Reports have emerged of a missile attack on World Migrant and Refugee Day, pummelling a makeshift refugee camp in Idlib, Syria. The strike comes amidst a recent ramp-up in attacks from the Assad regime, backed by Iranian and Russian forces in an attempt to flush out rebel fighters. An Al Jazeera news team were in the camp at the time, gathering information regarding the previous attack, when the missiles began to fall. The horrific event was captured on camera, showing women, men and children desperately trying to seek shelter among their improvized tents and tarpaulins. According to Reuters, Idlib is the largest area of Syria that is still held by rebels fighting Bashar Al Assad. The area consists of a population “swollen by Syrians who have fled government advances in other parts of the country.” Assad has defeated rebels in other areas “with critical help from Russia and Iran.”
An Al Jazeera reporter in Antakya, Southern Turkey has claimed that the attack “was the strongest violation of the peace accord agreed to in Kazakhstan, between Russia, Iran and Turkey.” Aid agencies are overwhelmed with the number of people trying to flee the continued torment of the Assad regime. If the attacks continue at their current rate and intensity, the number of people amassing on the Turkish border in an attempt to flee arbitrary persecution is likely to reach one million. The Turkish President has urged his Russian counterpart to cease such attacks on civilians and Reuters reported that Turkey has met with its Russian, Iranian and Assad representatives to “express its discomfort.” However, according to an Al Jazeera interview with civilians in the Idlib camp “Syrians are not surprised. Many believe it is a kind of diplomatic leverage game just before the Sochi meeting that is scheduled for the end of January.”
The atrocities that are being committed in Syria are deplorable and we must not allow them to be overlooked. In the past seven years, the international community has been bombarded with facts, figures and horrific images of conflict in countries like Syria. It is easy to become desensitized and removed from the conflict when we sit in our living rooms oceans away from the destruction. However, the only hope for a peaceful solution is to ensure that the rest of the world remains active in calling out human rights abuses, and holding our own leaders accountable for any part they may play in the commission of attacks on civilian populations or omissions to help the most vulnerable. The real danger exists when we turn a blind eye.
The attack in Idlib is not the first of its kind. Recently, on December 29, 2017, in just two weeks 179 civilians were killed in an attack executed by the Russian and Assad air forces, on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. The attack was a painful reminder of the relentless aggression of the Assad regime; the area was supposed to be a de-escalation zone. However, the missile attacks mask an even more inhumane method of persecution used by the Assad regime against its own people. The United Nations has claimed that the Syrian government is conducting a slow-motion slaughter of Syrian civilians. As reported by Al Jazeera “as the conflict enters its seventh year, Syrian authorities continue to deliberately and illegally manipulate UN humanitarian access, arbitrarily limiting, restricting and denying aid deliveries to ensure the continued suffering of besieged populations.” In a report produced by Physicians for Human Rights, the doctors claim that “the regime has shifted from “surrender or starve” to “surrender or die” tactics. The strategy is used in a two-fold manner. The first is to recover territory from the opposition (the rebel forces) by undermining the claims that the group will be able to protect the residents, therefore undermining the rebels’ legitimacy and support. The second is by starving out populations of people, “most besieged communities will be forced to surrender to any potential arrangement to end the siege.”
The plight of Syrian civilians is just one example of the terror resulting from conflict occurring in countries worldwide. The inconceivable conditions and plethora of manipulation tactics communities caught in the crossfire of conflict must attempt to live in, must on world refugee day, spur us to overcome any objections we might have to allowing these people to seek safety and refuge within peaceful nations.