Luna Droubi Guest Post: A Call for Humanitarian Intervention in Syria
The following post was written by Luna Droubi. Droubi, who is Syrian American, was Editor in Chief of the New York Law School Law Review from 2010-2011 and received her J.D. this month.
As a child, I remember sitting with my grandfather on my grandparent’s balcony in Homs, Syria on hot, sticky summer nights. We’d swat away at mosquitoes as he told me stories about his childhood and the importance of family. He would rarely sit still, and I would close my eyes and hear the shuffle of his slippers sweeping the sand on the hard balcony floor, only opening them when I heard the sound of a man I called the Baghwe-Baghwe man. This was a thin, older, graying man who would slowly push his cart of corn down the streets of Homs. From down the block, I would hear him call out “Baghwe Baghwe!” I never quite knew what that meant, but I would immediately grab a few lira and sprint down the four flights of stairs at my grandparents small apartment. Out of breath, I’d beg for “milh akteer” in my American Arabic. Lots of salt please. He always responded with a big broken smile.
As I watch the news programs showing my fellow Syrians filling the streets in defiance of their government, I am filled with an incredible pride. For the entirety of my 27 years, I never thought I would see the day that so many people would stand up against the regime. Every time I watch, though, I can’t help but also fear for my family, my 80-year-old grandparents and my baby cousins, who I worry are without adequate food and water. Though we have been able to reach them by phone, they aren’t able to speak to us candidly out of fear that our phone calls are being monitored. I can only sit and watch, like so many people around the world, as nothing is being done to help them. Syria is curiously off the global radar and, without any exports of value, I fear the world will not pay attention, that Syria’s revolution will be forgotten. For me, the protests have proved to be totally consuming. I scour the videos and pictures in vain, looking for my family members. I try to recognize the names of stores and streets. It is possible that I may never be able to sit on that balcony, or even see my grandfather, again.
Though it is comprised of a peaceful civilian people, Syria has been ruled by the iron will of dictators instilling fear for as long as I have known. A small religious minority, the Alawi, has ruled the country for years. This fear has even been transferred to Syrian Americans who might talk openly about these atrocities in their homes, but are afraid to utter words of protest in public that might put their family back home in danger.
In February 1982, the father of the Bashar al Assad, Hafez al Assad, ordered the killing of what many believe was 20,000 (and some put as high as 40,000) men in the town of Hama without any international condemnation or intervention. As a child, I was told of women who ran miles in their nightgowns to flee from the brutality. As the years dragged on, nearly every Syrian I know (including me) has had a family member or friend who has been “disappeared,” only to return years later unable to talk about the severity of their detainment and torture. These stories and more are ingrained in the minds of everyday Syrians, who are too frightened to mention anything about their political beliefs lest the Mukhabarat, the thug-like secret police force, find out. The world watches but does nothing.
Humanitarian intervention in Syria, under the Responsibility to Protect doctrine so often mentioned in the halls of the United Nations, would send a powerful message to Syrians and the Middle East. The people would feel validated, their plight recognized. Simply put: it would instill hope in a part of the world in dire need of it.
Back in 2005, I studied Arabic at Damascus University. During my interview for the program, I was asked how I felt about Syria. Like a good Syrian daughter, I talked about how wonderful the country was and how thankful I was for our great leader, Bashar al Assad. I left feeling the disgust of so many Syrians who must answer such questions on a daily basis. After two months there, I only felt hopeful on a typically hot and humid July night. A few friends from University and I went to the first Jazz Festival in the country. It was a refreshing to see the next generation of Syrians celebrating an international music festival on their own soil. There was a buzz of excited youthful energy in the air. The crowd was massive, and I recognized the faces from my day to day interactions: at University, on the streets, at the local cafes. They were the faces of the next generation of Syrians ready for something new, and there was hope that Syria was moving into a new era of change.
The slaughter of thousands of unarmed civilians, and the use of detainment and disappearance as a method of fear mongering in the last few weeks has changed all of that. Attacking unarmed civilians is a crime against humanity. Such a crime has long been recognized and litigated in international tribunals and the ICC. It’s time that the international community stands up against this brutality. It’s time for the UN to demand harsher penalties. It’s time for the Security Council to refer the issue to the ICC, thereby authorizing the ICC Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo to issue warrants for the arrest of Bashar al Assad and his cronies. It’s time for Syrians to feel hope for the future of their country.