Columns / Discourse / October 2, 2013

So much more than just chemical warfare

Egypt might be establishing constitutional peace and putting an end to the series of revolutions occurring throughout the country, but Syria has not gotten to the point of establishing that sense of peace, through constitutional means; Syria is still a country battling against an oppressive dictator.


The recent chemical attacks killed 1400 individuals including at least 426 children; however, the world needs to remember that this is not the only human rights violation carried out by the Assad regime.


“The United Nations Human Rights Council condemned indiscriminate and deliberate attacks against civilians and the deterioration of human rights in Syria, where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives during the 2.5 year-long civil war”. As the blood-shed continues in this state, the population has been subject to intense scrutiny in which protesters of the regime have been unjustly arrested and separated from their families and homes. The United Nations Independent International Commission on Syria has confirmed that the regime has carried out eight massacres over just the past year and a half.


Why was the world so shocked to discover the use of chemical weapons in Syria? Human rights violations were common to the civilians in Syria, but the rest of the world only became interested when the actions of the Syrian regime directly opposed international law.


The dilemma in Syria has now become how to stop the Assad regime — or the rebels in the country — from using chemical weapons, not how to end the massacres and brutal beatings of innocent people throughout the country. As conditions in Syria are as deplorable as ever, a country in civil war needs to be aided in moving forward, an issue that the international world seems to completely ignore.


Last Friday, a resolution in the United Nations was passed unanimously to turn Syria’s chemical weapons to other international actors in the region. However, what this resolution fails to do is create any enforcement if Syria were to continue the use of its chemical weapons or simply fail to comply with the resolution. Instead, if noncompliance were to occur, the United Nations would just create another resolution, making any form of international intervention in this unstable country highly unlikely.


The world has seemingly forgotten about the other 100,000 Syrian civilians that have lost their lives in this volatile region. Apparently preventing human rights violations and innocent blood shed is not in the best, national interest of other state actors to even acknowledge these wrongs, unless the crisis threatens the security of their state, or directly hinders an international law. (In this case, the 1925 Geneva Protocol and 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention comes into play.) So much for the Wilsonian idealism that began after the Second World War establishing the United States as the facilitator of democracy and all things happy and well around the world.


That is fine. Noting that something is wrong based on the rules and regulations of the land is standard practice; however, in the case of Syria, many people forget the other problems and hardships that the people in the country are experiencing. Sure, perhaps quelling the use of chemical weapons is one step closer to the goal of peace and stability in the region, but the world needs to realize that innocent people are losing their lives, and the UN resolution will not be fixing this problem unless other issues are addressed.


United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, is on track to this goal, noting that there are other obstacles that need to be addressed in Syria. He said, “As we mark this important step, we must never forget that the catalogue of horrors in Syria continues with bombs and tanks, grenades and guns,” Ban said. “A red light for one form of weapons does not mean a green light for others. This is not a license to kill with conventional weapons”.


Many international non-governmental organizations have already cried out against the human rights violations happening in Syria. It is now the international community’s turn to take its narrow focus away from only deterring the use of chemical weapon. The world must begin to condemn the brutal oppression, violence, massacres and ultimate loss — of sovereignty and basic human rights — the Syrian people suffered as a result of diplomatic practices.

Hiba Ahmed

Tags:  426 civil war constitutional peace international intervention international law regime resolution syria United Nations

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