The Jakarta Post
It has been nearly three years since the Syrian conflict began. The country has now completely turned to ash. The human suffering has been countless. No words or actions can mitigate what the Syrian people have been through. Other facets of the war, nevertheless, can be determined, and the figures are not only stern, they are ominous.
It was recently announced by the United Nations' refugee agency that the number of Syrians in the neighboring Turkey and Lebanon had reached 1 million people, 50 percent of them children. The UN declared this a 'devastating milestone'. Altogether, the Syrian conflict has driven an unbelievable 9 million Syrians from their land. Nearly 3 million of them live the miserable existence of refugees in bordering neighbors. It is also reported that the total killed is over 150,000 individuals.
Yet, the ongoing conflict in Syria constitutes more than the agony of Syrian people. The country has now turned into a nexus of instability in the region. The never-ending fighting, the ongoing violence, is now spreading beyond the country's borders. It is forming wide gaps across the Middle East and, as American journalist Frida Ghitis puts it, 'planting political landmines in an area of heavy traffic'.
In neighboring Lebanon, the Syrian catastrophe is weakening the country day by day. The nation, which experienced a 15-year civil strife that caused 200,000 dead, is stumbling. The Lebanese Sunnis are storming at Shia Hezbollah's decision to take part in Syria. That, of course, has provoked the Sunni population to mobilize, too.
Bloody fighting has broken out in Lebanon. High-ranking government figures have been killed. Hundreds have died in shoot-outs. A significant number of car bombs have exploded in the past several months. Similarly, violence has lately intensified in Iraq, partly as a consequence of what is happening in Syria. Turkey is all but in conflict with Damascus and Israel has witnessed live fire around its borders.
Political fragmentation over Syria has led to a crunch in ties between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, each of which is providing arms for opposing sides of the anti-Syria President Bashar al-Assad forces. During the visit of US President Barack Obama to Riyadh last week, he publicly declared his intention to offer the Syrian opposition new weapons. While this is a dangerous idea, the White House and its friends should instead step up their humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable.
Syrians have enough artificial warnings, threats, and diplomatic efforts. What they need now is real, genuine and serious efforts to end all this agony. The conflict in Syria, now in its fourth year, is one we must not allow to drift from our attention. If we continue to ignore the calls of desperate Syrians, the rest of us eventually will have to pay the price.
Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat
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