The horrific scenes unfolding in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta look like an exact replica of the Syrian government offensive of Aleppo in 2016. At the time the world looked on in horror as shocking images of bloodied children being pulled out of the rubble garnered international headlines. All the shouting and outcry that ensued did little to stop the carnage in which the UN has said war crimes were likely to have been committed.
Fast forward to two years later and it seems like the news is playing reruns of the same footage. Global outrage repeats. Global inaction repeats. It seems that all the world can offer up are condemnations and do little to stop the bloodshed.
Nearly two weeks after the UN Security Council passed a resolution mandating a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, government forces are relentlessly pursuing one of the bloodiest and most brutal offensives of the war. They are attempting to overrun the rebel-held area of Eastern Ghouta, outside Damascus, where nearly 400,000 people have been besieged since 2013. Over 1,000 people have been killed so far but it seems this time the images of mangled children or children on respirators after having suffered chemical attacks have moved us less. Perhaps this is because the world does not value the lives of these poor Syrians or perhaps it’s just a matter of them having gotten used to it.
Like Rwanda and Bosnia, one can hope that despite the tragedies that world failed to prevent, the perpetrators of the these crimes will be held accountable at some point in time. Since 2011, a UN commission has been meticulously gathering evidence of war crimes in Syria for presentation at the UN Human Rights Council, and eventually to international and national courts. Its latest report, covering the period from last July until January, offers horrifying details about the regime’s depredations in Eastern Ghouta. The siege, the report says, has been “characterised by pervasive war crimes, including the use of prohibited weapons, attacks against civilian and protected objects, starvation leading to acute malnutrition, and the routine denial of medical evacuations.”
The evidence is abundant and will come out sooner or later and forever silence the naysayers. But the world should not wait too long to start reflecting because it won’t be too long until history is recorded and the world’s shameless inaction will be enshrined forever to the analogues of history.