The international community seems to be sleepwalking when it comes to Syria. We think it woke up from a deep sleep after a major humanitarian catastrophe in that country. It starts talking a little, leaves its bed and starts moving around. The moment we hope that now it will do something meaningful to stop this bloodshed, it goes back to bed. In the last five years, this sleepwalking raised optimism multiple times: We think now the international community finally understands the degree of violence, recognizes its humiliating stance concerning a massacre and decides to take steps to alleviate the pain, sorrow and hardship that Syrians are living through. However, every time there is huge disappointment as the international community goes back to bed and continues its deep historical sleep. During the massacre of Aleppo, we once more see this intentional sleepwalking.
The massacre in Aleppo intensified the last few weeks with the constant bombardment of population centers in the city, including hospitals. One of the most well-documented massacres in history is taking place in front of the international community. The regime and its allies are committing the most serious crimes, while the world looks away. Every day we see rubble and heroic humanitarian workers with their bare hands trying to save those who survive under the most brutal bombs and destroyed buildings. The international community is maintaining its five years of inaction and avoidance, refuses to react to the bombing spree.
OK, maybe this time they protested louder than before. The U.S. administration surprised everyone by stopping negotiations with Russia about the cease-fire after five years of indecisiveness in the last month of the presidency of Barack Obama. And of course, the U.N. Security Council pulled the same trick - bringing a resolution to the table that will definitely be vetoed by one of the permanent members. For the last five years, when violence intensified and public pressure mounted, some governments took the issue to the U.N. Security Council. In an ideal world, the UNSC is the forum and discussion ground to resolve significant crisis in international relations, such as stopping massacres in Syria. However, it has proven otherwise. States take the issue to the UNSC mostly to be on the record as opposing crimes against humanity. These states already know the issue will be vetoed; thus, they have the moral high ground without doing anything. In Aleppo, it happened again yesterday. The resolution to stop bombing Aleppo, which in an ideal world would pass and be implemented and enforced by the major powers, was rejected. Of course, following this rejection, other major powers denounced the veto, statements that were probably prepared before the vote on the resolution.
The international community once more decided not to take action when the most heinous crimes against humanity were being committed in Aleppo. Contrary to expectations, history will not forgive countries that sleepwalked during this crisis. It will also not forget countries that failed to act while a regime and its allies killed its people, forcing them to survive in the most inhumane ways. Together with the country that vetoed the resolution the countries that already knew about the resolution but did propose the resolution in order to rescues themselves from the pressure and criticism will also be regarded as one of the responsible parties. The massacre in Aleppo will be talked about in the future as a crime committed with contributions by onlookers like the international community.
About the author
Kılıç Buğra Kanat is Research Director at SETA Foundation at Washington, D.C. He is an assistant professor of Political Science at Penn State University, Erie.