I didn’t know if I can write about Ukraine, as a Syrian who survived barrel bombs attacks on my hometown Aleppo. I don’t know how I can write about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as a woman whose city would be destroyed, besieged and most of the people would be exiled as a result of the Russian intervention in Syria. I don’t know if I have something to say besides shouting in the face of the world “We told you so”.
I daydream often about how the world would look if we had a different political reaction to the Syrian revolution. Maybe not even in the first year of daily Mukhabarat shots at our protests. But maybe when the Regime tanks started to shell the cities and the airstrikes terrorized every living thing. I daydream specifically about what would’ve been the situation in my country, the region and the world if maybe in 2013, the world didn’t sign an agreement with Russia that gives them the green light to cross any of the world’s “red lines”, to protect the use of Chemical weapons.
How many Arab spring protests were tamed by our defeat? What would’ve been the levels of freedom of speech in Turkey? If we wouldn’t have been called a “refugee crisis”? If Russia wouldn’t have dared to declare publicly that they used us to test weapons, if they wouldn’t have been as secured in their veto power and their airstrikes. But all of that lead us to shout in the face of the world “WE TOLD YOU SO,”
I am baffled with my lack of shock. To all of the international circuit that seems like a huge Deja vu.
Officials telling the world how “the international community” should do something about Ukraine. As if they are not responsible for this jellied creature they call “international community”. Guterres almost in tears reading an edited version of a speech they most probably read about Syria, without any acknowledgment of the UN role in empowering Russia to the imperial power they are today. I laughed at Joe Biden’s prayers, acting like they are not one of the permanent members of the security council. An airstrike will take minutes to destroy a building, Ukrainian don’t have the luxury of waiting for the sanctions’ impact. But If I expected nothing different from the “international community” so did Putin.
But then I cried. I was following the photos of the Ukrainian suffering. One of the curses or the blessings of surviving a war, was that I don’t shy away from horror. I don’t turn the Tv off looking away at my self care routine. I look at the faces. Their faces, that deserved to live in safe homes, not to leave in a rush, and not to explain to their children what war is. Their faces covered with blood and wrapped by a white bandages, their faces with despair behind the bus windows forced to leave Kyiv. I pause at the bags that are packed only with their necessities. I read the Ukrainian in exile, lobbying, writing, following up the news and shouting at the world to save their people. I cried. Afterall, I wish we were wrong, that our prophecy regarding Russia didn’t prove to be true.
I searched for a nearest protest. To join the shout. I shared the protest invite with my fellow forcibly displaced Syrians, all of whom have added the Ukrainian flag to their Facebook profile. Can I shout at the world “We Told You So,” Can I shout at the world “This was preventable”. Further bloodshed is still preventable
But there is more that I can demand now and for every population left to face airstrikes. Demand for no fly zone for Ukrainians, do not wait till Putin bomb their hospitals. We, Syrians, know he will. Do not wait until Russian airstrikes target their schools when the world wakes up to images of maimed and dead children.
If you still can’t demand them a no fly zone, don’t shame their activists when they do. Don’t lecture them about a limited definition of anti war and anti interventions. Anti war was and will always be a political stand based on love for humanity and the right to life.
I, a survivor, a human right’s activist, a feminist, a Syrian and as a global citizin, I demand a no fly zone for Ukraine.
Also, let’s open at every political protest, discussion, academic circle and policy think tanks, the discussion over the urgent need to reshape the United Nation to step up to its mission to “maintain international peace and security”. Let’s keep pushing toward dropping the Veto power around massive Human Rights’ violations from Palestine, Syria to Ukraine.
For the Ukrainians who are fighting for their survival, we hope we have a more positive input to give. I wish we have something to share with you. Reach out to us, we learned how to create a large network of civil defense volunteers to rescue people from the rubles. We learned how to crowdfund to support our refugees that were left alone to freeze every winter. We learned how to run underground schools and hospitals. In our exile, we are still learning how to live with the world that didn’t stop the war, how to handle being forced out of a country we loved, and how to allow ourself to grieve. Oh how much I hope you don’t have to go through any of this.
When I was in Aleppo, I used to hate the message that people in solidarity, with all their good intentions, used to text us, “Please, stay safe” . I didn’t know how to in the face of constant airstrikes. Maybe instead I just want to say, “you deserve to be safe,”
“In the city of Binnish in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, graffiti artist Aziz Al-Asmar Aziz Asmar painted a mural on a home that was destroyed in a Russian air raid to stand with the Ukrainian people after Moscow’s attack on Thursday.” Photo by: Muhammad Najdat Haj Kadour