In the 21st Century, a time of advanced democracy when human rights are recognized across the world, people in Syria’s refugee camps are facing death under the most terrible conditions.
One of these camps, where there is such suffering and where some people have not eaten for months, is Yarmouk near Damascus. Human values in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp, which has been blockaded by forces loyal to Assad for the last six months, are being crushed underfoot. The refugees under blockade in the camp are hungry and thirsty, reduced to mere skin and bone.
The Yarmouk camp was set up out of a desire to protect Palestinians in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war in 1957. Today, however, the purpose serves a diametrically opposed end. The camp is about to turn into a graveyard for the thousands of innocent Palestinians living there.
The global public has thus far remained silent in the face of nearly 100 people dying of starvation and poverty, and has literally turned a blind eye to what is going on. The Islamic world has utterly failed to react.
UNWRA aid teams affiliated to the U.N. managed to finally get aid to the region a few days ago, yet that was a very limited amount of assistance. One of the activists in the region says, “Many people are sick due to starvation in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp. Specialist doctors need to go in for these people. People in the camp are fighting both hunger and disease."
According to reports published in The Independent newspaper, there is a humanitarian drama going on in the Yarmouk Camp, even involving children. The reports state that people in the region blockaded by regime forces are living on salt water, animal feed and leaves. One of the victims who spoke to The Independent, Kais Said, said he had not eaten for three days, and that “people have begun eating grass, dogs and cats,” thus revealing the dimension of the tragedy.
Humane living conditions have still not been achieved in the camp. People are brought down by hunger and disease. According to reports from various agencies the number of people living in the camp has fallen from 600,000 to 20,000. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to abandon their homes and flee.
According to other reports in the media, refugees have been forced by want and hunger to start eating things they would not normally consume. Since there is no fresh water, they drink salt water. They have had to start burning the furniture in their homes for warmth. This picture is a disgrace for the whole world.
Amnesty International has issued a call to the Syrian government for humanitarian assistance to be brought in to people living under blockade in Damascus, including the Yarmouk Camp. A statement by the organization said that the Syrian government was preventing supplies from being brought in.
Western countries are normally highly sensitive when it comes to human rights; many Western countries react very harshly when human rights and freedoms are restricted anywhere. Yet we see no noticeable efforts on their part when it comes to Yarmouk, which is in a far worse plight.
The Western public, which brings the whole world to its feet when there is a threat to the environment, that employs all the means at its disposal to save a beached whale or dolphin and that is most scrupulous when it comes to maintaining green spaces, needs to behave far more sensitively when it comes to human life. The fact is that in today’s world oppressors are easily able to divert world public opinion and keep committing evil. These dictators merely continue and indeed step up their slaughter in the absence of any political or societal pressure against them. The first step toward stopping them is to make everyone fully aware of what is going on. Activity that concentrates on the conscience of the global public and that describes oppression in an objective manner can stir Western public opinion, and that will obviously make regimes like the one in Syria uneasy.
The Islamic world must also exhibit a spirit of unity for a solution to this problem and extend a helping hand to our needy brothers there. The Assad regime must be prevailed upon to lift the blockade as a matter of urgency. No Muslim can ever accept his brothers dying before his very eyes. Islamic countries need to behave punctiliously on this matter and pressure the Syrian regime to lift the blockade at once.
Russia is without doubt the state that most has the ear of the Syrian regime. It is essential for humanitarian aid to be got through to the refugees in Yarmouk and for the sick to be brought out to hospitals where they can be properly cared for; otherwise more people will die by the day. Russia must therefore use its influence with Syria and take steps that will be instrumental in liberating the innocent people there. I believe that Mr. Putin is a leader with a strong conscience and that he will act with great sensitivity on this matter.
The problem of Yarmouk cannot be dismissed as a local one. No person of good conscience can accept innocent people having to live without electricity, water, food and medicines. When a natural disaster such as a flood or an earthquake happens anywhere in the world, all countries rush to get as much aid as they can to the victims. We have seen numerous examples of this in the past: Even countries with chilly relations extend the hand of friendship to one another under such circumstances so it goes without saying that people and states can behave in this manner when they so wish. Now is the time to exhibit another example of such assistance and solidarity. When people, organizations and institutions and states raise their voices as one, the Assad regime will immediately step back, entirely lifting or loosening the blockade. The much-needed aid can then be got through to the people living there. We all have a duty to assume this responsibility to our fellow man and demonstrate the requisite sensitivity to bring this about.
Mr. Adnan Oktar's article on Islam Online: