An Open Letter to The Western World.
Today I’ve ran a few trivial errands, eaten breakfast and lunch, read a little. I even procrastinated on various social media platforms, getting my daily intoxicating kick of validation from my latest selfie or post. This time next week it will be Christmas Day. I don’t feel festive. The only thing I can feel is guilt and quite rightly so.
I sit here, in my centrally-heated home, on a bed with a mattress, typing on my new laptop with clean clothes on my back. Being a healthy young woman of thirty, I know that there is a slim-to-none chance that I will die today. I’m currently sitting on my grand throne of privilege.
Syria is a country with people like you and I; doctors, nurses, electricians, shop assistants, artists, architects, parents, brothers, sisters, children…et cetera. Families that, like you and I, have children who go to school and maybe have a pet dog or cat and go on family outings together. And teenagers who like to hang out with their mates, chill out and watch the next blockbuster at the cinema. People who catch up with the local gossip on Facebook, maybe post some selfies, maybe share an amusing GIF. The exact same things that we do right here in Britain, because there’s no difference. We are all people in modern society. Regardless of our birthplace. This is what life was like for the peoples of Syria until war broke out in 2011.
On the 2nd September 2015, a disturbing image of drowned child, somebody’s little baby boy, who had been washed up on a shoreline in Turkey was published in the mainstream Western news. This highlighted a family’s bid to make a desperate attempt to escape a terrifying situation. So terrifying that a parent would risk theirs, and more poignantly, their children’s lives to flee from it.
The little boy had a name. He was called Alan Kurdi and he was only three years old.
I cried my white tears and I shared a few posts on Facebook. Then I did nothing. Despite at the back of my subconscious, I knew the war was still very much raging in Syria. Alan was one of many children and other civilians that have died as a result of this war. I did nothing. I didn’t even bother to seek out and share anymore posts, or to better educate myself on the Syrian Civil War. Why should it matter to me? I’m safe right now, safe in my own self-absorbed bubble, in my warm home with my friends and family around me. It was easier for me to block it out, to not to argue with the bigots who complained about the people who are leaving their homes (homes, not houses) in Syria to seek refuge in Britain. At best I passively tried to educate a few moderates who’d read a fear-mongering article in one of the ‘hate’ newspapers. But without educating myself to a more acceptable standard, then how was I supposed to hold down an intelligible debate? I was lazy and complacent.
I did nothing because it was easier for me to block it out. Unfortunately the people of Syria do not have that privilege.
Five days ago, I was sat in this same position reading tweets posted by people in the largest city of Syria, Aleppo. I was helplessly reading their desperate pleas, their goodbyes, their final messages whilst the city around them was crumbling and genocide was happening before their eyes. Unfaltering explosions. Dead bodies in the street. Unimaginable scenes that can never be unseen and brutal destruction of lives, homes and communities that can never be remedied. About a hundred thousand civilians (according to the UN) cornered in the city, awaiting their fate. The incomprehensible horror.
But whilst this was happening, on social media, the top news was about Kanye West meeting Donald Trump. Yes, this is humanity right now… 400,000+ deaths, yet people would rather talk about a pop singer hanging out with a buffoonish President-elect.
I want to apologise to the Syrian people caught up in the Syrian Civil War. I know my apology is utterly worthless, but I’m sorry to my fellow brothers and sisters in Syria. I’m so sorry that as a human, I didn’t do anything at all. Nothing. I didn’t play my simple part, even if it was just to influence others around me. That I didn’t scream out from the top of my lungs. I know I’m just one single person – but that’s an abominable excuse. It’s the single humans that collectively make the difference. I have no excuses.
I want to cry, but I don’t deserve tears.
Please, all you single, solitary people out there, sat in your warm homes on your thrones of privilege, I implore you to educate yourselves on the war in Syria and to the needs of the Syrian people. To learn how to stand up to the hatred that gradually seeps into the brains of those who are desperate and willing to believe the lies of the right-wing press and to be able to correct them with the facts. To learn how to stand up to Islamaphobia, Xenphobia and Rasicsm. Because lets face it, this is why our countries have had such an air of reluctance to help, or even show a glimmer of human compassion.
We all need to stand up together
Wishing everyone love, wisdom and solidarity,
If you would like to donate, click here for a link to some recommended charities.
There’s heaps of information available explaining the Syrian Civil War online, but I found this little YouTube video quite helpful as a rough guide: ‘Syria’s War: Who is fighting and why.’