Why has everyone forgotten about Syria is the question I have been trying to answer since Israel began its new offensive on occupied Gaza strip. The sole reply to the aforementioned issue is:”Syria is just too complicated and wrong. Palestine is the real struggle and Israel is our known foe in the region.” I beg to differ those hypocritical activists around the world who have been demonstrating Israel’s offensive on Gaza but know nothing about what has been happening in Syria or know about it but actually proudly side by tyrant Assad.
To begin with, allow me to remind you of our Syrian revolution which began on 15th of March, 2011 by our very own children in Daraa province whose freedom slogans painted on walls made them victims of severe torture in the regime’s dungeons. Protests sparked across Syria in solidarity with Daraa, who was brutally attacked by the regime’s forces a few weeks after the children’s incident. Regime primarily began arresting civilians, including children, and opening gunfire towards civilians in peaceful protests. In May, 2011, Hamzeh Al Khateeb, a 13 year old boy, was tortured to death, had his genitalia cut off, shot by 4 bullets across his body, and bruised all over due to the severe torture he underwent after he was captured by regime’s forces in a protest. Regime became more savage, using anti-air-crafts and mortars to target civilian houses in Homs and Daraa, amongst other areas. Regime’s forces then imposed the siege on several areas after invading them and slaughtering and raping civilians, like what happened in Karm Al Zaytoun in Homs in Feb/Mar of 2012, where women were raped and children slaughtered, atrocities that forced civilians from surrounding districts to take refuge in nearby towns/districts. Progress of the regime’s savagery did not stop as more civilians began dying under torture, more civilians displaced and bombed by mortars, and helicopters and MEGS were then introduced. Hundreds of districts and cities/towns/villages were flattened to ground level, such as 60% of Homs city and up to 70% of Aleppo city have been completely destroyed. In August, 2013, the regime’s forces killed 1500 civilians in one day after targeting Eastern Al Ghouta in Damascus suburbs using chemical weapons. TNT barrels are still being dropped by the regime up until now, civilians are still being killed under torture in an average of more than 7 civilians released dead from regime’s dungeons every single day. On average, more than 60 civilians are killed daily by the regime’s forces in Syria, amongst them at least 20 children and women.
I do acknowledge the complexity of our armed resistance and both Al Qaeda and Assad regime affiliated groups, such as ISIS (Islamic state of Iraq and Sham), who have been introduced into Syria, succumbing the soul of the revolution out of the liberated cities and civilians, banning protests and extrajudicially executing activists who stand up against their atrocities along with Assad’s, but this truism does not cancel out the countless armed resistance groups across Syria fighting both the regime and ISIS for the sake of a self-determined Syria and for the protection of civilians’ rights and lives.
After nearly four years since the beginning of the uprising, more than 6 million civilians have been forced to flee Syria to nearby countries (according to the UN statistics), millions others are internally displaced, millions are in famine, millions of children have been out of school – most of which have been destroyed by regime shelling- for more than three years, more than 170 thousand civilians have been martyred, amongst them at least 30 thousand women and children, thousands others have been killed under torture, more than 6,000 women have been raped by the regime’s forces in dungeons and during house raids, and the list of suffering and consequences of atrocities goes on and on.
It is a sensitive subject and many would deem us Syrians trying to magnetize the media and world attention from Gaza and stick it to our cause solely, but this is not the case. In this rant, I am arguing the hypocrisy and sham humanity many activists/governments cite they stand up for. The double-standards have been inconceivable and heart-wrenching. Palestine and Al Qassam have been considered the saviors of the Arab and Muslim world and all other sufferings in the region are sissy compared to Gaza. Al Marzouqi, Tunisia’s new president, called for an urgent Arab meeting to “discuss solutions to the new offensive in Gaza”. Algeria had countless protests held by hundreds of civilians against Israel. Chicago and London had thousands of protesters marching in rallies, in many times raising Assad’s photos alongside with Palestine’s flag. Many facebook pages began sharing photos of martyred children and destroyed houses, completely unknowing that they actually are from some area inside Syria. Now how can we call this activism? How can we call the support of an injustice against a populace – Syria’s people – a victory and a mean to aim for justice for Palestine? Since when was supporting an injustice in a country bordering Palestine a way to triumph for Palestine’s plight?
Palestinian Al Yarmouk camp in Damascus city has been under siege for more than 5 consecutive months and up to 150 civilians, including children and elderly, have died due to siege and famine. In past 2 years, at least 2 mass murders took place in Al Yarmouk camp due to heavy shelling targeting crowded souks during rush hours in a deliberate action to kill and injure as much civilians as possible. Odai Tayyem, a Palestinian Syrian activist, amongst many others, is still of unknown whereabouts for 11 months in the regime’s dungeons for his activism and support of the Syrian revolution. Tens of Palestinians have died under torture in the same dungeons that hold hundreds of Syrian civilians being brutally and grossly tortured and killed by regime’s forces daily. Hundreds of Palestinians who fled Syria and the bombardment of Assad forces have returned to Gaza strip and are now under the bombardment of Israeli forces, but they unfortunately went unnoticed because it is Assad who forced them to flee, not Israel.
Freedom can never become separable: Freedom for Palestine against Israel is tantamount to freedom of Syria from Assad tantamount to the struggle of any populace against oppression and authoritarianism despite all differences. Countless protests have been held inside Syria, standing side by side with Gaza exactly the way Gaza stood with us in our plight, sending donations to Syria and organizing supportive protests to our cause. Our struggle is one- even if activists such as George Galloway who until now refuses to acknowledge Syria’s revolution or governments like Algeria’s and Tunisia’s refute our unity. Everyone must understand what they represent, what freedom they chant and protest for, what injustice, oppression, occupation, authoritarianism, and armed resistance is, and what true morale and ideals of standing up for the oppressed are, then come down to the streets and cry as much as they please.
I am just infuriated by people’s ignorance and double-standards. It is worth mentioning that the Assad regime has taken advantage of what has been happening in Gaza, reporting it on state news and citing how supportive they have been to Hamas and armed resistance in Gaza fighting “Zionism and occupation”.
Since the beginning of the brutal Israeli offensive against occupied Gaza strip, 1,050 civilians have been martyred and up to 6,000 civilians have been wounded.
Breaking these two struggles to comprehensible pieces is never easy as merely believing that such atrocities are allowed to happen in 21st century painfully pound my mind, but remember that they both are as legitimate and as rightful as they have always been.
May all martyrs rest in peace.
الرّحمة لكلّ الشّهداء