Sunday, 14 August 2011

Killings in Syria - What can you do?

It is difficult to imagine how anyone can see the way in which the Syrian authorities are reacting to the street protests there without feeling compassion for the protestors and anger that that government in a Muslim country can treat its Muslim population in such a manner.

The concern is magnified by the fact that past experience (such as the massacre of thousands in Hama in 1982(see here)) suggests that the government will, in the end, have no qualm about killing whole swathes of its population to achieve its ends..

The account of the Syrian author Samar Yazbek (see here), who was detained by the Syrian authorities earlier this year, provides a graphic description of the torture that detainees are subjected to:
"The bodies were nearly naked. There was a dim light seeping in from somewhere, feeble rays for enough vision to discern that they were youths of no more than 20 years old. Their fresh young bodies were clear beneath the blood. They were suspended from their hands in steel cuffs, and their toes barely touched the floor. Blood streamed down their bodies, fresh blood, dried blood, deep bruises visible like the blows of a random blade. Their faces looked down; they were unconscious, and they swayed to and fro like slaughtered animals"

She goes on to describe the sounds of torture that she heard:

"Abruptly they took me out of the cell and opened another, and as they did so, the sounds of screaming and torture came from somewhere. Never had I heard such sounds of pain. They did not stop until we left the passage."

So what can on ordinary person do to stop the killings and torture?

It’s a difficult one to answer, but one thing that has been mentioned by a virtually all guests on the Building for the Future Radio show, is that is does not take emails or letters from as many people as you might think to provoke a change. With this in mind, BFTF has tried to contact the organisations who may be able to help stop the killings, starting with the OIC (Organisation of the Islamic Conference)

The OIC (www.oic-oci.org)website contains a number of statements calling on the Syrian authorities to stop the killing of protestors, although it stops short of condemning the authorities outright.

"I welcome the statements that the OIC has made against the killing and torture of protestors in Syria. However, I strongly feel that the OIC should unequivocally condemn the killings and take practical steps to stop the killings and indiscriminate torture of civilians that is happening there. A Muslim country should be a place of safety for Muslims, not a place where arbitrary death and torture can happen at any time. I am concerned that the OIC will not do anything substantive until a massacre like that in Hama in 1982 occurs, or that the OIC is waiting for the West to do its job for it. My question to you at the end of this is : What powers does the OIC have to stop the killing in Syria and how does it propose to use them?"
Perhaps the most representative Muslim body in the UK is the MCB, and they have issued a press release (see here) and shown below:

"The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) today welcomed the recent but belated condemnation by the United Nations of the Syrian government’s crackdown of its own people. For months now the regime has attacked innocent protestors who are making legitimate demands for human rights, representative government and the rule of law. . . The MCB has already spoken out against abuses elsewhere in the region and today re-iterates its call that our government must be consistent in its policy of demanding that Arab governments in the region respond to the democratic wishes of its people... "

BFTF sent an email to the MCB saying :

"I just wanted to thank you for the press release your have issued regarding the Syrian authorities killing and torture of protestors. An accusation that is widely laid against the Muslim community (with some justification) is that Muslims protest when non-Muslims kill Muslims but are silent when it is Muslims killing Muslims. As a community we must do a better job of being consistent about human rights abuses. Your press statement is a step along this road. Thank you again. May I ask what message you have given the Syrian government (or their embassy in the UK) regarding the killings in Syria and what their response has been.

The other regional body who, one would think, would be interested in stopping the killings is the Arab League (www.arableagueonline.org). The English language section of their website is “under construction” (how very 1990’s) so I have no way of contacting them. A Google translation of the Arabic section of their website suggests no statements on what is happening in Syria. Grasping at straws somewhat, BFTF sent an email to the MCB asking them to forward it on to the Arab League:
“I am dismayed by the silence of the Arab League regarding the killing and torture of protestors in Syria. A Muslim country should be a place of safety for Muslims, not a place where arbitrary death and torture can happen at any time. An accusation that is widely laid against the Muslim community (with some justification) is that Muslims protest when non-Muslims kill Muslims but are silent when it is Muslims killing Muslims. The inaction of the Arab League feeds this perception. My question for you, at the end of this, is to ask why you have not taken any substantive measures to stop the killing and torture in Syria”
BFTF also contacted the Syrian Embassy in London (www.syremb.com), using the Feedback form on their website, leaving the following message:
“I, alongside much of the UK’s population (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) have been appalled by the killing and torturing of innocent protestors that we are seeing in Syria. Frankly, the authorities - and yourselves- should be ashamed at allowing this kind of indiscriminate cruelty to be unleashed on the population. A Muslim country should be a place of safety for Muslims, not a place where arbitrary death and torture can happen at any time. My question, at the end of this, is to ask what pressure you are placing on the authorities in Syria to stop the killings, beatings and torture of protestors. Please do not think of comparing what is happening in Syria to the recent riots in the UK. You and I both know that the violence unleashed by the Syrian authorities is of an altogether different order."

Lastly, BFTF emailed local mosques suggesting that they may wish to lobby the Syrian Embassy on behalf of their congregations - and tell their congregations that they are doing so.

Also personally contacted my local masjid to ask them whether they could send an email to the Syrian Embassy if BFTF was to draft one up for them.

Dear Reader, if you feel strongly about the human rights abuses in Syria, or indeed in any other country, you may wish to lobby the relevant organisations (as described above). It may not be perfect, but group action really does work, and it certainly works better than just complaining to your friends about the situation.

Or perhaps you feel that BFTF has got the wrong end of the stick and that there are much more effective practical steps that can be taken to stop the killings in Syria. If so, why not leave a comment with your suggestions or, er, comments.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your activism. Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete