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Opinion: The Syrian Tsunami

Half the Syrian people have suffered damage and around 30 percent of them are in need of urgent assistance, after hundreds of thousands of victims have fallen, including more than a hundred thousand dead
Opinion: The Syrian Tsunami

Abdullah Iskandar

The humanitarian disaster caused by the war in Syria exceeds in its magnitude, tragic nature, and human and material losses anything that the international community has faced in the past, as admitted by various UN agencies. The numbers reveal that half the Syrian people have suffered damage and around 30 percent of them are in need of urgent assistance, after hundreds of thousands of victims have fallen, including more than a hundred thousand dead. United Nations numbers are based on certified assessments that do not take into consideration anything that has not been obtained on the basis of clear and documented information. They estimate that the Syrian disaster exceeds in its gravity and losses the tsunami that struck a group of Southeast Asian countries in 2004, and that the funds needed by the UN exceed those that had been required to deal with the effects of the South Asian tsunami.


The countries that were struck by the tsunami in December 2004, and with them the world, were able to overcome the disaster that had resulted from a natural phenomenon. But the Syrian tsunami is the result of human action, which makes the possibility of overcoming its effects be far beyond the mere gathering of funds, rebuilding of demolished homes, or financial compensation for those who have been harmed. Indeed, the Syrian tsunami has dug, and continues to dig, deep into the fabric of society, not just in Syria and its neighborhood, but across the Muslim world. It has thus come to represent a direct threat to the unity of countries and nations of diverse confessions.


The Syrian tsunami is no longer merely a political-military matter, and has entered the world of fatwas and counter-fatwas declaring others apostates and heretics. In order to announce itself in this frank and brazen manner as an exceptional catastrophe in modern history and one that is man-made, this tsunami only needed one military battle, that of Qusayr. It is a battle not unlike many which Syria has witnessed in other areas, whether in terms of the size of belligerent forces and military operations, or in terms of the extent of human and material losses.


The battle of Qusayr has summed up the nature of the Syrian tsunami through recognition from both sides that it represents the historical dividing line within Islam. Indeed, the celebration of “victory” and the response to “defeat” have brought forth all the symbols of such division. Qusayr is no longer merely a town in which the control has shifted from one hand to the other, as is taking place on every front of the confrontation, and this is simply due to the openly declared participation of Hezbollah in the battle as a Shiite group with the declared goal of defeating “takfiri groups”.


Politics has ended in Qusayr, as have the roles that were sought to be played by resistance and defiance, not to mention the meanings of rule and power, making way for people’s raw sectarian nature to return and dominate the conflict.


While preparatory meetings are held for the Geneva 2 conference and a technical debate heats up regarding attendance and its function; while disputes erupt in advance over the nature of the transitional phase, the future regime, its structure and the guarantees it would provide domestic constituents and international parties, etc; and while the officials of humanitarian UN agencies hold conferences to ask for aid to be distributed to Syrian refugees inside and outside their country; the speed of the Syrian tsunami increases in the opposite direction to everything these meetings and conferences seek to achieve. This tsunami is moving forward to the depths of history, exploding in fronts of confrontation on every demarcation line of confessional cohabitation. And if Lebanon is most affected by the blast, in view of the weakening and fragmentation of its state it has caused, and in view of its proximity to the epicenter, the fast-growing number of fatwas will make the direct repercussions of the waves of violence in Syria spread at a much greater speed to other countries.



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