The west’s failure to effectively intervene in Syria has led to some rebel groups allying themselves with known terrorist organisations. Bashar Al-Assad, the blood-soaked dictator whose hubris lies at the centre of this terrible civil war, has ordered the military to actively target civilian areas, with horrendous humanitarian consequences.
Rebel factions such as the Al-Nusra Front have been categorised by the international community as terrorist organisations after its leader, Abu Golani, repeatedly reiterated his loyalty to Al-Qaeda. Many of the other rebels, including the Free Syrian Army, have condemned Al-Nusra for its use of suicide bombs, yet the desperation of the situation forces them to fight alongside each other against the one they call the “only true terrorist in Syria”: Al-Assad.
The current international policy on Syria is that to arm the rebels would run the risk of those weapons falling into the hands of genuine terrorists.
With such a policy in place, Free Syrians rightly feel abandoned by the UN, an organisation that is in place to help bring such atrocities to an end. We must not let fear of terrorism deter us from effectively aiding the majority of rebels in Syria.
To call Al-Assad a terrorist is not just a rhetorical moniker, it is a fact. His persistent attempts to grind down his citizens and return them to subservience have included targeting schools, children’s hospitals, electricity substations and bread and milk production. These are hardly military targets.
If we cannot bring ourselves to help millions of suffering people out of fear of terrorism, then we are being incredibly short-sighted. Not arming the rebels is guaranteed to prolong this conflict, both in the short term and the long. Without professional equipment and training, the rebels suffer heavy casualties in the face of Assad’s heavily armed and bullishly loyal troops. It will take many more deaths for the rebel military campaign to gain ground.
To make matters worse, peace is far from certain even if Assad is toppled, as it is likely that another war will have to be fought between the FSA and the more radically Islamic rebels to prevent a religiously conservative government from being installed.
In Al-Nusra-controlled territories, attempts to implement a religious court system and restrictions on alcohol and cigarettes have been met with general strikes and protests. The general consensus in Syria is moderate, and the FSA may have to forcibly quash Al-Nusra after this war to ensure a long-term peaceful legacy.
For forty years, the Syrian people have lived in a repressive climate of fear, where any negativity levelled at the Al-Assad dynasty would result in imprisonment and death.
We need to be more assured in our support of the Syrian people, or the day will come when they turn to the international community and shame us for doing nothing.
Women and children are dying – we have no excuses for not helping to stem the flow of blood. We cannot sit by and allow this to happen, as we have so many times. Look to the horror stories coming from newly-liberated Libya and Egypt, and just imagine the acts being committed by Al-Assad’s forces as they become increasingly desperate to crush the rebels.
We know Al-Assad has chemical weapons, we know how horrific the situation is at the moment and we know how much worse it can become. In the words of Primo Levi, “If not now, when?”