With civil conflict raging in Syria, and the Syrian government making it almost impossible for most international journalists to enter the country and see things for themselves, I've had to rely on other sources for information.
Local activist organizations inside Syria send a dozen or more emails every day with running tallies of the dead, news of recent flare-ups in every corner of the country, and several video recordings of daily events. Outside activists and organizations also send me material every day.
As well, I've been in telephone and email contact with people in Syria whom I've met on previous visits to Syria.
One of those people is Sami Moubayed, editor of Forward magazine, a Damascus-based monthly publication with surprising freedom to express opinions. In columns published in the Asia Times and The Huffington Post, Mr. Moubayed has expressed great criticism of Syria's Baath Party and the current regime. He also drew early attention to the Russian initiative for resolving the current conflict.
When two suicide car bombings hit Aleppo on Friday, ending the peace that city had enjoyed until then, I asked Mr. Moubayed what he thought the effects of the bombings would be. His email response came only today [Feb. 13]after my story already had appeared. But his comments are worth seeing.
Here is what he wrote:
Friday's bombing attacks in Aleppo only complicate matters for Syria. I don't think it is important anymore to know who did them, with the government blaming it on Salafi extremists and the opposition blaming it on the government. What is important is that these attacks took place, shaking Aleppo and Damascus. We saw them happen and were completely incapable of preventing them.
While Russia and the United States are bickering over a UN resolution, people are dying in Syria, very senselessly.
The last thing the people of Syria wanted were terrorist attacks in Syria's main cities – as if the crippling economy, the high inflation, the massive lay-off, the sanctions, and the horrific death toll are not enough. The attacks further demoralize people and lead them into despair.
That despair can take many forms. Some are simply packing up and leaving – and Syria has already lost some of its brightest talent, its biggest businessmen, and its ambitious young people. Others are resorting to the mosques for salvation, which is very dangerous because it takes the country down the path of extremism and sectarianism. Others are resorting to the cyber world for salvation, getting further indoctrinated into violence, either by the opposition or the regime.
Only a deal, signed off by the world powers, is capable of solving the crisis in Syria.
At the recent Munich Security Conference attended by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the Russians were bargaining with the Americans over Syria. The higher the price – whether it's ending U.S. criticism of Vladimir Putin's election campaign or Russia accepting the U.S. missile defense shield in Europe – the longer the delay in resolving the Syrian conflict, and the more deaths that brings for the people of Syria.
The attacks are ample proof that the country is in bad shape, and that the international community and Syrian officialdom need to live up to their responsibilities to end the violence in Syria.
That is the bottom line of the argument, and that is the crux of the problem. How many Syrians need to die for Syrian officialdom – and the international community – to get its act together and take responsibility for what is happening?
- Sami Moubayed is editor of Forward magazine