By: Stefan Koolen
Over the two-year-old crisis in Syria, a relatively little attention and support was provided by the western countries, including the Netherlands, compared with the considerably enormous suffering of the Syrian people amid the growing violence across Syria. Obviously, the inaction and reluctance of the international community towards this crisis was a main reason for the rise of the already existing feelings of compassion with the victims of the ongoing war in Syria.
One of the main issues covered recently by the Dutch and Belgian local media is the departure of a number of young citizens –with Muslim background –from both countries to participate in the current war in Syria and fight against the Assad régime. In fact, the participation of non-Syrians in the Syrian war is a considerably sensitive issue, and on the basis of the actual intentions of those participants, some aspects could be understandable, but still disagreement would be my position in the end.
Mouaz Al Khatib, leader of the National Coalition of the Syrian opposition, beside many other Syrians who have constantly demanded support but refused any “foreign intervention”, do not really wish such a “support” when the supporter’s ideology, religious views and distant goals disagree with the principles for which the Syrian people launched a revolution. Undoubtedly, Al-Qaeda –consisted of fighters from different nationalities –can also be classified as one of the foreign groups that is not very welcome by the majority of the Syrian people.
On the other hand, many concerns should also be taken into account, including the fears of the west from those young fighters’ return and the danger they may form on the security of the western countries where they are based. However, there are many dimensions in this issue to consider in order to acquire a better understanding of the actual intentions of those youth to leave the Netherlands and Belgium, and go to Syria to take part in the current bloody war.
Although many analyses focus basically on the ideological motives of those guys, still the ‘ideology’ itself doesn’t seem to have played a key role as generally believed. Thus, to understand and comprehend the facts behind this action by the above-mentioned youth means to reduce the fears of any potential consequences; a sufficient and accurate understanding can even lead to founding a better policy to prevent those youth from heading to Syria.
Koen Vossen, a political-historian (politiek historicus), has explicitly pointed out that the phenomena of Dutch (young) adult males joining a fight against a fascist régime “voluntarily” is not a new one. During the Spanish civil war (1936−1939) between Franco –supported by Hitler– and the Spanish government, several hundreds of Dutch men voluntarily participated in the war. Most of them were communists and the ideology was obviously used as a facilitator and motivator. As a consequence, popular worries prevailed within the Dutch society and the main concern was regarding the potential scenarios that could take place with the return of those men.
Apparently, there is a more complex issue underneath the choice of joining the fight in Syria. Undoubtedly, more accurate information about the reasons behind the participation of those fighters will be more sufficiently revealed in the future. Nevertheless, certain circumstances seem to have contributed to the motivation of the youth (Dutch and Belgian) to make this crucial decision.
Compassion and solidarity, whether deemed a curse or bless, are considered as basic characteristics of every human –or at least the majority of them –especially when children, women or older people, i.e. people who are presumed to be innocent in any conflict, are suffering, this feeling will be activated. That’s why most of the news reports focus basically on the number of casualties among children, women and elderly. Showing solidarity and helping the victims can take different forms, including a material care and support to those who do or try to join the struggle.
The willingness to participate will even be greater when we realize that many governments have ambivalent attitude towards the conflict in Syria. Most governments do oppose the Assad régime, but are unwilling to supply weapons to the opposition because of some ambiguous reasoning.
The worries concerning Syria’s future form a part of this reluctance, especially when the issue of the religious minorities in Syria is considered, regardless of the suffering of the rest of the Syrians. This attitude is very hard to accept, at least partially, since this fear has been raised by the Assad régime itself and by various media institutions since the beginning of the ongoing conflict.
Many published articles have illustrated the worries of the Christian minorities in Syria, pointing out the biased position of these minorities to the régime’s side. Moreover, media has repeatedly pointed out that other countries in the region have recently seen a more problematic attitude towards (religious) minorities. It is important to note that it is, as Edward Said already showed in his book Orientalism, difficult for “westerners” to differentiate between Oriental countries. Therefore, making a comparison between Syria and Iraq, Egypt or even Afghanistan is easily accepted by the western view. According to Mouaz Al Khatib, as pointed out during his speech on March 26 at the Arab summit in Doha, this argument is ‘hypocritical’ or at least difficult to understand for many.
Nonetheless, certain people may have stronger feelings regarding the urgent need to help other humans and rescue them from extreme suffering. That is when an ideology seizes the opportunity to facilitate the feelings of such people concerning injustice, compassion and solidarity. The ideology provides a justification –as the Syrian régime consists of heretic Alawites and attacks Sunni-Muslim and their mosques) and means to join the conflict in order to conduct the alleged justice.
Apparently, Mouaz Al Khatib has rightly pointed out the ambiguous attitude and reasoning of many governments concerning Syria. This reasoning further sheds its light on the debate about the so-called jihadists leaving our countries and heading to Syria. There is remarkable lack of an understandable western policy regarding Syria, resulting in more suffering for the Syrian people, and eventually leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy, namely Jihadist and intolerance towards minorities. The only way to resolve this expanding problematic issue is to recognize our fallacies and rectify our method.
Source: ARA News
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