x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Helplessness is not an option in Syria's suffering

The massacre of innocents cannot be hidden; the children of Daraya will be remembered.

The pictures released on Sunday - showing the bodies of young girls, shrouded in white sheets, strewn with green sprigs - spoke of astonishing brutalities committed during the alleged massacre at Daraya last week. In media coverage that has become inured to Syrians' suffering, these images remind the outside world what exactly is happening every day in that country. In Daraya, in Tremseh, in Hula, in Baba Amr, civilian deaths have been documented since almost the beginning of protests. And there are many, many other hidden victims in this war.

The bodies of almost 320 people, many of them women and children, were discovered in Daraya, a strategically significant town on the outskirts of Damascus, after a five-day offensive by the Syrian army. As The National reported yesterday, in the past two months the residents of Daraya had governed themselves - as many areas in the country have done as the regime concentrates its forces on city centres. Daraya showed, for a moment, how superfluous the regime is. Traffic flowed freely, stores were open for business and the local newspaper continued to publish. The regime's "governing" role was seen only in the violence.

After rounds of fruitless diplomacy, and Lakhdar Brahimi's replacement of Kofi Annan as UN-Arab League envoy, there has been a sense of helplessness in the international community. There is an aspect of truth there - foreign intervention is difficult, possibly dangerous and counterproductive. The downing of a Syrian helicopter yesterday might indicate that rebels are receiving anti-aircraft weapons, but decisive military intervention is fraught with complexity. Mr Brahimi's renewed diplomacy should not be written off, but there are deep doubts.

Hand-wringing, however, achieves nothing. This is particularly true regarding Syrian refugees who are, by no fault of their own, putting strain on Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, with a growing political debate in Ankara about how many to accommodate. The United Nations and member states must act urgently to shoulder some of that burden as the official tally exceeds 200,000.

Of course, those are only the refugees that have been counted; as in the case of the regime's casualties, there are many affected Syrians who are not in the spotlight. As the world searches for a solution in this worsening civil war, the record of atrocities and victims will help to provide a basis for Syria's eventual healing process.

This is not 1982, and these crimes cannot be hidden as the Hama massacre was 30 years go. The children of Daraya will be remembered.