitation, health, education and especially therapy, before they may even begin to to work through their experiences.

War to an adult is bad enough, but needless to say, being engulfed in the throes of war as a child is horrific. But I scarcely need to make this point. It is a well-known fact.

According to international humanitarian organizations Assad’s father killed more than 30,000 people in 1982 alone, when he razed the city of Hama to the ground. And he was responsible for the death of between 15,000-20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians killed during the civil war in Lebanon. Assad Jr. is himself responsible for at least 35,000 deaths in the current conflict – not to mention all those who have died under torture. If we tally the numbers, the death toll exceeds 100,000 people. Together, Assad Senior and Junior have killed more Arabs in Lebanon and Syria since 1970, than Israel has killed in all the wars with Arab countries since 1948.

I ask again: Where is the outcry? And I would like to once again address the self-proclaimed friends of Palestine and the Danish-Palestinian Friendship Association: they could at least publicly cry out against the Palestinians who have been killed in Syria. When I asked the chairman of the association why they were not publicly condemning Assad, he simply replied: “It is not my beef.” We will just let that one stand for a bit, shall we?

It seems to me that the international community thinks it worse when Israel kills children than when a vile dictator does. I simply don’t understand the logic behind this reasoning. Friends of Palestine would apparently rather spend their energy finding out who may or may not have killed Arafat than condemn Assad and his brutality. An outcry should not only be triggered when calamity strikes one’s own backyard.

This is my outrage, my condemnation, but an outcry should not come from the few. It must come from the many. We must condemn the killing of all children, regardless of the conflict and the country. My fury does not concern who will succeed Assad and who will have power in the country. It concerns the innocent civilians, and especially the Syrian children.

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