BY SONIA BENHASSINEPhotos by FreedomHouse2 flickr
It has been two years since the Arab spring saw the ousting of Libyan, Egyptian and Tunisian dictatorships, and yet the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad still rages on. The death toll of the bloody conflict is over 70,000 as well 2.5 million people who are estimated to have fled their homes, half of whom are children. We have to ask ourselves if there is any other solution to this crisis, and ponder whether the aim of this uprising can be justified any longer as. It is apparent that people in the west are no longer looking towards the political aspect of the civil war, but a humanitarian angle.
In Lebanon there are currently 35,000 Syrian refugees and that number is growing daily, with people leaving the violence and atrocities which have been described by the UN High commissioner for Refugees as “routine”.
What is interesting about the growing humanitarian crisis is how President Assad has used this to his favour. According to a senior US official, the Syrian President may have allowed www.atoledo.com humanitarian aid into former rebel held areas which had been previously inaccessible as a way of winning loyalty of the residents. The question therefore has to be asked whether day to day living and mere survival can compromise the ideals of the rebels at the begging of the Arab spring. Is this too high a price for “freedom”?
The so called “freedom” enjoyed by other Arab spring countries was incredibly short lived: living conditions appear to be worse for Libyans than under Gaddafi, the Egyptian government is under pressure from civilians and the army, and currently in Tunisia there are calls for a 19 year old girl to be stoned to death because she posted a topless picture of herself on the internet with the words “my body belongs to me”.
It is clear that the struggle is no longer just one to oust Assad and implement freedom and democracy, but a struggle to survive. This begs the question- what can the international community do? And more importantly, what are they doing? In a recent article in The Guardian, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu criticised the relief efforts stating, ‘In the absence of a political solution, there is simply no excuse for the lack of concerted, neutral humanitarian efforts to reach the millions who are suffering everywhere in the country’.
The UNHCR state that there is a $700 million gap between what aid agencies need and what they are actually receiving to assist people in the refugee camps set up in Lebanon and Turkey. Oxfam have a huge Syrian appeal as do the Red Cross, but they need our donations and support if aid is to reach those in need. Many of you who will read this may not donate to this appeal, yet I would remind you of Desmond Tutu’s statement on the subject “each second that passes without care for the people trapped in the crossfire, we undermine our own moral standards”.