Monday, July 23, 2012

The Syrian tank that kills indiscriminately

I write today as a person scarred forever by the relentless bombardments of a certain Syrian tank whose sole mission was to stay directed at our neighborhood and shoot one shell after another with the aim of destroying lives and properties, reaping traumas and terrorizing young hearts as well as old ones indiscriminately. The Syrian regime that ordered the consistent, deadly bombings on a daily basis on our neighborhoods in Lebanon in the 80’s and 90’s had clearly hoped no one remains alive to remember, let alone pass on our oral history to future generations.

That same regime has its tanks and other artillery raining terror on neighborhoods in Damascus, Idlib, Aleppo, Hama, and many other Syrian cities threatening innocent lives under the pretext of fighting “terrorists.” This time, it’s their own people they’re wreaking havoc on with the same deadly metal and fire. The same killing machines and the same bloody hands are at it again. It makes one wonder what could be worse: Syrian troops killing a portion of the Lebanese population or their own men, women and children?

Like many of my generation, I stand shocked and helpless in the face of the violence targeting civilians in Syria. Some of us condemn, others condone, and many more stand silent unable to express emotions because their own trauma at the hands of Syrian troops runs deep; nothing comes near the pain they endured then and continue to carry in their hearts. The agony they experienced at losing loved ones, friends and neighbors. The sounds of death whizzing above their heads as they counted shell bombs, mortar rounds, bullets and other weaponry, waiting for their turn to come. 

Every time I hear a Syrian city or village is being ravaged or pounded by artillery, I wonder if it’s the same detail that used to rain on us, day and night, heartlessly laden with hate and terror. I also wonder how many will survive the assaults and at what price. More than nineteen thousand Syrians have been killed since the beginning of the popular uprising. It’s a number too painful to bear, but for those of us who have lived the slaughter first hand in Lebanon, we know this number can grow very fast because the killing machine doesn’t feel pity or shame. The Lebanon experience has taught us that the world conscience is a myth. The world community acts according to national interests regardless of how many people are killed, hurt, harassed or terrorized.

Syrian troops and their tanks and weapons have been gone from Lebanon since 2005 but their trauma remains. While parts of Lebanon were under attack by the Syrian war machine, freedom was crushed under the Syrian boot of occupation and harassment. Politicians then were puppets in the hands of the Syrian regime and outspoken critics of Syria were silenced through assassination or jail and people suffered. It’s hard to forget how alone Lebanon stood in the face of the melting metal that took away lives and livelihoods. Where were the Arab nations or western nations at the time? Where was the outrage at the incessant bombing and the brazen intimidations? Lebanon became once too dangerous for foreign nationals, diplomats and correspondents to remain and carry out their duties; so they left. A general feeling of desperation reigned among many at that time. 

By not allowing independent observers and reporters into Syria, the Assad regime is creating that same feeling of isolation and desperation among millions of Syrians. 

It is both sad and ironic to see Syrians flee to Lebanon in the tens of thousands to avoid the deadly conflict, but how they are received is both a test and a lesson for many Lebanese. It is a test in forgiving the bitter past and healing its wounds, and a lesson in facing history and perhaps for the first time having the opportunity to see ordinary Syrian citizens separately from the Syrian Baathist dictatorship that represented them and for decades committed atrocities in Lebanon in their name. 


Keep the conversation going...

Anonymous Ronnie said...

Yours is an astonishingly one-dimensional & misleading depiction of Syria's very complicated, multi-faceted involvement in Lebanon, starting from the 1980s. Sure, there's no denying that Syria's intervention in Lebanon has had its ugly, unsavoury aspects, but your patently prejudiced account here is neither fair nor representative of the many complex realities relating to the Syria-Lebanon relationship for the past 30 years.

You passionately excoriate Syria's actions, not altogether truthfully either----but bizarrely enough, exempt Israel altogether. Was Israel a benevolent outsider in Lebanon? Israel gave you "security"? It's a glaring omission that detracts from your otherwise strident denunciation of Syria's "atrocities".

Regarding the current, violent upheaval in Syria, you conveniently advance the prevailing canard that the Bashar al-Assad government is solely culpable for all the violence and carnage of civilians, for the past 16 months. So, you're among those who will vehemently vilify Assad, his government, and pro-government Syrians, and blame them carte blanche for the all the violence in that country? You will glibly deny that the unrest has, at least, been partially instigated and sustained by Syria's hostile neighbours, and the 'West'? You blatantly absolve the so-called "rebels" of any guilt for the daily acts of subversion, violence and mayhem, across Syria. The actions of these armed insurgents isn't causing civilian deaths? Is that the narrative you'd love to advance?

I reckon you and I can, at least, agree that the details and the truth surrounding the events in Syria are desperately murky, and make our understanding of this crisis, clearly inadequate. I might appear to take sides myself. But I'm not a fan of Bashar Assad, nor do I oppose the Syrian people's aspirations for greater freedoms etc...However, I do stridently oppose foreign intervention & subversion in Syria, the deliberate incitement of a crisis in pursuit of a forcible 'regime change'. And the mendacious, vile campaign of coercion and threats to topple a government and supplant it with a 'regime' of choice, by outsiders. I've lived in Syria, and love the country. I don't have to love the Syrian government to, nevertheless, denounce the current campaign to topple it, and destabilise and destroy Syria. It must be resisted, at all costs.

July 24, 2012 at 6:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over 19,000 people dead by the Assad regime. It is horrific that our modern world allows this. And how short a time ago it was that Vogue magazine was fawning over Assad's wife. Now Assad has killed almost 20K people. The genocide underway in Syria is heart breaking.

President Obama needs to be more forceful and put an end to the murder of the innocent in Syria. Assad is inhumane and cares only about himself. He is stealing the future from too many Syrians and the world has been far too silent as he murders indiscriminately.

Thank you for writing about what it was like for you to experience the wrath of Syria. It is hard to understand today's situation there. However, you remind the world that murder is too much of a constant in the Middle East.

Prayers to the people of Syria. Prayers to the children who are suffering and afraid. Prayers to all those who have or will flee Syria for a new life elsewhere.

July 25, 2012 at 6:06 PM  

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