“They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. In modern war, you will die like a dog for no good reason.”
– Ernest Hemingway.
I want you all to imagine, if you can, the pain of starvation. The acute, torturous pain of slowly dying of hunger. The military has been shelling your location incessantly for the past few months, and every single day you have lived in abject terror. The cold fact, that at any moment, the next shell is going to land a bit too close to you, it eats away inside of you. At this point, you don’t fear death anymore. You can’t, not after you saw your mother being pierced by multiple pieces of shrapnel. For four hours, you and your younger brother had to listen to your mother cry pathetically as she bled out, in front of you. You tried to help, of course. But what can you do? Your untrained attempts only prolonged her suffering. No, you don’t fear death. Right this moment, you fear dying in agony. You know you will die. Anybody and everybody you grew up with is probably already dead. You just hope it’ll be quick
This is the reality of many people who still survive in the firebombed hell that is Eastern Ghouta. The assault on the besieged, rebel held region of Eastern Ghouta started on 18th of February, with a massive bombing campaign, during which military forces loyal to the regime of Bashar-al-Assad specifically targeted densely populated cities. The few doctors and rescue workers who still survive in Eastern Ghouta are struggling to cope with what they described as “insane” violence, in which over 90 people died overnight, according to war monitors. In the first four days of the attacks alone, there have been over 350 deaths, and many more wounded. The suffering is compounded by the fact that many of the bombing runs were specifically targeted against hospitals and shelters. The most horrific reports came in at the beginning of March, of two cities, namely Saqba and Hamoryah being subjected to incendiary and chemical bombing runs. Doctors reported symptoms consistent with exposure to organophosphorous or chlorine. Preliminary reports stated 29 people had the aforementioned symptoms, 15 of them being children, some around of the ages of 3 to 4 months old.
But why is this happening, you might ask. Why is Bashar-al-Assad’s regime targeting this seemingly innocuous region in South western Syria? Eastern Ghouta happens to be the last remaining rebel-held enclave bordering the Syrian capital of Damascus. Since 2013, forces loyal to the regime have maintained a suffocating siege over the region, and the big push to take control started in the second month of 2018.
Yes, you read that right. People have been surviving in that hell hole for almost five years, and yet, no one gave a damn. And I’m not just talking about you, or me. Till the bombing runs, no on in the UN cared. And as it so stands, no real conclusion has been reached in the vaunted halls of the United Nations Council. The Civil war in Syria still rages, and no military aid has been sent in to intervene. A cease fire was declared, apparently to get the wounded out of the city, but that too turned out to be farcical, seeing as the artillery shelling continued unabated. The UN Secretary General did have words for the situation however, choosing to describe it as, “Hell on Earth”. Strong words, and yet they remain unassisted by strong actions.
But the dead are just that: dead. They’re gone, and they can’t be helped. So how bad is the situation for the survivors? Well, an estimated 400,000 civilians, already starved from the years of besiegement, still remain trapped in the region, amid merciless air strikes. Aid workers say helicopters have been dropping barrel bombs : Comparatively rudimentary incendiary devices, they are as their name suggests; barrels packed with the and shrapnel, designed primarily to cause damage to soft targets (namely infantry, or in this case, civilians). One aid worker described the situation as “disastrous”, with children as young as six months, going hungry due to the lack of formula.
In the latest news, Assad presses the offensive into Eastern Ghouta, as the death toll crosses 1100. France threatens military response, and President Trump bashed Russia, Syria and Iran, calling the entire situation a “Humanitarian Disgrace”. Strong words Mr President, and yet, it was America who chose to arm the rebels. Thereby helping to prolong the conflict. Perhaps if you were to pick a side, take a stronger stance against Assad’s regime. Instead of simply setting up the scenario for more bodies to be thrown into the meat grinder?
All the while, Assad’s propaganda media calls the whole situation a “Liberation of Eastern Ghouta, from the clutches of terrorist organizations”. The irony, as always, leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Ernest Hemingway, interestingly enough, also said “The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for”. At this point, I only believe the second part of that statement.