Syria is once again in the news for horrific casualties but many in the West seem to have not notice. Is it because the news cycles seem to be on repeat? Girls have once again been kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Gun rights and violence are the top talking points on every news media outlet. Refugees, migrants, and the displacement of people on every continent grips the tired minds of concerned readers. Yet Syria, a place that is as much as civil war as it is a proxy war for world powers barely makes a ripple in wave of information that assaults us at every turn.
Why has it become so easy to turn away from the immense suffering of Syrians? It is because the war in such a far away place has gone on for 6 long years? Or it it because people are afraid to become invested in a debate that is often times difficult to know which side to be on. Any casual observer could be forgiven for not remembering all players in this Middle Eastern drama that has spilled over in neighboring countries and created new enemies out once benign friendships.
Or is it because the images of children dying from chlorine gas attacks is too much for us to endure? The latest area to be besieged, in this case Ghouta, is nearing starving. Food supplies have run out. People are succumbing to their wounds that were not fatal because of the lack of medical supplies. The United Nations Security Council wants to draft a resolution on a 30 day nation-wide cease fire so aid agencies can tend to the desperate conditions. In this latest attack, women and children are the highest casualty rate – not the people actually fighting. Again.
And yet few people are talking about this forgotten tragedy. Journalists are telling us that this is the next Holocaust. Comparisons to bombardment of Grozny as a means to subdue a population are being floated. Genocide is a word often heard from the aid workers who are desperately trying to save the people who want no part of this war.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum released this statement in January as a testament to their commitment to Bear Witness to Atrocities: https://www.ushmm.org/information/press/press-releases/museum-statement-on-worsening-atrocities-targeting-syrian-civilians
When will we start to care about the world again? How will we answer those future survivors when they ask us – why didn’t you help us? Perhaps we will tell them that we had our own problems. Maybe we will show them images of our own nation convulsing with tears over innocent lives slain through stoppable violence. Or perhaps we will just admit that Syrian lives weren’t important enough to us to care. That the fading sound of their pained voices didn’t resonate with the imagined troubles of our own importance.