A history of the nation of Syria would require a textbook-sized dissertation. I’m not surprised I know little of it, as the teaching of history has never been a strong point in the educational system of the United States. A recent survey found that almost a third of adults under the age of 30 don’t know exactly why they’re getting drunk and eating hot dogs on July 4th. I’m not sure what’s worse, that or the fact that more than half of those polled didn’t know the year of our declaration of independence, nor the nation from whom we declared it.
The United States may be a world superpower, but we are a Johnny-come-lately to the global scene. Modern civilization has been confirmed in Syria as long ago as 10,000 BCE, marking it as one of the most ancient in the world. What is today’s Syria was not established until 1944. I hate to gloss over what is a fascinating look at a microcosm of humanity’s growth from the dawn of civilization through today, but I want to come to the point of my outrage, and frankly, I want to get there quickly.
After establishing their independence in 1944, Syria faced numerous military coups for decades and essentially came under Emergency Law and remains that way today. Hafez al-Assad rose to power in 1970 ushering in Baath party rule, a socialist and nationalistic style of governing. Officially, Syria is a secular nation with Islam as a majority religion, however they’ve faced challenges from Muslims that consider their secular governing heretical. The Muslim Brotherhood attempted many insurgent uprisings against the government that ultimately resulted in a large-scale massacre of civilians in the city of Hama where the opposition was centered. Not surprisingly, opposition to the government since the Hama Massacre has been limited.
Assad’s son Bashar was elected President by a party vote following the senior Assad’s death in 2000. This change in at least the top man in the government created a stir among the citizenry and groups began meeting to discuss political and social issues. These groups began to organize a series of demands to release political prisoners, remove Emergency Law and establish new and organized political parties. The Syrian government moved to quell the debate in the manner they were most comfortable with and soon imprisoned the opposition and broke up the groups of intellectuals. The spirit of pro-democratic reform was not broken though.
On January 26, 2011, Hasen Ali Akleh poured gasoline over his body and set himself ablaze in a fiery one-man protest against the Syrian Government. Over the next few weeks, small protests began to emerge, organized via social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, which were also used in the Egyptian protests against their government. Slowly but surely the protests grew in size and in number until the government decided to take action–murderous action.
There is debate around when the first deaths took place among the protestors, but we do know that on March 21, 2011 police officers fired live ammunition into the crowd and witnesses attest to at least one death from it. In the coming days, the death tolls would mount as the government literally began a campaign of murdering the protesting citizenry, whose main demands were against government corruption and in support of freedom. Most recently, on July 22, 2011 massive protests took place with over a million people protesting in two Syrian cities. The military was dispatched to conduct arrests and break up protest groups. The Syrian army killed nine people. Human rights groups and the UN estimate that over 1,300 human beings have been killed by their own government.
The world community has been unacceptably silent in the face of this massacre of innocent civilians by a tyrannical dictatorship. Only recently has the United States, the de facto leader on all things related to freedom, even bothered to condemn the actions of the Assad government. What is required is nothing less than the arrest of Bashar al-Assad and anyone in the direct chain of command who authorized these military actions against the people of Syria on the charges of murder and crimes against humanity. How can we, as fellow citizens of the planet Earth, stand by and watch as self-appointed leaders murder anyone who dares dissent? It is simply outrageous to think that monstrous actions like this can go unchecked. One need only look back to the systematic murder of Jews by Hilter’s Germany, and the cries of “never again” by world leaders who allowed the attempted extermination of a people to go on, to see how short we’ve fallen in our efforts to measure up to that cry.
The United Nations must act and must act now to bring Syria’s leaders to justice. Charges must be brought against Assad for:
- Persecution on political, racial and religious grounds; a Crime against Humanity.
- Murder; a Crime against Humanity.
- Inhumane acts; a Crime against Humanity.
- Acts of Violence the Primary Purpose of which is to Spread Terror among the Civilian Population; a Crime against Humanity.
- Unlawful Attacks on Civilians; a Crime against Humanity.
World leaders must accept responsibility for the enforcement and the carrying out of these charges. NATO must become involved with a clear and unyielding message to Assad that he must face trial for his actions and force will be used if necessary to bring him to justice.
While this may be messy, uncomfortable, expensive and demanding, it must be done. There is simply no other choice among civilized human beings, sharing a small planet and attempting to live out our short lives in peace and happiness. We should be bound together in a common cause–the cause of improving the quality of life for all citizens of the globe. We cannot turn our back on our fellow man, woman and child and watch as they are blown apart by weapons we’ve created, left bloody and dying in the streets as if their lives, the only ones they’ll ever have, are completely meaningless to the rest of us.
Please help to raise awareness of what is happening. Tell anyone and everyone you can, write your Representatives in Congress, be outraged and make noise. It is the least we can do.