Threats Against Idlib—And Humanity

The Syrian Civil War is reaching its breaking point in Idlib. That breaking point will determine whether the United States is still the symbol of peace and freedom, or a fraud.

Idlib Governorate. The last remaining rebel stronghold in war-ridden Syria and a continuous target of conflict and attack from the Syrian regime. But also a place that 2.9 million people call home.

The Syrian Civil War, a 6-year long, bloody conflict between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian rebels, has been a fierce fight for political freedom and a new government. In 2011, a peaceful uprising from rebels wishing for increased independence from the Syrian government and a less corrupt government came in the form of a demonstration in Homs. But these minor demonstrations, as they were met with an unchanging regime, rapidly turned into massive protests. And the government was quick to respond with brutal shows of violence.

Soon, these peaceful protests had dissolved into a full-blown war. On June 12, 2012, the United Nations officially declared Syria to be in a state of civil war. A meaningful and nonviolent means of reform had been crushed by water cannons, tear gas, live fire, and the blindness of ignorance and greed.

The main ally of the Assad regime is Russia, who aided them in supply and also in actual conflict against the rebels, as maintaining the regime in Syria was key to their interests in the country. Meanwhile, the United States cautiously backed the rebels, providing them with military training and supplies, but rarely aiding them in conflict. However, the United States did launch occasional air-strikes against the Syrian regime, as part of their campaign against ISIS and the war against terrorism.

And now, it has all boiled down to Idlib, the city housing the last rebel stronghold opposing the oppressive regime.

The United States had warned Syria and its Russian allies—the first warning from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on September 1st, and the second warning from President of the United States Donald Trump, on September 4th—not to “recklessly attack” the city. The concern was the humanitarian issues that come with such a strike. The assault would endanger hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians living in the area and could displace as much as 700,000 Syrians. But only hours after the warning from President Trump, Russian planes struck western Idlib.

Earlier this year in July, the Syrian government and the rebels had come to a reconciliation agreement stating that the refugees would hand over their military hardware at the moment, as well as all their weaponry once ISIS was removed from southern Syria. Those who did not want to participate in this agreement was to be allowed to relocate to Idlib. Idlib was supposed to be a relatively safe haven. Yet the current debris of demolished buildings and civilian casualties say otherwise.

Secretary Pompeo said that the attack on Idlib was something that Syria and Russia had “agreed not to permit,” and that it should be viewed as an “escalation of an already dangerous conflict.” There are concerns that this perilous situation will escalate even further, with the possibility that the Syrian government will use chemical weapons against the rebels in Idlib.

But even after these warnings, Russia is still on the offensive. Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, told the Western nations not to “play with fire”, implying that Russia will not back down from this fight anytime soon.

A regime that destroys its own innocent civilians in the pursuit of complete dominance. A government indulged in its own corruption, sacrificing its people for extended power. A civil war that annihilates both buildings and dreams of a freer country alike, spreading authoritarianism under the cover of the word, “republic”. Conflict upon conflict, chaos upon chaos, placing yet another mark of radical violence onto history’s already marred face, and increasing doubt that any room for peace is left.

At this rate, not much will be left at all.  

Amid the rubble and dead bodies, there will still be people whose hearts remain unscarred and whose minds remain untwisted from the violent hatred they have experienced first-hand. There will still be people that will advocate for peace rather than combat. But, as the death rate continues to rise and people continue to lose their homes, these numbers will soon dwindle to an alarming few.

If this conflict continues to displace and harm mass amounts of innocent civilians, it must be stopped. And against the rising opposition, it is the duty of the United States, as a democratic country, to protect the lives and rights of these civilians until the fighting has come to an end.

– Lauren Cho (’22)

Featured Image: Abdurrazzak Sekirdy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Russia Partially Decriminalizes Domestic Violence

“If he beats you, it means he loves you.” In Russia, where old proverbs and traditions are still relevant today, the parliament voted to decriminalize domestic violence. Read on to find out what this means for the victims and the aggressors.

Late January, the Russian lower house of parliament, the Duma, voted 380-3 to decriminalize domestic violence unless it causes serious damage to the victim or happens more than once a year.  The bill will punish violations with a $500 fine or a 15-day arrest except in the cases of domestic abuse not subject to this law. If this bill takes effect, first-time offenders that do not cause harm severe enough to send the victims to the hospital will receive no penalties.

If this bill is approved by the upper house, the Federation Council, and signed by President Putin, Russia will become one of only three countries in Central Asia and Europe that does not have any laws specifically targeting domestic abuse. No or minimal opposition is expected in the Federation Council, and President Putin has already expressed his support for the bill.

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PC: yahoo.com

The amendment will overrule a ruling by the Russian Supreme Court that took effect last July that eliminated criminal liability for domestic violence that results in no physical harm but kept criminal charges for battery against family members. As soon as it began to be enforced, the law faced fervent opposition; Russian lawmaker Yelena Mizulina described it as “anti-family” and “undermining the parents’ ‘right’ to beat their children.”

Human rights activists argue that the government should be protecting the victims from more domestic violence; however, the Russian parliament has chosen “protecting the family unit as an institution” over protecting the women and children whose rights are violated every time they are assaulted by their own family. Other critics of the amendment claim that the passing of this bill will send a message to the Russians that domestic violence is not a crime and will fuel the rate of battery against family members, which is already high in the country.

According to the Russian government, 36,000 wives are beaten by their spouses every day, while 26,000 children are abused by their parents every year. In order to escape domestic violence, 2,000 adolescents commit suicide and 10,000 run away every year. However, 60-70% of victims do not seek help, so 97% of domestic abuse cases never appear in court.

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PC: domestic-violence-law.com

Archaic ideologies have been gaining traction in not only Western Europe but Russia as well recently. Specific laws criminalizing domestic abuse and other “private affairs” are increasingly perceived as nosy meddling in household matters by the government. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, stated that family conflicts are “not always equivalent to domestic abuse,” and a state-run survey in January found that 19% of Russians believed that it can be acceptable to beat a wife or child in “certain circumstances.” Even some Russian police officers are reluctant to get involved in domestic violence cases, which they view as meddling in family affairs.

The Russian cultural and political establishment has always upheld traditional values, but they have become increasingly conservative in the past few years, especially under President Putin. New restrictions on protests and political liberal opponents have already been passed, so the Russian government’s backtracking on their domestic violence policy has not proved to be a surprise although it has worried human rights activists.

Domestic violence, however, is not an unfamiliar problem to us as well. According to South Korea’s Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, 60% of all domestic violence cases were dropped from prosecution charges in 2015, while only 15.6% went through the indictment proceedings. A total of 118,178 cases were reported, but only 8762 arrests were made. In our country, domestic abuse is also widely perceived as a private matter that law enforcement should not pry into, and the perseverance of the family unit is often valued more than the victims of “family conflicts.”

How many more pleas from the victims of domestic abuse will convince societies with deep patriarchal roots that domestic violence is unclear, but it is clear that it is a severe issue that must be tackled by the government. The safety and quality of the lives of the citizens should be prioritized over the set ideals of political parties. So far, many conservative governments have not fulfilled their own duty by not taking enough action or actually backtracking in their efforts to progress towards social justice; however, governments must start listening to their own people before the voices of victims are completely silenced by their aggressors.

– Kristin Kim (’20)

Featured Image: headstuff.org

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