MESOP EDITORIAL : Assad’s brutality or the West’s negligence: What’s worse?

By Mufid Abdulla: Kurdistan Tribune – 8.1.2013 – In his first public appearance in six months, Bashar Assad, the dictatorial son of a dictator of Syria, greeted his followers in Damascus in Saddamist style. The loyal audience clapped his speech from beginning to end. Robert Fisk, of the ‘Independent’ said it was as if Assad was addressing his soldiers. His main message was that he has no intention to quit soon.

Assad’s brutal regime is clinging on in the face of the peoples’ uprising that started in February 2011. Since then, according to UN observers, 60,000 have died. The mayhem caused by the butcher of Damascus is obvious to the whole world but, to me, the negligence of the Western powers is even more culpable.

The bloodbath in Syria reminds me of the events of March 1991 when a million Kurds fled the cities and villages of the south of Kurdistan, fearing that Saddam would once again use chemical weapons, as he had done in Halabja in 1988.The US State Department flew to the area to observe the situation for President Bush senior and James Baker reported back on the phone about the humanitarian disaster on the hills and mountains of Kurdistan. Baker argued that US had to help. In the end, however, humanitarian help came in the form of food thrown from planes in very large bags which killed more Kurds than the hunger and the cold.

The situation in Syria has two key features:

1.        Right now there needs to be Western intervention in Syria, using air power as happened for the Libyan people in February 2012, which helped them to remove their dictator. Isn’t it odd and cruel that China, Russia and others have blocked UN resolutions to help the Syrian people?

2.        The innocent people of Syria are being pictured in the Western media like powerless, slaughtered sheep. But how can the Western world stand aside and call itself a generous society? How can the Syrian people see the Western world as tolerant and a good model, rather than as heartless and befitting of imperial stereotypes with a colonial mind-set and no respect for the developing world?

The Western world must act quickly and the UK can play a leading role in this, as it did in 1991 under the leadership of John Major in securing a safe haven for the Kurds. The world can be a better place by removing the Assad family from power.