A military bombardment and other attacks killed more than 100 citizens in the village of Houla in Syria on May 25. International society needs to urgently deal with the massacre of Syrian citizens by their government.
The situation was confirmed by United Nations cease-fire monitors, and the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a statement condemning the bombardment of residential areas.
Since pro-democracy demonstrations, called the “Arab Spring,” started in the Middle East in early 2011, more than 10,000 citizens have been killed in Syria by military force and other means. The latest massacre is just the tip of the iceberg.
Tunisia and Egypt, where the people also stood up against their rulers, have already carried out parliamentary elections and are starting to follow a path of democratization albeit with difficulties. By contrast, the tragic situation in Syria remains appalling.
When we think about Syria’s complex religious problems and relations with neighboring countries, it is understandable that international society must take a cautious stance for fear the situation may lead to civil war or a collapse of the regime.
However, both diplomatic pressure and sanctions are too lax at their current levels.
The Syrian government has denied its involvement in the massacre and claims “armed terrorist groups” are responsible for the killings. But U.N. cease-fire monitors point out the possibility that many of the victims were slaughtered by pro-government militias armed with guns and swords.
We are speechless at the images of the bodies of small children shown on Internet sites.
In response to the massacre, the United States and European countries immediately required Syrian ambassadors and other diplomats to leave their countries. The Japanese Foreign Ministry initially only issued a statement condemning Syria, and it took several days before it demanded their departure. With such a lenient attitude, Japan’s sense of human rights could be questioned.
With the military making light of citizens’ lives and armed militias on the loose, Syria’s humanitarian crisis is growing more serious.
A U.N. Security Council resolution in February, which called for a halt to violence in Syria, was vetoed by Russia and China. It is obvious that the veto allowed the killings of citizens to go unchecked.
In April, also with the support of Russia and China, the United Nations sent a mission of cease-fire monitors under the mediation of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. However, as things now stand, chances for a cease-fire to actually take shape remain extremely dim.
In dealing with the Syrian problem, the Security Council must go back to the fundamental principle of protecting civilians, win the support of Russia and China and move to adopt a workable resolution to oblige the Syrian administration to end the violence.
It is impossible for unarmed cease-fire monitors to protect citizens when armed militias are active behind the scenes.
The Security Council should apply pressure on the government of President Bashar al-Assad to protect the lives of its own people with an eye on dispatching peacekeeping forces to protect citizens and secure safety for humanitarian relief activities.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 1
- « Prev
- Next »