In the Spring of 2011 a man told MB a story from his home town.
Ahmad was born and reared in the southern Syrian city of Daraa, not far from the Jordanian border and only a few hours drive from the Jordanian capital of Amman. Some months later MB had occasion to visit Amman and considered taking the drive to Daraa to visit Ahmad and family following an invitation to do so. But things had already started to go pear-shaped in that particular region of Syria and MB thought better of it. MB likes a bit of travel and adventure when the chance arises, but walking into a hungry lion’s den is not something MB is given to do.
But back to Ahmad’s story, as he recounted it to MB over a cup of coffee in a dusty construction project office in the UAE emirate of Umm Al Quwain, where they both found themselves on that particular day. A few nights earlier the police had arrested some kids in Daraa for spraying the Arabic word for ‘freedom’ on some street walls. The kids were copying the scenes they were witnessing every night of their TV screens as the Arab Spring was playing out in Tunisia & Egypt. Ahmad reckoned most of the kids didn’t even know the meaning of the word ‘horriah’. Was more or less a copycat action just to go with the flow. Impress their mates and maybe even impress a few young ladies with their feats of daring-do. And at this stage there were already protests on the streets of various Syrian towns against the Government but they were largely peaceful.
Anyway, the Daraa police didn’t take too kindly to the graffiti, not having many street artists amongst their number. The kids got violently beaten, and according to the word on the street immediately after their release from custody, they also had many of their finger-nails pulled off for good measure. The parents and the general public were outraged and pretty soon all hell broke loose. President Assad allegedly punished the police officers in question but the genie was already out of the bottle and there was no putting him back in. Cans of spray paint were soon swapped for more potent equipment, and the rest is history.
And that is how the war in Syria started, more or less. Daraa exploded into violence and other areas followed. Four and a half years later as MB writes this post, there are 250,000 known dead, and probably another 50,000 unknown dead (can’t put names to the faces) or more. That total number (even the lesser figure), if you are into comparisons, is more victims than the combined totals of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings of WW2.
MB has written previously about the Syrian situation and the refugees in particular. He got tired of writing about it at various stages as he felt he was just boring everyone. So he won’t go into all that refugee or Syrian stuff again. However, seeing that photo yesterday and today all over the news media made MB stop and think again about all the Syrian’s he knows, and the horror of horror they and their families are living and dying through.
MB was a bit surprised at the reaction to the photo of the child. There’s maybe 50,000 kids already dead in similar or related circumstances, give or take a few thousand, or ten thousand. So what’s another one?
A powerful photograph obviously makes a difference. In-your-face sort of stuff, from a dead kid face down. But under the circumstances it shouldn’t make a difference at all. If nobody’s got upset at the death of 50,000 kids MB just throws his hat at it all. And then one more dead kid appears, face down on a wet beach, and suddenly everyone is appalled and horrified and disgusted. People are just stupid MB is thinking. There is no other explanation for it. Or none that MB can think of at least.