Counting the cost

A Syrian refugee girl holds a dool at the Zaatari Camp, Jordan's first official camp for Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their country, in Mafraq, near the Syrian border, on July 31, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/KHALIL MAZRAAWI)

As the Syrian civil war drags on, and the regime continues to boast of its successes in quelling the “foreign terrorists” whom it blames for igniting strife in the country, the international community’s detachment from the real human tragedy of the crisis only seems to increase.

Most reporting about the conflict, whether it is authored by someone pro- or anti-regime, focuses on territorial gains, military tactics and weaponry. The human cost of the war seems to have been largely glossed over. But what will become of every shelled house and destroyed business? For those Syrians who have spent their lives saving for such things, when the war ends, whomever the victor, how will they rebuild their lives?

The already bankrupt government will surely not be able to help, nor the Free Syrian Army, which has its own infrastructural and organizational problems to worry about.

Deaths, unless they are of someone important in the government, a member of a rich and influential family, or a rebel commander, are mere footnotes to the revolution. Creeping up by a couple of thousand each month, the current 20,000 figure seems almost commonplace upon reading now. But 20,000 nameless deaths is a staggering, tragic fact.

Leaving politics aside, the real victim of this conflict has been the Syrians themselves. Those whom have escaped with their lives have seen their entire world upended in myriad other ways.

In the first days of this struggle for personal dignity and political freedom – denied to the Syrians for decades now – the regime decided it would adopt any necessary measures to put down the uprising. Targeting the neighborhoods of presumed revolutionaries, the army acted without prejudice, destroying anything in its path.

Students have been unable to attend school or university for months now, and basic supplies are dwindling in many parts. Hundreds of thousands have now become refugees, fleeing to neighboring countries, and around a million more are internally displaced. For the minority of wealthy citizens, this disruption has been manageable, but in the main, refugees have arrived without a dime to their name, forced to rely on charity, where it is available, and even then living in destitute conditions.

The scars that these Syrians bear will take generations to heal, and the enduring poverty will remain in their hearts for years.

For the world community, which labels itself as a champion of human rights, these innumerable hardships have uncovered its deep hypocrisy. The Syrian tragedy has revealed the weakness of the global voice, the failings of the international community at large, its internal polarization and its false ideologies.

The life of a Syrian, it appears, is not equal to that of someone from elsewhere. This stance will be seen as a stain on the character of those groups and bodies and actors who claim to stand for human rights, and the sanctity of human life.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 06, 2012, on page 7.




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