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Saturday 20 August 2016

Omran: We are not helpless

By Batool Abdulkareem, Syria Solidarity UK

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Every six months or so, an image breaks through the indifference, the weariness, over Syria. A year ago, it was seeing Alan Kurdi, a three year old boy washed up dead on a Mediterranean beach, lying in the same posture as a sleeping child in its cot. Half a year ago it was the staring eyes of a starving baby in the besieged town of Madaya. Now it is Omran Daqneesh, five years old, bloodied and dazed after rescue volunteers pulled him from the ruins of one of Putin’s and Assad’s endless air attacks on civilians in Aleppo.

He sits, five years old, solitary and helpless. We watch, expecting soon to turn away once more. But we are not alone. We are not helpless.

We can join to call on our politicians to act, to stop this bombing. Overwhelmingly it is these attacks by the Russian and Syrian air force that are killing the majority of civilians, destroying hospitals, driving Syrians to flee.

Act how? Putin leads the killing now, and nobody wants to go to war with Russia. But there are ways other than war to respond.

The RAF now flies in Syrian airspace, so it has access to data on military flights over Syria. We can call on our government to use that data to identify the planes responsible for bombing hospitals; to publish details of whether they are Syrian or Russian planes, details of which bases they fly from. Publish so that we know who is to blame for each outrage, so that we know who exactly has command responsibility for these war crimes, and so that they know that they can be held accountable.

The UK can identify whose air force was responsible for the attack on Omran Dagneesh and his family, so that there can be no room for denial.

By the same means, the UK can give early warning to Syrian civilians when Russian and Syrian aircraft take off to attack civilian areas. Why is this not being done? We have the capacity, the radar systems, the communications technology to save lives.

And the UK can join with others in responding: EU leaders have the power to shut Putin’s Russia out of SWIFT, the interbank payment system. With Putin supplying Assad with Sukhoi bombers, with the Russian air force dropping cluster bombs and firebombs on civilians, this should happen now.

Other sanctions are also possible. Sukhoi, the Russian aircraft manufacturer supplying bombers to Assad, supplying the bombers that Putin’s air force uses to drop incendiaries, is still allowed to sell its wares in Europe. Russia’s trade delegation in the UK boasts of selling Sukhoi airliners to City Jet. It’s time to shut Sukhoi out of the European market.

We can’t turn away for another six months. Look at Omran, join together, and act.