The vicious Islamic State (IS) coordinated attacks in Paris last month dominated the media and sent shockwaves across Western capitals. Just this week, governments of the United Kingdom and Germany voted to intervene militarily in Syria owed strongly to the events in Paris.
But while media and public discussion has been dominated by the threat of IS, did the Paris attacks really change anything that we didn’t already know?
For a Syrian war fast approaching its 6th year, humanitarian catastrophe, bombings and bloodshed has become a daily reality. Over 7.5 million people have been internally displaced whilst a further 4 million refugees have escaped the country.
Over 250,000 people have been killed in a brutal war with seemingly no end in sight. As tragic as the Paris atrocities were, it should not mask the suffering and deaths of the thousands of civilians in Syria, Iraq and the greater region. No life should be deemed more precious than another.
The Syrian war that began in 2011 is nothing new for Western governments who are only now been prompted to take bold action. IS was as much a threat before Paris attacks as it is now. The brutality and mass hardships in Syria are as much of a reality now as they were for the past 5 years.
Western governments have a tendency to only react when problem reaches their doorstep. Too often the suffering and conflict have been seen as wars in a distant land, not a war that very much implicates them.
United States and European intervention in Syria was too slow and tepid and the greater foreign policy lacked conviction or consistency. Regional powers raced to take sides in the conflict with various interests in the outcome of the war.
IS militants and various other groups were able to roam freely across Turkey’s long porous border with little regard to the ensuing danger that would unfold.
IS were in the ascendancy and gathering strength long before West eventually intervened last year and that was only prompted by IS capture of large swathes of Iraq than their already considerable domination of Syria at the time.
IS atrocities in Syria were quickly introduced to Iraq as thousands of Christians and Yezidis were slaughtered and over 6000 Yezidi girls were imprisoned under the most horrible conditions.
Now, not only is the West subject to a grave threat but also faces swarms of refugees that the European governments are struggling to deal with.
Of course, people point to the danger of terrorist elements amongst the refugees but so many refugees would not pursue perilous journeys in the first place if their homes were not destroyed and their lives shattered.
As brutal as the Paris attacks were, we must see the bigger picture of human suffering and not only react when tragedy strikes close by. Western governments must do all they can to not only implement short-term measures to bring security and stability to their respective states but finally end the tragic suffering of millions of people.
First Published: Kurdish Globe
Other Publication Sources: Various Misc