On Monday, thousands of people participated in Light The Dark (#lightthedark) rallies across Australia. The aim of these rallies was to show sympathy for the Syrian refugees, demonstrate solidarity and to pressure politicians to increase the quota of asylum seekers coming from Syria to Australia. This action started after pictures of dead bodies of young kids went viral who were found on the Mediterranean shores while they were trying to flee to Europe.
These pictures have arouse deep emotional response all over the world and has led to strong campaigns and huge debates during past weeks. This was also translated into a strong pressure on policy makers and led to an increase in the refugee intake of several countries, including Australia, Germany, France, the UK, etc.
This is good news for people who are fleeing the disastrous situations in Syria. However, these measures are not enough and are incapable of eradicating the underlying problems.
There are about four million Syrians seeking refuge outside their country. This number is so huge that cannot be easily distributed among well-off countries. In fact, no country does voluntarily accept this number of asylum seekers in because it arises a wide range of economical and welfare issues.
This is especially the case with the countries that share borders with Syria. As an example, there are, now, about one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon whose original population is only four millions. This in a couple of years can easily destroy the country’s economical and financial condition.
So, to solve the problem we should look at the reason why so many people have become homeless. That reason is the ugly civil war that has been going on for the past four years in the region. At first sight, especially from a westerner point of view, it is just a domestic or regional conflict with Islamic roots. But it is more than this.
It is a proxy war between the West and the East, between the US. and Russia at one level and Saudi Arabia and Iran at another. These players made the situation in Syria a humanitarian crisis. The US. wanted Bashar al Assad out to increase its influence in the region but Russia didn’t and so vetoed the UN security council resolutions.
On the other level, Saudi Arabia wanted to limit Iran’s influence in the region and thus wanted to oust Assad. For that, it began funding terrorist groups like Isis. Iran, on the other hand, didn’t want to lose Syria because it facilitated its root to Lebanon and Palestine. So it backed up president Assad with funds and military advisers, while it was itself under a severe regime of economical and financial sanctions.
Meanwhile, none of these regional and global players actually cared for the regular Syrian people who were caught in this power game. By refusing to compromise, they turned a simple uprising as a demand for democracy (the last episode of Arab Spring) into a full-fledged war which led to extreme atrocities and created one of the most blood-thirsty terrorist groups in the recent history: ISIS.
The solution to this crisis is not easy but can be done. It needs serious commitment from various sides of the conflict. The first step is a political one. The two sides of the war – the US. and Saudi Arabia (as the most eminent Arab state) on the one side and Russia and Iran on the other – should negotiate, compromise and come up with a solution that would serve them all. (In a perfect world, they shouldn’t even be thinking about their benefits in another country. But let’s be real for now).
When it’s done, then it won’t be so difficult to get rid of the region’s nasty disease which is ISIS. The group is young and is not yet deeply-rooted in the region. So it can be eradicated if the bigger powers decide on removing it. If decided on, it will be done by winning the support of regional, influential figures such as tribal and religious leaders.
So while we are rallying around the world, pressuring politicians to let more Syrian asylum seekers in, let’s use the platform and convince them to sit and negotiate the political future of Syria before more lives are lost.
- Photo courtesy: Mahnaz Yazdani (http://paletrang.com/design/6901)