Syria’s President Assad and Russia are trying to make it appear they are mounting a humanitarian operation in Aleppo by opening safe corridors for the 300,000 civilians and rebels they have laid siege to – in effect they are offering surrender or genocide.
Amid the back drop of 4 terror attacks in German and 2 in France this month a genocide is developing in Aleppo, which at the far end of the scale could see up to 300,000 Syrians killed in front of our eyes. The regime has dropped leaflets saying 3 routes will be opened for civilians and 1 for ‘armed militants’ for whom it said there will be an amnesty. However, at time of writing the routes were not open, there is deep scepticism from both rebels and civilians, and no signs of an exodus. Unverified reports say a man was shot trying to leave down one of the ‘safe’ routes.
UOSSM the charity I support and advise has at last count 4 hospitals/clinics in Aleppo – all have been directly targeted by the Assad regime and Russian jets. They have now moved underground but are barely functioning. UOSSM only has a handful of doctors left in Aleppo and very few medicines. This is the same for our partner charities SAMS and MSF. With no food, no medicines and little chance of escape, the thousands trapped and starving in Aleppo have no hope unless the West and in particular the members of the International Syria Support Group act soon.
Since the last route out of Aleppo was cut off earlier this month, no food has come in and nobody has been allowed to leave. Like Halabja in the 1980’s and Srebrenica in the 1990’s the world seems paralysed to act.
Halabja happened at a time before blanket media and social media coverage, Srebrenica happened early in the days of 24 news, but the catastrophe in Aleppo is taking place in front of the world’s gaze. Multiple social media feeds showing what is happen on an almost hourly basis.
How is it in the 21st Century that we can watch another genocide unfold in front of our eyes?
Despite Stephen O’Brien the UN Humanitarian Chief calling for a ceasefire, member states of the UNSC are not falling over themselves to bring this to fruition. The prospects for a US-Russia deal to end the violence lack credibility in the eyes of Syrians as the current US Administration has continuously failed to keep Russia to any of its promises and international obligations.
The terror events in Europe are undoubtedly the focus for those countries directly affected and many of them blame the uncontrolled flow of the millions of migrants into Europe over the last 4 years for the heightened terror threat. Is it no surprise that there will be some ISIL terrorists amongst the millions who have fled to Europe. The last time I was in Syria, around 12 months ago, Syrians I spoke to made clear the driving factor for them wanting to come to Europe was the bombs of the Assad’s aircraft and the terror unleashed by ISIL. Some of the Syrians believed that if they made it to Germany they would be given a house, a car, a job and money. From their desperate position in Syria this must have seen like Nirvana.
It is obvious that there will be jihadists using the misery of the refugees as cover to enter Europe, and it is proven that there are also threats from ‘lone wolves’ and we need measures to seek to uncover them without alienating community relations. By working with Syrian, Iraqi and other communities in these threatened countries it is possible to help identify the good from the bad and the ones to be watched. In parallel a more compassionate and comprehensive European policy on refugees and migration would remove the illegal smuggling routes, and instead allow for more effective vetting.
If the international community doesn’t act to protect civilians in Aleppo and across Syria it will further fuel the ISIL ideal to attack those who oppose them. The lack of political will to decisively engage in Syria for the last 5 years, personified by the potential Aleppo genocide will provide ‘foot soldiers’ for ISIL in Europe and elsewhere for the foreseeable future. The international community – with Europe at the forefront – has the opportunity to turn the tide against ISIL by finally making good of its promises of protecting Syrian civilians in Aleppo and across Syria. Only then can the prospects of finding a sustainable political solution become a reality.