Manfred Stark writes from Beirut: This week, aid agencies report that women, girls and boys are being raped, often in front of their families, in the Syrian civil war. Just what do they expect? Have they not heard of nasty wars? This is a very nasty war.
In this sort of war, women and girls get raped and children get killed. Please, will someone explain why should the Syrian conflict be any different?
More than 600,000 Syrians have left Syria. According to the US-based International Rescue Committee, refugees claim that for many, rape was the reason they escaped. At least they escaped. More than 60,000 did not. They were, according to UN figures, killed. (On both sides, I hasten to add.)
In the meantime the UK Foreign Ministry under its hapless William Hague is urging other countries to get more involved. Clearly, Mr Hague is being told what to say by some fool who either knows nothing or is afraid to buck the Morocco conference decision by 100 other countries to take the side of the rebels. They all talked about transition from President Bashar al Assad to the really nice rebels. No one at the meeting nor since has had the guts to announce publicly that this war is fought on one side by a mixed bag of single-minded killers and on the other side the legitimate government of Syria.
The international community may not like Mr al Assad and his henchmen – although there are numerous pictures of foreign diplomats and visitors fawning over the fragrant Mrs Assad – but let one of them explain what their government would do if armed rebels started shooting their way to a take-over in their respective countries. They would defend their positions, just as the British defended their position in Northern Ireland in the 1970s when the IRA tried to bomb them out.
So, while the world sheds tears over rape victims and starving and freezing children, maybe these very same governments, who say it’s an atrocity that must be resolved, should agree that instead of giving the rebels even more guns they should have denied them weapons. Wimpish Western democracies which talked of negotiation being the only way to change could have better stuck to their beliefs. They could have said the rebels are a mixed, blood-thirsty bag who kill each other as well as al Assad forces and if they got to power in Damascus they would do so on an even greater scale.
Again, when Human Rights Watch complains that al Assad’s army is using cluster bombs, well, why shouldn’t it? Who sold him the cluster bombs? If they’re so bad, why doesn’t the US government – that great liberal democracy – sign the international treaty banning them?
And here’s a further irony: Syria’s deputy foreign minister told the BBC that President al Assad intended to play a role in any potential transition government and would stand for re-election in 2014. The president, and many other candidates who may run, will go to the people, put forward their programmes and be elected by the people. ‘The ballot box will be where the future of the leadership of Syria will be decided,’ Faisal Mekdad added.
Maybe that’s just a con. Most likely it is. But does a single rebel leader talk of any form of voting? No way. In the meanwhile, the rapes go on. That’s just what happens in war and so-called thoughtful and helpful Western democracies are keeping it going.