Syria is hemmorrhaging

As the Syria crisis reaches yet another crescendo, the UNHCR comes out with a really quite astonishing tweet:

Whether born of calculation or desperate spontaneity, the composition of the thing effectively conveys a seasoned humanitarian agency that is on its knees in the face of unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe. It will be a hard act to follow. Lets hope it never needs to be.

For a glimpse of the pressure cooker life in a camp in Hatay province, Turkey, see Robin Yassin Kassab’s latest in Foreign Policy. The manner in which camp life produces hyper-compressed vignettes of the windy discourses we are all so familiar with now is striking – and worth quoting at length:

Part of the problem is Western fear of the opposition’s greatly exaggerated Islamist-extremist element. The irony is that the longer the tragedy lasts, the greater the empowerment of once minor and irrelevant jihadi forces.

Atmeh village, on a hill behind the camp, has been turned into a barracks for the foreign Islamist fighters of Hizb ut-Tahrir. These men are not, apparently, fighting the regime, but waiting for “the next stage” — in other words, the coming struggle between moderates and Islamist extremists after the fall of the regime. Syrians, including democratic Islamists, refer to them derisively as “the spicy crew” and shrug off the risk they represent. One assured me it would take “two minutes” to expel them once the regime falls.

But sectarian hatreds — stoked by the regime’s propaganda, its Alawite death squads, and assaults on Sunni heritage — are certainly rising. I met a man whose wife and 11 children were killed in an airstrike and who plans to marry again and produce 11 more children, “just so I can teach them to kill Alawites.” There’s a teenager who boasted, “Afterwards, we won’t leave a single Alawite alive.”

This deliberate attack on the social fabric is perhaps the regime’s greatest crime. When tyrants light the fuse of sectarian war, they are unleashing passions that extend beyond politics. They are killing people who have not yet been born.

Yassin-Kassab’s account is included in a recent list of articles on Syria recommended by Syrian activists. See also the Guardian here for a description of the effect of the conflict in neighbouring Syria – as well as dubious sectarian populism by the Turkish government – on the  mixed but traditionally tolerant population of Hatay province.

Meanwhile, for a refreshingly clear explanation of the dynamics behind the latest, mysterious wave of Syrian Kurd refugees that broke over Iraq two weeks ago (and which for UNHCR must have been the final straw), see Hugh Eakin in the NYRB blog.

And finally, a new Oxfam report, written together with the ABAAD-Resource Center for Gender Equality, shows that women refugees are both disproportionately represented in and impacted by displacement, going hungry to feed their families and facing heightened domestic violence.

6 responses to “Syria is hemmorrhaging

  1. On the lighter side, Jon Stewart focused on Syria on his return to the Daily Show last night (having spent much of the summer in the Middle East). Aside from skewering the idea that chemical weapon use should be a meaningful red line after 100,000 deaths from conventional weapons (“They should kill them organically!”) Stewart interviews Andrew Harper, the UNHCR Chief in Jordan, and gives him about twice as much time as I can imagine any network news channel would do (starting at 14:50):

  2. And here (will this post never end?) is the critique of Jon Stewart’s critique by Max Fisher of the Washington Post who points out that its really all about us (as in U.S.):

  3. Hand it to Sweden. Only country in Europe with the decency to give Syrian refugees open-ended residence and allow family unification.

  4. Late breaking update. An email I sent to some colleagues.

    The bad news first:

    1. A broad swathe of rebel groups condemn the National Council and embrace Sharia as “the sole source of legislation”

    2. Islamist militant groups increasingly perceived as having the upper hand (or at least the better funding)

    Now some good news:

    1. The Syrian Civil Code will not go down easy (and neither the Libyan, hopefully) – See also a guest post by the other on my blog to be published tomorrow

    2. There are still voices out there questioning whether we are all playing right into Assad’s strategy by fixating so much on the Islamist rebels in Syria – and bringing evidence that they need not be seen as inevitably dominating the entire opposition movement:

  5. Pingback: Land and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: The durability of Middle Eastern Civil Codes and durable solutions to displacement | TerraNullius

  6. Pingback: TN turns four! | TerraNullius

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