Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Syria’s Conflict Leads to Unabated Sufferings

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Syria’s Conflict Leads to Unabated Sufferings

The tragic incidents and heart-wrenching stories make frequent headlines on national and international newspapers and people are affected, all around the globe, by conflict and militancy in one way or another. Despite the claims made by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) after World War II, the sufferings and anguish of mankind have not been mitigated. There is a strong sense of fear and disappointment in the public air and the rights and freedoms of all individuals, mainly the women and children, are violated in the worst possible way.

Syria’s war is one of the indescribably life-threatening issues, which has been changed into a global war. The graph of civilian casualties and streams of blood spilt in Syria’s soil increase with each passing day. Six years of violence have killed close to half a million people, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, displaced half of the country’s prewar population, allowed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to seize huge swaths of territory, and created the worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory. The UN estimates the war has pushed close to five million people to flee the country, many of whom have risked their lives seeking sanctuary in Europe.

On Monday, in an address to the UN Human Rights Council, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein described the war in Syria as “the worst man-made disaster since World War II”. According to him, his office had been refused access to the country and that no international human rights observers had been admitted to places where “very probably tens of thousands of people are currently held. They are places of torture. Indeed, the entire conflict, this immense tidal wave of bloodshed and atrocity, began with torture,” he said, citing as an example the torture of a group of children by security officials over anti-government graffiti in the southern city of Daraa six years ago. “Today, in a sense, the entire country has become a torture chamber, a place of savage horror and absolute injustice,” he is quoted as saying.

Moreover, International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that about 525 people drowned in the current year while attempting to cross the treacherous sea compared with 471 in the same period a year ago. The rising deaths came as the number of people making the dangerous crossing from Libya more than doubled, with 13,439 arriving in Italy compared with 5,273 a year earlier.

In 2016, more than 5,000 people lost their lives at sea, an annual record, as they took on perilous journeys to escape war, poverty, and persecution – often all three. In 2015, some 3,771 refugees died while crossing the Mediterranean, up from 3,279 deaths the year before. The figures raised alarm on Tuesday among human rights organizations, which have repeatedly called for safer passages.

The rising deaths came as the number of people making the dangerous crossing from Libya more than doubled, with 13,439 arriving in Italy compared with 5,273 a year earlier.

One year ago, Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations diplomat tasked with finding a peaceful solution to the war in Syria, described the subject of political transition as “the mother of all issues” in negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition. Achieving political transition in the country has long been considered the most challenging part of ongoing diplomatic efforts to end the war that started in 2011 as a peaceful uprising demanding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, amid widespread uprisings in the Arab world. It quickly turned into a civil war between government forces and armed opposition groups made up of army defectors and ordinary civilians, after Assad’s government responded to the protests with force.

UN efforts have been hampered by the two sides’ lack of willingness to compromise on their position with regards to political transition. The Syrian government has systematically refused to entertain any prospect of a transition that entails the removal of Assad, while, for the opposition, this step remains the only option for peace.

Three weeks ago, de Mistura brought Syria’s warring sides to the negotiating table in the Swiss city, Geneva, for the third time over the course of the war, to discuss ways of ending the ongoing cycle of bloodshed. De Mistura promised another round of negotiations later this month to implement United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2254, which serves as a framework for a political transition in Syria. But as Syria marks six years of war, the likelihood of achieving a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the war, rather than a military one, is becoming increasingly difficult.

Syrian government claims it must battle “terrorism” before discussing any diplomatic solution. It has succeeded in adding “counter-terrorism” on the agenda for the planned talks later this month, which, some analysts describe as a distraction ploy to continue its military offensive against the armed opposition.

On the other hand, opposition has steadily lost significant territory and leverage in Syria, for it is fighting both the Syrian government and hard-line armed groups including the ISIL and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), which will minimize the chance for a peaceful solution.

In brief, the flagrant violation of human rights and liberty by warring factions is a great cause for concern. Humans’ fundamental rights, a highly debated issue, will have to be protected – it is not possible unless the peace talks and counter-insurgency come to fruition.

Hujjattullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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