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.