Uncivil acts

August 13, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

The condition of civilians caught in conflict zones needs to be taken up more seriously by the UN and other international organisations.

It has been said that wars and conflicts are needed for human progress. The statement is based on the premise that change is essential for development and wars help bring about this change. Looking at what wars are doing to society today, we wish there were other ways of bringing about change. 

Conflict, ethnic or political, usually involves violence and persecution. The military and the aggressors involved in wars are part of the set up that perpetuates misery and oppression. Human rights are the biggest casualty of wars. Rights are violated on both sides — the aggressors and the defenders. The casualties among the fighters are considered normal. What is of concern is the death and misery wreaked on the civilian population, which is living there and doesn’t have much to do with the controversy that triggered the battle. 

In multiple conflicts around the globe, civilians are paying the cost of divisive and sectarian politics shearing the fabric of society. Nigeria or Somalia, Iraq or Syria, Palestine or Ukraine, it is the same story — a large civilian population held hostage by mindless violence. 

In Gaza, hundreds of families have been killed or injured by Israeli military strikes. Traumatised children stare blankly after a blast or aerial strike. It is emotionally sapping to watch critically injured kids in bloodied clothes. Imagine the plight of a five-year-old child who has lost all his relatives. The kid will have to deal with dual traumas — that of the attack and of losing his parents. 

The situation of civilians caught in the Syrian civil war is well known. Entire neighbourhoods have been flattened by regime bombings that target militants fighting to topple President Bashar Al Assad. The humanitarian situation in the country has been worsened by the exodus of thousands into neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon. Refugee camps in Jordan see Syrians struggling to survive in challenging conditions. Some camps are bursting at the seams and Jordan has asked for help to deal with the crisis. 

The plight of Yazidis, an ethnic minority in Iraq, is most deplorable. Followers of a different strain of Islam, the Yazidis are mostly concentrated in the northern part of the country, which has been buffeted by sectarian conflict for years. The surge of Islamic State militants in the troubled country has seen them executing non-Sunnis and whoever they think does not follow their version of Islam. This has forced the Yazidis to go up the Sinjar Mountain where they face death by hunger and starvation. US aid dropped from the air has brought little relief and thousands still face almost certain death. 

It is not only against international law to target civilians during conflict, but also unethical to make them suffer for no fault of theirs. The United Nations needs to do more to come to the rescue of civilians caught in wars•