On this Christmas holiday, Christians around the world celebrated the birth of “Jesus Christ, the son of the virgin Mary. Jesus Christ became known as the Messiah who was attributed with many holy miracles.” Muslims throughout the world also recognize the birth of “Isa [Jesus] son of the virgin Mary. Isa is frequently called al-Masih [Messiah]. The Qu’an tells of his birth and attributes to Isa [Jesus] a number of miracles of apocryphal origin.”
This holiday season the children in a liberated town in Idlib, Syria, sent a “Message of Hope” on YouTube so others around the world could share their united voice …
We live in an ecumenical world, and so does Syria, which is often referred to as the “Cradle of Civilization.” At a conference on U.S. aid for Syria in March, the political opposition’s former chairman, Moaz Al-Khatib, said that as the civil war rages on, “…our great cities, historical cities, are being destroyed, and whoever launches a stone against Syria is like launching a stone against one’s own mother, because we are the Cradle of Civilization.”
Through thousands of years, a lot of people have crossed Syria’s path. Some people have crossed Syria in transit to other places, some came as conquerors, and yet others settled on the land which is today known as Syria. Regardless of who came traipsing across the land, claiming land or just passing through – some things have always remained constant. Syria has a rich history of multi-cultural, interfaith communities … and “the Syrian people have lived together for many centuries and have endured many foes.”
This interwoven fabric of culture and faith has held Syria together, where other countries might have fallen apart. Faith does not necessarily refer to religious faith, it can also mean faith in country. What all Syrians have in common is their “love of country.” Love of country is the basis for “one message,” despite other more personal differences such as differences in religious faith or political views.
In the chaos of the current fighting, an estimated two million displaced Syrians driven from their homes are reported to be living among archaeological ruins called the “Dead Cities.” An additional 4.5 million are living in abandoned buildings or on the streets. The Assad Regime has made sure that the homes of Syrians in the major cities, such as the ancient City of Aleppo are in rubble. The City of Homs has been hit with mortar fire and air strikes routinely for three years, and now is a broken city of rubble and steel.
The city of Homs with a population of approximately 1.9 million was a vibrant multicultural interfaith city sometimes called the city the “Capital of the Revolution” [Source: CNN].
Homs is also the home of just turned 20 year old “Syria Youth Soccer Superstar” turned “Homs #1 Resistance Leader” Abdul Basit al Sarut. When his younger brother was killed by Syrian Security Forces, Abdul Basit put down the soccer shoes to become a Syrian Activist. The young soccer star defected from the Syria Soccer League in front of the media and explained who the “Opposition” really is, not who Bashar al-Assad wants people to think they are.
Abdul Basit is best known for leading some of the largest peaceful protests in Homs, singing for freedom before crowds tens of thousands strong. He has been wounded several times, most recently by snipers but keeps standing back up to lead the revolt against Bashar al-Assad. Abdul is just one of thousands of young activists that put their lives on the line every day.
Syria’s Heritage Is Being Destroyed
Emma Cunliff, an archeologist at the University of Durham in England, and expert on Syrian archaeological ruins reports, “One of the saddest things is that you have families who have moved back into the caves, the tombs and the underground temples.” Across northern Syria, rebels, soldiers, and civilians are seeking shelter in ancient and medieval antiquities built of thick stone.
As horrible as the war has been on the people, Syria’s heritage has also been put at grave risk, or it has disappeared. Some artifacts have been sold by the Free Syrian Army to finance their military efforts as no other international help has been available. Artifacts and heritage sites up to six thousand years old have been demolished from relentless air strikes and mortar fire by Assad’s war machine without regard to the cultural value.
Why is Syria’s heritage important? Irina Bukova, director-General of UNESCO, has said, “Protecting heritage is inseparable from protecting populations, because heritage enshrines a people’s values and identities.” Heritage gives us a window into our past and gives meaning to our future. “Cultural heritage shapes the environment, contributes to moral and economic well-being, and is one of the fundamental cornerstones of a peaceful and prosperous society.” Destroying artifacts and heritage sites is tantamount to “genocide.”
Genocide is “the systematic, large-scale massacre of innocents,” which tops any “hierarchy of horribles.” It has been practiced by colonizers, crusaders and conquerors as far back as history has been documented. The word “genocide” which means the “killing” (Latin, cide) of a “people” (Greek, genos), was added to the English language in 1944 to capture this “special kind of evil.” In the words of Champetier de Ribes, the French Prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, “This was [is] a crime so monstrous, so undreamt of in history throughout the Christian era up to the birth of Hitlerism, that the term ‘genocide’ has had to be coined to define it.” Under “Article Two of the Genocide Convention,” this horrible act includes:
1. Killing members of a group;
2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and / or
5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Many people discuss the Syrian war in terms of a “civil war,” however, in a civil war opposing groups of soldiers or militia of the same country battle each other. Although innocent civilians may become casualties of war, they are not directly targeted. In the Syrian war, the Free Syrian Army and other jihadist groups who have joined the opposition’s fight have largely targeted Syrian soldiers.
However, it is widely documented that the Syrian Government has used every military resource and other hired Shabiha [criminals] to systematically target and massacre innocent civilians. According to World Policy, “this is not just a civil war, this is genocide because non-combatants comprising the ethno-religious Sunni majority, are being systematically killed. Genocide is not a numbers game, but a crime of intent.”
How can the US Stand Still and Watch Syria Die?
The United States led the movement to build on the precedent of the Nuremberg war crimes trials, enshrine the “lessons of the Holocaust,” to “ban genocide” and emerged from World War II as a global spokesperson against “crimes against humanity” and was a leader in helping to draft the “1948 Genocide Convention.” The “Genocide Convention” embodied the moral and popular consensus in the United States and the rest of the world that genocide should “never again” be perpetrated while outsiders “stand idly by.” President Harry Truman called on U.S. Senators to endorse the Convention on the grounds that America had “long been a symbol of freedom and democratic progress to peoples less favored,” and because it was time to outlaw the “world-shocking crime of genocide.”
The question has to be asked … why hasn’t the US introduced “Responsibility to Protect” to the UN Security Council in the case of Syria? Also known as R2P, this doctrine was adopted by U.N. Member States (including Syria) at the 2005 World Summit in New York. It places accountability for protecting civilians on governments themselves. When a government fails to protect their own civilians or if they commit war against their own people, then there is an expectation the International Community will step in. Even then, military action is supposed to be a last resort, and only after approval by the U.N. Security Council.
R2P has not been proposed to the UN Security Council. If it was, would Russia be so callous as to veto it? In the case of Libya, both Russia and China supported R2P. At its core, R2P works best in prevention. If the world had thought of Syria as an R2P problem when Assad first started gunning protesters down in the streets, it is possible financial, legal and diplomatic tools might have been successful at preventing today’s genocide.
Documentary: Stories From Idlib – Revolution Ignored
“Is the genocide in Syria due to Islamist Terroist or a Geopolitical Proxy War?” Ben Allinson Davies has a story to tell through a documentary he filmed in Syria in October, 2013. He is now showing this truly incredible film to raise donations. 100% of the proceeds go to a charity which actively helps the Syrian people themselves. Donations can be made through www.gofundme.com/5vuv94.
Khalid Saleh, Syrian Coalition Media Office President, SyrianCoalition Press Briefing December 27th
One Thousand Days For Syrian Children
Video: Young Syrian Girl takes up the microphone to lead a rally. Abdul Basit al Sarut is fostering a new generation of leaders in Syria.
This appears to be an upscale district of Damascus. Questions come to mind: How did the girl get there? Why don’t the men stop and help her?
Questions come to mind: Where is this child’s parents? Did Assad kill them? Is this young boy homeless in the war ravaged streets of Syria on his own?
Questions come to mind: How can anyone question the claim of genocide in Syria after seeing this photo? Where is the Humanitarian aid that could save this child’s life?
Questions come to mind: What did this innocent child do to deserve being directly targeted by the Assad regime? Once his physical wounds heal, how long will it take for his mental wounds to heal?
Questions comes to mind: How is it that Assad and his military machine are so cruel that they would devastate a whole town by taking their young children from them? Can you see the anguish on the faces of these parents?
Question comes to mind: Can you see the shock on this father’s face as he carries his daughter to the police station? What can he possibly be thinking? The man against the wall with his hand on his head expresses anguish. While the closer man has a blank stare … this isn’t the first or the worst tragedy he has seen.
Questions comes to mind: Has this woman’s husband been martyred in the revolution? Are all of her family killed so she has no one to turn to for help?
Question comes to mind: Where is this girl’s coat? Is there a way for her to get one? How can we help?
Question comes to mind: Having lost one leg and injured her other, will there be a prosthetic device available for this young girl? Will she get the physical and mental rehabilitation necessary to recover? How will she adapt as she grows up?
Question Comes to mind: What are these boys talking about? Do they have parents or relatives who know where they are; or are they fending for themselves?
No Question needed.
A great advocate for Syria’s children, Rafif Jouejati is the Director of FREE-Syria (Foundation to Restore Equality and Education in Syria) and she is also one of the English spokespersons for the Local Coordination Committee of Syria. She released the following statement on August 12, 2013; however, it is being republished as it is more relevant now than ever before:
Syrians, now more than ever, must stand firm with the revolution’s goals of democracy, freedom, and dignity. Implicit in these goals are the desire for a civil, democratic state in which all Syrians – regardless of religion, sect, ethnicity, or gender – are equally protected under the law. This sentiment is expressed every day, throughout Syria. Despite Assad’s attempts to sow sectarianism in Syrian society, we see countless instances of Christians helping Sunni refugees, often cooking together and sharing Iftar dinners. We know that many Alawites are active participants in the revolution, often serving as informants and helping activists and the FSA by providing advance warning of regime tactics. And the Syrian Kurds set out in anti-regime demonstrations at every possible opportunity. Indeed, our revolution is a popular one – by Syrians of all backgrounds, to make sure that Syrians of all backgrounds can finally be free of repression, oppression, corruption, and discrimination.
Certainly, there are increasing reports of sectarian-based revenge killings. We have all heard about the reports that Al-Qaeda and other extremists are operating openly in Syria. Of course, any rogue group will take advantage of chaos. The chaos is of Assad’s making, and once he and his inner circle are gone, the Syrian people will make sure we restore equal rights for all. Just as we fight for freedom, we must fight to maintain our rich cultural and ethnic mosaic. Viva a diverse Syria.
If after reading this story and looking at these pictures you are compelled to take action there are several options that you can do:
1. Donate to one of the charities highlighted in this article
2. Identify another charity in your community that is working on a project for Syria or Syrian Refugees
3. Call or write your US Representatives or National Representatives to express your support for action for Syria. The “crimes against humanity” and “acts of genocide” that are happening in Syria must stop. The innocent people in Syria need help.