The suffering of the Syrian people from displacement and starvation is beyond imagination. More than five million Syrians, inside the country and abroad, are now displaced from their homes, not to mention all the tragedies that they are enduring.
Even if we can find many excuses for our political and military inability to stop this tragedy, overthrow the regime and ensure international protection for Syrians, we will not be able to find an acceptable explanation for why we are not contributing clothes, blankets, medicines and food. We can only say that there are no trustworthy organizations for the dissemination of such aid.
It is not difficult for anyone to offer any kind of help for those Syrians who have been displaced and have been left to wander the country or seek refuge in camps abroad. I am sure that tens of millions of people in our country, and around the world, really want to help Syrians caught in the crisis. However, relief work seems to be vulnerable to the activities of extremist groups and their hateful messages. Our governments shall not stop these groups that are collecting funds for bad purposes and it seems that there are no alternatives.
Blaming Arab governments and urging them to provide military or political support to the Syrian people might be an unreasonable attitude, because the conditions are much more complex and dangerous than what we see on television. Nevertheless, this does not justify preventing suspicious relief organizations from carrying out their work whilst simultaneously failing to support real, fair, humanitarian organizations in their bid to help the situation. It will not be difficult for organizations and associations to raise funds for winter blankets, medicines and food.
Arab governments are responsible for this because they decided to hamper the activities of all unauthorized organizations, but at the same time there are no real active organizations that are licensed for distant humanitarian relief work.
In the Syrian tragedy, the most important task is to support the Syrian peopleAbdulrahman al-Rashed
In light of the disaster of millions of displaced Syrians, individual humanitarian work is poor; there are some small organizations that are working to relieve the distressed Syrians, and they deserve our appreciation, but the disaster is much greater than the provided aid.
Assad’s regime has intentionally targeted civilians by bombing neighborhoods and cities; it has deliberately displaced masses of civilians either through terrorization or starvation. So, more than one quarter of the population ran away and became homeless, except those who managed to get a tent in the al-Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan or modest houses that international organizations are renting from citizens in Lebanon. The majority of the displaced are still without a shelter.
In the Syrian tragedy, the most important task is not to fight against the regime by supporting fighters on multiple fronts, rather, it is to support the Syrian people, especially since the government decided to close bakeries and deprive the people of bread and houses. We cannot say that it is an evil regime while we do nothing to help the people, because then we will become worse and more cruel than Assad’s regime itself.
The few Arab governments that stood with the Syrian people since the beginning of the revolution should pave the way for humanitarian and relief work. They should strive to make it transparent so we can all monitor the work, in order to protect the donors and the needy from any misuse of aid.
This is the least that we can offer because we are not going to fight for them, and we will not sacrifice our children in support of their children. Therefore we should buy blankets, medicines and flour for the millions who are enduring miserable distress.
This article was first published in al-Sharq al-Awsat on Oct. 17, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
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