Much of the Western coverage of the Middle East/North Africa seems to be one-eyed: over the last four months we have moved from a breathless coverage of the Syrian crisis to Turkey’s Gezi park to the Iranian elections to the tragically handicapped Palestinian/Israeli peace talks to now the Egyptian crisis that has claimed over 800 lives already.
Some lament a “crisis fatigue.”
And in the midst of this attitude, which at worst smacks of “I am so tired of looking at your death and suffering”, is what unfolds away from the glare of cameras and reporters. And the latest reports are that in a place which has already seen the loss of over 100,000 lives and close to 2 million displaced refugees (marking it one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises) is what might be one of the nastiest chemical attacks in 30 years on the outskirts of Damascus.
Is it possible that Bashar al-Assad is using the distraction of Egypt’s crisis to inflict an even more horrific assault on “his” own people?
The Syrian artist Anwar Aleissa has made a harrowing image of a baby’s pacifier on a gas mask, to call attention to this massacre.
As it can be easily imagined, it is hard to get verifiable images of this assault.
Social media and Arabic news channels are filled with horrific images that will haunt you.
Read the story in Foreign Policy. The accounts of people having difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, and scattered bodies is horrific, and recalls Saddam Hussein’s 1983 chemical weapon attacks on Kurds in Halabja.
And if you have the stomach for it, watch this video.
Video courtesy YouTube
The British Foreign Secretary has released this statement:
I am deeply concerned by reports that hundreds of people, including children, have been killed in airstrikes and a chemical weapons attack on rebel-held areas near Damascus. These reports are uncorroborated and we are urgently seeking more information. But it is clear that if they are verified, it would mark a shocking escalation in the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
All of this raises an important but brutally simple question: what will it take for the world community to decide that we will have an international force that will intervene in humanitarian crises not because it supports or advances the geopolitical interests of the United States, but simply because human life is too precious to be shed like this? And why is that time not now?
Chemical attack or no chemical attack, 100,000 human beings have lost their lives.
And apart from some care for the refugees, the response of the world community has been to arm the two sides even more.
Time for arming is over.
We need peace now.