Syria: Bombing cannot bring peace

In Featured News, News by Donal Lyons

Lord Mayor, may I add my welcome to our guests and new neighbours who arrived yesterday. I hope their stay provides an opportunity to recover from te terrible experiences they have been through.

Last month I visited Istanbul and met with Syrian refugees who had made their temporary home there.
As you would expect from their circumstance the group I met with were from different backgrounds and professions, different faiths and different cities and towns across Syria.

But as one their hope was that they would be able to return home as soon as possible and rebuild their lives in Syria.
When the conversation turned to the political situation within Syria, what the future of the country should be what they wished to return to there was an uncomfortable silence.

Later as I was shown around their food bank and number of them approached me individually explaining that they were afraid that if they spoke their mind in front of the others that their view would noted and by one way or another find its way back to the Assad regime.

Even in Istanbul, 100’s of miles away from Syria and among people who had fled the conflict months before, there was a fear that the agents of the Assad regime would somehow be able to seek and exact retaliation. And when we read the story that appeared in today’s papers the story of Ahmad al-Musalmani, a 14 year old boy who was arrested, tortured and murdered by the Assad regime merely for having a protest song on his mobile phone – we can begin to comprehend their fear.

I relate this Lord Mayor to illustrate the human impact, the cost and the complexities of the conflict in Syria.
It is both a civil war which has arisen from the Arab Spring and a sectarian war stoked in part by the invasion of Iraq. It is a war involving differing nationalities and ethnicities and a war which includes proxy actors sponsored by other powers in the region.

It is a war that has seen many of the groups involved shift allegiances due to a variety of political, religious and tactical reasons.

And it is when we begin to appreciate this Lord Mayor that we realise that we cannot bring peace by simply building a wall around Syria and lobbing bombs at those trapped within. Turning specifically to Da’esh there is a compelling need to ensure that the evil of this group is defeated and defeated comprehensively.

And while the territorial existence of their so called ‘caliphate’ plays a role in their propaganda it is only a small part of their overall agenda of radicalisation. Their recent expansion in activity across the Maghreb, their attacks in the Sinai Desert and attempts to stoke the volatile situation in Tunisia and Libya has demonstrated that their terrorism is not confined to a territory.

Their calculated and appalling atrocities, their targeting of historic and religious sites of Islam, their rejection and denunciation of modern civilisation are not merely random acts of destruction. As difficult as it may be for us to understand Lord Mayor Da’esh are not merely nihilists, if they were they would be easier to defeat. Rather they are fanatics, an extremist cult who have warped the teachings of a major world faith and use it to portray themselves as agents of a coming apocalypse.

Air strikes in Syria may in the short term disrupt their territorial and tactical capacity but it will inevitably bolster and strengthen these dangerous and false image they portray. What is needed in Syria, and across the Middle East and North African region is a coordinated humanitarian and political efforts.

In Europe we need an urgent reform of the Dublin Protocol and an immediate intensive refocusing of the Vienna process, one which confront and not appeases those governments who directly or indirectly facilitate the Da’esh and Assad regimes in terms of trade, personnel and arms. Finally Lord Mayor we have heard of the tragedies of the millions displaced and we have seen the harrowing images of Ilyan Kurdi and the thousands who have perished fleeing this conflict but we must always remember that behind every number and every photograph there is a terrible human cost.

This latest escalation in bombing will inevitably result in more people seeking refuge and an increase in those attempting the treacherous sea routes across the Mediterranean. This comes at the time of year in which the weather is at its worst in the Mediterranean and we must do all we can to prevent more needless deaths.