A few hundred of the several hundreds of thousands trapped in besieged Eastern Ghouta have been allowed to evacuate to rebel-held Idlib governorate through a “humanitarian corridor” supposedly free of regime and Russian air-strikes. The Assad regime and its allies have now managed to split the enclave into three blocs, each surrounded and under bombardment. Aid groups warn that conditions in the enclave surpass even those seen during the 2016 Aleppo crisis. Ghouta’s fall looks increasingly certain, leaving Idlib as the last rebel-held pocket of Syria. (Middle East Eye, NYT)
Even as he generously oversees a “humanitarian corridor,” Putin plays to the conspiracy set in covering up for the Assad regime’s war crimes. Pressed by Megyn Kelly on NBC News, the Russian strongman asserted that the repeated chemical attacks on Ghouta are “fake news,” and “simply boring.”
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said March 9 that the seven-year Syrian war has created a “colossal human tragedy” that has left hundreds of thousands dead, displaced 6 million within the country and sent 5.6 million seeking asylum as refugees. Nearly 70% of civilians are living in extreme poverty. Food prices are eight times higher than pre-crisis levels, with 90% of families spending over half of their yearly income on sustenance. An estimated 5.6 million people do not have basic human necessities, such as food, shelter, health care and education. About 43% of children who should be in school are not.
Despite UN Security Council Resolution 2401, requiring all parties to immediately cease hostilities for at least 30 consecutive days to enable aid deliveries, Eastern Ghouta is still mostly cut off by relentless bombardment, Grandi urged that “humanitarian access to those in need must be guaranteed. People must be allowed to leave to seek refuge and civilians and civilian infrastructure including hospitals and schools must be protected at all costs.” (Jurist)
But calling the situation a “tragedy” is a nice way to avoid assigning blame.
Meanwhile, in Syria’s far northwest, Turkish and allied forces are similarly closing the circle on the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin. Water to Afrin town has now been cut for a week, as Turkish-led forces prepare for a major ground assault. Access to water ended after Turkey’s forces seized the main dam and water plant from the YPG Kurdish militia. (Al Jazeera)
As these two atrocities unfold before the world’s eyes, the reaction overwhelmingly falls into two equally cynical categories: indifference or double-standard concern. There is practically no overlap between those calling for support of Ghouta and Afrin. The Turkish assault on Afrin has forced the YPG into an alliance with the same Assad regime that is committing war crimes in Ghouta, which obviously poses an obstacle to any solidarity between the respective defenders of the besieged enclaves.
But we in the West are faced with no such grim choices, and should be capable of a consistent position. Yet Noam Chomsky, who signed a statement in support of Afrin, has shamefully abetted Putin’s propaganda portraying Assad’s chemical attacks as “fake news.”
Do you think it is possible that anti-war forces in the West could be part of the solution instead of part of the problem?
Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR