66 MILLION DISPLACED PEOPLE: HUMAN COST OF WAR IN 2016

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Wars, homegrown armed civil conflicts and disasters left 65.6 million people displaced in 2016 a United Nations report released on the World Refugee Day on June 20 says. “Global Trends: Forced Displacements in 2016“, released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that “20 people are newly displaced every minute or one person every three seconds.” It puts the global refugee count at 22.5 million, internally displaced at 40.3 million and asylum seekers at 2.8 million. Be it wars being waged by humans or against nature, the human crisis is getting deeper.

Syrian civil war that is in sixth year with no signs of cessation of hostilities continues to force people out of their homes and country with 12 million Syrian refugees scattered across countries and continents. They are followed by 7.7 million displaced Colombian refugees, 4.7 million Afghan refugees and 4.2 million Iraqi refugees. Children make for around 31 per cent of the world’s population but 51 per cent refugees today are children including those 75,000 asylum seekers who were left alone or were separated from their families.

To make matters worse, South Sudan, that gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of civil war, has emerged as the new crisis spot to produce refugees. Despite independence, civil war has continued and according to the report, 3.3 million South Sudanese were forcibly displaced by the end of 2016. The report says that “South Sudan became the biggest new factor when peace efforts broke down in July 2016 resulting in some 737,400 people fleeing by the end of the year”. South Sudan, in fact, has replaced Syria as the country with the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world. It is among the top three countries along with Syria and Afghanistan accounting for 55 per cent of refugees worldwide.

And it’s the poor and developing countries support them the most. They are home to about 84 per cent of refugees and asylum seekers. In fact, according to the report, “one in every three people, roughly 4.9 million people, were hosted by the least developed countries in 2016.”

Europe saw millions of refugees and migrants reaching to its countries in 2015. But since then, the rich western nations have tightened their procedures to take in refugees and asylum seekers after a series of terrorist attacks involving refugees, migrants or their dependents. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations’ migration agency, the number of migrants and refugees that entered Europe by sea routes saw further drastic reduction this year. 73,189 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 whereas the corresponding figure for January-June 11 was 211434, almost three times. In 2015, European countries had received 1,321,560 asylum claims.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has lauded the role of poor and developing countries saying “it is so inspiring to see countries with the least doing the most for refugees.” At the same time, the UN report has warned on this huge imbalance that can create instability in the host countries saying “the figure illustrates the need for countries and communities supporting refugees and other displaced people to be robustly resourced and supported.”

©SantoshChaubey

HUMAN COST OF SYRIAN CIVIL WAR

On March 15 this year, Syrian civil war completed its sixth year, and going by the state of affairs now, even after the first ever direct US missile attack on a Syrian regime airbase, no end looks in sight.

The result is the human cost – the biggest human crisis since the World War II.

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, around 5,00,000 Syrians have been killed in the civil war, some 7,00,000 are trapped in various conflict theatres and over 6 million are internally displaced.

To cap it is the number of Syrian refugees. According to the UN, at the end of March 2017, the number of registered Syrian refugees, scattered in different countries, stood at 5.1 million. It is more than ten times the count of Syrian refugees in 2012. And the actual number may be even higher. Unofficial figures quote over 7 million Syrian refugees and over 12 million internally displaced.

Dependent and helpless, children are the biggest losers in any civil war. According to UNICEF, 23 million Syrian children had to flee the country while another 3 million are living in conflict theatres and cut-off regions and they need immediate help. According to the website http://www.iamsyria.org, the Syrian civil has killed around over 50,000 children.

12 million human lives, including millions of children, dead, trapped in conflict theatres, forced to flee their homes and even their country, that is the human cost the Syrian civil war and it is still unfolding.

According to a report from the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, the ongoing Syrian civil war has wiped 11.5 per cent of the Syrian population.

Thousands have died in their desperate rush to cross the Mediterranean Sea to find refuge in Europe, 5000 of them alone in 2016.

Thousands of them have been killed in chemical attacks. Though under international pressure, in 2013, Syria signed the Convention on Chemical Weapons that bans production, storage, use and transportation of chemical weapons, it has been alleged that Syria never disclosed its full chemical arsenal for international inspection and destruction.

And these allegations are not baseless. A recent ABC News report, quoting the White House, speaks about at least over a dozen chemical attacks in Syria since 2012. These include the chemical attack of August 2013 in Aleppo which killed around 1500 people and left thousands others crippled with symptoms of nerve gas attack. There was an international hue and cry but the responsibility could not be affixed.

Yesterday’s US missile attack on a Syrian airbase was in response to a chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib city which killed over 100. It was the first direct US military attack on Syria and was targeted at a Syrian airbase that was reportedly used to launch the Idlib chemical attack. Syria has denied its hands and its ally Russia has strongly defended it. On the contrary, it has blamed the Syrian rebels for the attack, like it does every time.

The never ending Syrian crisis has forced the biggest migration of people since the Second World War – a wave that countries, especially the European ones are feeling too difficult a crisis to handle. Syrians are the biggest migrants group in Europe – those who have got asylum – those who are still waiting in the ‘nowhere’ zone – and those who lost their lives while trying to reach those elusive borders of the European continent.

©SantoshChaubey

FROM AYLAN KURDI TO OMRAN DAQNEESH: SYRIAN CRISIS HAS ONLY GONE FROM BAD TO WORSE!

Five years ago, in 2011, when the Syrian revolution had begun, the US administration led by President Barack Obama had asserted that ‘Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s days are numbered’. Hillary Clinton, then the US Secretary of State and now the Democratic Presidential nominee, had reiterated this ‘version’ in 2012. It had given the Syrian people, those opposing Assad and the Syrian rebels, hope then that the Arab Spring would soon see a successful rebellion in the country.

Five years down the line, Syria has become the worst humanitarian crisis since the days of the Second World War. The images coming from the country are horrible. They leave you choked, sometimes in tears. And some of them become the global rallying points – like last year, when images of a three year old dead Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed ashore on a Turkish coast while trying to cross the Mediterranean to get into Europe – or last week this year, when the images of a five year old Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh, stained with blood and rubble – became the global expression of outrage.

These two images symbolize what Syrians are going through. They have nowhere to call home – not in Syria – not outside Syria. Omran Daqneesh’s image is from Aleppo, a Syrian town that is considered rebels’ stronghold. Alylan Kurdi was found dead on a European coast. The five years of the Syrian civil war has effectively obliterated the past, the present and the future of the millions of Syrians.

Aylan-Omran

Image Courtesy: Reuters

When the Aylan Kurdi’s image had hit the world headlines in September 2015, some 13 million Syrians needed immediate humanitarian support. The figures from an Amnesty International report say that by September 2015, the Syrian civil war had left 220,000 dead, over 4 million refugees and 50 percent of its leftover population internally displaced (some 10 million).

From September 2015 to August 2016, the Syrian crisis has only gone from bad to worse. Now there are over 6.5 million Syrian refugees scattered in different countries. The civil war death toll now stands at around 500,000. If we draw a plausible line according to the figures available from the Syrian rebel factions and as per the increased hostilities aided by the Russian bombings, the internally displaced population now stands at around 12 million.

Yet the world community does nothing more than counting the Syrian dead while the number of victims is rapidly going up.

On one side, an emboldened dictator-cum-mercenary-cum-warlord-cum-butcher, after the Russian support, is slaying his countrymen in flocks, using even the chemical weapons. Then there are terror outfits like the Islamic State or the Al Qaeda affiliates or even the Syrian rebel factions. They have sandwiched the common Syrians – killing them, forcing them to live under siege or forcing them to flee the country – to a place where they don’t know if they will see the next dawn.

This ongoing horror has given us another event that once again raises questions on us being the members of a globalized world run by a globalized code with a unifying organization like the United Nations. Barring few, almost all countries are its members.

Events like Syria say the UN is failing; the world community is failing – because the Syrian crisis/civil war is now in its sixth year while the major police nations of the world, who invade an Afghanistan, an Iraq or a Libya, have let that happen. Afghanistan invasion could have been a spontaneous response to the 9/11 attacks in the US but the flimsy grounds on which the Iraq offensive had been launched has always been in questions. The latest British public inquiry report into the Iraq war, the Chilcot Report, which was submitted on July 6, 2016, states that Saddam Hussein didn’t pose imminent threat and that the war should have been averted.

In this globalized world, Syria has become the only war-torn/civil-war-hit country to see a decline in its population – with hundreds of thousands killed and millions displaced. According to reports, since the crisis began in 2011, Syria has seen some 11.5% decline in its population.

The never ending Syrian crisis has forced the biggest migration of people since the Second World War – a wave that the European countries are feeling too difficult a crisis to handle. Syrians are the biggest migrants group in Europe – those who have got asylum – those who are still waiting in the ‘nowhere’ zone – and those who lost their lives while trying to reach those elusive borders of the European continent.

The countless images coming out of Syria – of Omran Daqneesh, of Aylan Kurdi, of Syrians dying in chemical and explosive attacks, and of ghost towns with ravaged buildings – sum up the horror tens of thousands of human-beings are forced to live day in, day out, seeking the shore to fix their lives, a shore that is increasingly becoming elusive.

Yes, we live in a world that has always been plagued with ‘humanity killing developments’ like wars, crusades, religious wars, ethnic cleansings and the Holocaust, yet images like these, again and again, leave us thoughtless, speechless, soulless and lifeless. They say all. Their backdrop becomes hauntingly clear just by a mere look. Images like these make our lives beyond redemption. They put us all, the combined human masses of the world, in the dock over a crime that humanity can never get rid of. They rightly negate our claims of being the citizens of a civilized world.

©SantoshChaubey

SYRIAN HOLOCAUST

On June 28, an offensive against the Islamic State led by the US backed Syrian rebels who were trained by the Pentagon miserably failed as the US fighter jets failed to provide the most important strategic element – the air cover. They instead chose to divert the planes to another target in Iraq. The result – the rebels had to retreat incurring heavy loss – along with the fear psychosis that the US may now abandon them mid way in future operations. Okay, that may be like stretching it too far as the US has justified its move, but when we see the human crisis in Syria – when we see the biggest human travesty since the Second World War – it gives enough room to question the intentions of the world community – and the US decision to divert its fighter jets is just symptomatic of that.

After the Holocaust, Syria is the biggest horror humanity has seen and to make the matters even worse, it is still ongoing with no end in sight.

On one side, an emboldened dictator-cum-mercenary-cum-warlord-cum-butcher, after the Russian support (courtesy another dictator), is slaying his own countrymen in flocks, using even the chemical weapons.

Then there are terror outfits like the Islamic State or the Al Qaeda affiliates or even the Syrian rebel factions.

They have sandwiched the common Syrians – killing them, forcing them to live under siege or forcing them to flee the country – to a place where they don’t know if they will see the next dawn.

This ongoing horror has given us another event that once again raises questions on us being the members of a globalized world run by a globalized code with a unifying organization like the United Nations. Almost the whole globe is member of the UN.

Events like Syria say the UN is failing; the world community is failing – because the Syrian crisis/civil war is now in its sixth year while the major police nations of the world, who invade an Afghanistan, an Iraq or a Libya, have let that happen. Afghanistan invasion could have been the spontaneous response to the 9/11 attacks in the US but the flimsy grounds on which the Iraq offensive had been launched had always been in questions. The latest British public inquiry report into the Iraq war, the Chilcot Report, which was submitted on July 6, states that Saddam Hussein didn’t pose imminent threat and that the war should have been averted.

In this globalized world, Syria has become the only war-torn/civil-war-hit country to see a decline in its population – with hundreds of thousands killed and millions displaced. Syrians are the biggest migrants group in Europe – those who have got asylum – those who are still waiting in the ‘nowhere’ zone – and those who lost their lives while trying to reach those elusive borders of the European continent.

The never-ending Syrian crisis has forced the biggest migration of people since the Second World War – a wave that the European countries are feeling too difficult a crisis to handle. Last year, in 2015, there were more 1.3 million migrants seeking asylum in Europe and the pack was led by Syria.

According to reports, since the crisis began in 2011, Syria has seen some 11.5% decline in its population. From this assessment, if the pre-conflict Syrian population in 2010 was 21.5 million, it should be around 19 million now. According to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, the five years of Syrian civil war has killed some 470,000 Syrians while some 480,000 are forced to live under siege.

But when we count in the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe or the Syrian refugee crisis in totality, the inland Syrian population looks even thinner. Some 5 to 6 million Syrians are in different refugee camps – in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan and in many European countries.

This – the population decline – has not been seen even in the war-torn nations and the crisis hotbeds like Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

Now compare this to the other major ongoing war theatres in the world – Iraq and Afghanistan.

A study report by some universities including the University of Washington in 2013 stated that over 5,00,000 people were killed in the ongoing Iraq war since its beginning in 2003. Iraq Body Count, a Britain based organisation that collects its information from media reports, puts the count to around 2,50,000.

An MIT report (Iraq: The Human Cost) says the ongoing Iraq war has displaced around 3.5 million to 5 million people. But the figure includes both internal and external refugees. Here we need to keep in mind that the external Iraqi refugees were basically in the camps of Jordan and Syria. So it is a double blow for them – first they had to leave their home for Syria. And then even Syria!

In Afghanistan, the ongoing war since the US led invasion in 2001 had killed around 1,00,000 by December 2014 as per a Brown University report. The same report puts the Afghan refugee count to around 2.7 million whereas the war has displaced over 7,00,000 internally.

The Afghan war has been ongoing since the last 15 years – and the Iraq war since the last 13. Yet, the Syrian war has overshadowed both of them in terms of the human cost of the war – in a span of just six years – in terms of human lives lost – and in terms of humans lives displaced. To make things worse, unlike the Afghani and Iraqi migrants, who basically migrate to the countries sharing land borders, the Syrian refugees are forced to cross the Mediterranean Sea which killed around 4000 of them in 2015.

And there is no end in sight. The dictator, the rebels, the lynchpin and the “occasional vigilantes’ (the police nations of the world) – all are out there – frozen on their respective poles – even if it means half a million killed – half a million internally displaced – and six million in refugee camps.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died. Hundreds of thousands are in danger zones, facing imminent threat to their lives. Hundreds of thousands are starving to death. Millions in refugee camps are stuck not knowing what to do with their lives. Majority of schools and hospitals in Syria are gone, ruined or annihilated in the ongoing war.

It is the next Holocaust the world has created – like it had done with Adolf Hitler. The first Holocaust was in making much before the organised pogrom began on a large scale in 1940 but the world refused to intervene – something that finally ended up killed around 10 million including the six million Jews.

Where the Syrian Holocaust would end?

©SantoshChaubey

THE SYRIAN HOLOCAUST

After the Holocaust, Syria is the biggest horror humanity has seen and to make the matters even worse, it is still ongoing with no end in sight.

On one side, an emboldened dictator-cum-mercenary-cum-warlord-cum-butcher, after the Russian support (courtesy another dictator), is slaying his own countrymen in flocks, using even the chemical weapons.

Then there are terror outfits like the Islamic State or the Al Qaeda affiliates or even the Syrian rebel factions.

They have sandwiched the common Syrians – killing them, forcing them to live under siege or forcing them to flee the country – to a place where they can see the dawn of next day.

And this ongoing horror has given us another event that once again raises questions on us being the members of a globalized world run by a globalized code with a unifying organization like the United Nations. Almost the whole globe is member of the UN.

Events like Syria say the UN is failing; the world community is failing – because the Syrian crisis/civil war is now in its sixth year while the major police nations of the world, who invade an Afghanistan, an Iraq or a Libya, have let that happen.

As a result, in this globalized world, Syria has become the only war-torn/civil-war-hit country to see a decline in its population – with hundreds of thousands killed and millions displaced. Syrians are the biggest migrants group in Europe – those who have got asylum – those who are still waiting in ‘nowhere’ zone – and those who lost their lives while trying to reach those elusive borders of the European continent.

According to the reports, since the crisis began in 2011, Syria has seen some 11.5% decline in its population. From this assessment, if the pre-conflict Syrian population, in 2010, was 21.5 million, it should be around 19 million now. According to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, the five years of Syrian civil war has killed some 470,000 Syrians while some 480,000 are forced to live under siege.

But when we count in the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe or the Syrian refugee crisis in totality, the inland Syrian population looks even thinner. Some 5 to 6 million Syrians are in different refugee camps – in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan and in many European countries.

This – the population decline – has not been seen even in the war-torn nations and the crisis hotbeds like Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died. Hundreds of thousands are in danger zones, facing imminent threat to their lives. Hundreds of thousands are starving to death. Millions in refugee camps are stuck with their lives. Majority of schools and hospitals in Syria are gone, ruined or annihilated in the ongoing war.

And we, in the larger world community, are to blame for it. We are letting the Syrian Holocaust happen.

©SantoshChaubey

IRAQ CRISIS: SUNNI VS SHIA

Countries that are predominantly Shia and countries that are predominantly Sunni – the intensifying civil war in Iraq with the Sunni militant outfit ISIS/ISIL (Islamic State in Syria and al-Sham/the Levant) rapidly gaining grounds and threatening the Shia-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad – and the major Shia and Sunni powers engaged in reacting on and influencing the future course of action in the predominantly Shia Iraq – it is to worsen even more.

Iraq is staring at the real chances of its borders redrawn in the near future – on the ethnic lines – the Shia dominated areas – the Sunni dominated areas – the Kurd dominated areas – but what about the areas having the mix populations – the bloodbath is spilling over with ISIS marching ahead carrying out the ethnic cleansing of killing Shias in the towns captured – it is expected to continue until some ‘arrangement’ is reached.

Until the help comes – from inside, aided by Iran, with military and advisory support and aided by the different Shia militias (including suicide bombers), like the one by Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical cleric, whom no ‘civilized army’ would like to be on its side – or from outside, explicitly by Iran, in the name of protecting the religious Shia shrines in cities like Najaf and Karbala, ISIS has been vocal about – or from outside, the US-led strategic and targeted attacks on ISIS, but the US needs a new government in Iraq before that.

These are the possibilities that need escalation and quick implementation and in the prevailing geopolitical scenarios, one or more of them are bound to happen, and bound to happen soon, given the pace of ISIS rapid advances. They are on the way to rout the largest Iraqi province Anbar with its fourth city Rutba, a strategic win, falling to the Sunni militants today. Anbar is predominantly Sunni and the whole province is expected to fall soon.

ISIS has three strategic border crossings at Syrian border and Jordanian borders already under its control, the BBC says – also, Rutba is 150 Kms from the Jordanian border and is strategically placed between Jordan and Baghdad according to the BBC – so, their Iraq game-plan is moving along with the ‘Levant’ game-plan – and they are proving sturdy because they are getting support from the local Sunni populations, from the tribal leaders and from the countries that are predominantly Sunni, like Saudi Arabia’s strong objection to the external interference in the ongoing Iraqi affairs – and Iraq’s Shiite leadership is to owe the blame for it.

The US is right in asking for Maliki’s head – ‘reconciliation’ (used by the US President Barack Obama – a key word of US intent on its proposed roadmap in Iraq) may be a soft and outrightly misplaced word here given the ISIS brutality – but it is true the current dispensation governing Iraq from Baghdad is to share the blame – by turning Iraq, with a sizeable Sunni population, into a Shiite hegemony – the unrest was brewing and the ‘backfired acts’ by Iraq’s Shia government targeting the Sunni population and the areas made elements fall in place for ISIS to take over.

And it is on now – inviting more, sucking more – asking for blood – killing families – destroying neighbourhoods – mutilating humanity – but who cares for such words in a war – and it is worse – it is a war on religious lines – where fighters not only follow the orders blindly – they follow it with a zeal of inhuman excesses.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/