Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Blind, deaf and dumb, pathetic ..

... politics that has a system where regimes that suppress its people are allowed to condone the genocide of the Syria people by applying a veto on civilization.

... student Zaher Shehab has watched, helpless, as the uprising in Syria has torn his country apart. Then came news of a devastating attack on his family, writes Laura Pitel for today's Times

It was a Friday afternoon at the end of term. He should have been working in the university lab. Instead Zaher Shehab was standing in a corridor of the pharmacy faculty, following his mother’s funeral on his mobile phone. He had just lost seven members of his family in a single attack in Syria. His mother, Mayssa, his younger brother, two uncles, one aunt and two cousins had all been killed. They were working in their fields in a suburb of Damascus when they were hit. Two thousand miles away, the Bath University student could do nothing but try to absorb the news, powerless to help. “I can’t remember what I felt because really at that moment I couldn’t feel anything,” he says, his voice calm. “My brain stopped thinking. I couldn’t imagine what had happened. All of them together: my mother, my brother. Everything changed on that day.”

The polite, gently spoken 28-year-old arrived in Britain in 2010 to study for a PhD in pharmacy practice. A top-class student, he came on a scholarship paid for by the Syrian government, and was planning to return to Damascus to teach. But in November, Syrian intelligence snooped on his online exchanges and found anti-regime messages to friends. His funding was withdrawn. The university hardship fund and the Wellcome Trust stepped in. Without them he would have been forced to drop out.

His last trip home was shortly after the start of the uprising, which erupted in Syria last March on the back of turmoil across the Arab world. It was a surprise visit that delighted his parents, particularly his beloved mother. But a brush with the security forces, when he came close to being arrested, has left him unable to go back. Instead he found himself following developments in Syria from the incongruous setting of a West Country spa town.

While fellow students worried about deadlines and grades, over the past year and a half he has watched his country descend into violence. As the movement against President Assad has accelerated, he has seen protests sweep through his town, Daraya, and friends and neighbours killed. As the turmoil has dragged on the bloodshed has grown, with children massacred, whole districts destroyed and the estimated death toll topping 17,000.

Then, on July 6, the conf lict knocked on his family’s front door. He had just that is to blame. “We don’t know the kind of rocket or shelling — if it came from tank fire or helicopters,” he says. “No one could tell me if the rockets came from this side or that side. But for sure, 100 per cent we know that it is the Assad regime that owns these rockets and these tanks.”

Were they targeted deliberately or unlucky victims of random fire? It’s a question he will probably never be able to answer. The family were not politically active — they spent all their time working on the farm where they lived a simple life, growing tomatoes, aubergines and salads. “But in Syria there is no grey, only black and white,” he says. “If you are not with the government, they consider you against them.”

Friends and colleagues have been supportive and kind, putting him up in their homes so that he does not sleep alone. But they cannot compensate for being so far from Syria. “It is a hard time,” he says. “I can’t say anything else. It’s hard because I’m here, far away. I couldn’t do anything to support them. It’s difficult when one person dies ............

I guess we have to send a big thank you to Russia and China ......

...... and a big sigh of hopelessness when we see the antics of our world politicians unable or unwilling to say NO to the tyrants, thanks to the rump of civilization, UK, USA, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, India, Australia .... et al.


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