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Problems on hold: A replay of history, but the world looks on

01 Aug 2014 11:50 am

Youssef Sidhom

In the wake of the breakdown of the Soviet Union at the outset of the 1990s, the peoples of Eastern Europe scrambled to free themselves of the curse of communist rule they had long endured, and to catch up with democracy and reform.
In a whirlwind of change the world witnessed the birth of new free States in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and before them a unified Germany. Romania, Bulgaria and Albania followed with difficult labour pains before they could break away with the communist, despotic regimes. But it was Yugoslavia that had to go through the anguish of gruesome bloodshed until it ended up splintered into a number of small, wounded, devastated States whose people took years to peacefully settle down and rebuild new lives.
Yugoslavia was one-of-a-kind; it was a State of significant weight among the Eastern Bloc and its president, Josip Broz Tito, was a star leader among the Non-Aligned States. But Yugoslavia embraced several ethnicities: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Montenegro that were notorious for ethnic and religious fanaticism, and the tyranny of the majority over the minority. Yugoslavia under Tito gathered all these ethnicities under a wing of oppression, authority, and dominion. The entire situation was that of a rumbling volcano waiting to erupt.
Yugoslavia blew up after Tito, each of its ethnic groups demanding independence and separation from the mother nation, especially that Yugoslavia was actually no ‘mother’ that sheltered its ‘children’ under its wing, but allowed the big to enslave the small and the strong to oppress the weak. It did not take long for the vicious wars and appalling armed conflicts between the different ethnic groups to horrify the free world. The Christian Serbs and Croats attacked the Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina, committing some of the most horrendous crimes of ethnic cleansing and mass genocide.
The world community found it impossible to look on; demonstrations erupted decrying the fate inflicted on the Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovinians When the Serbs and Croats did not comply with the United Nations’ decision of a ceasefire, international troops were sent over to enforce it and separate the warring parties. NATO and the US conduced air raids over the sites, clusters and fortifications of the Serbs and Croats in order to break their backbone and force them to end the ethnic purging of the Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It took several years for the world to subdue the offenders, ensure the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and bring the war criminals to justice.
Today history is repeating itself; only this time in Iraq. The typical scenario has been ongoing for many years, but we failed to read it for what it really was, until it blew up a few weeks ago. Once again, the ball is in the court of the international community, and we are waiting for the world’s response.
Iraq was unified under the dictatorship, oppression and tyranny of Saddam Hussein, disregarding the different ethnicities that live there from Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians, Kurds, Druze and others. Even though Iraq appeared a politically, economically and militarily unified strong State, the truth is that it was a time bomb. Once Saddam Hussein was overthrown, horrific conflicts erupted between the different ethnic groups in Iraq, each striving for the largest possible piece of the nation’s cake and attempting to settle old accounts.
As Iraq’s people busied themselves with mutilating their homeland and tearing it apart, the States in the region looked on, ranting about a ‘unified Iraq’, a glossy motto on the surface but a heartbreaking alternative for any close observer of the shattering conflict there. This conflict weakened Iraq to the point of whetting the appetite of international terrorist groups and Islamist radical ones to raid the country.
The most recent, atrocious chapter of breaking down Iraq unfolded with the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) which invaded the Iraqi province of Nineveh and went on to ethnically purge its capital city, Mosul, of its Christians. The world has been looking on in disgraceful silence while Mosul’s Christians were driven out of their homes and their property seized under the threat of converting to Islam, paying jizia, or death. Their churches were burned and their priests, monks and nuns chased, assaulted and raped. The Christians were additionally humiliated by forcing them to leave on foot, oblivious to the aged among them, the women and the children. People around the world have denounced the atrocities, but what have the world powers done? Nothing.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sufficed with feeble, ineffectual declarations. The US’s ugly face showed in full focus as it looked on, with NATO close behind. They had all at one time risen to save the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but today behave as though nothing calls for saving the Christians of Mosul and Iraq. Even the Secretary-General of the Arab League merely decried what is happening. But any surprise? If the US remains silent, NATO turns a blind eye and the UN Secretary-General acts like ‘water’—no colour, taste, or odour—why should it come as a surprise that the Arab League exercises its hallmark role of mere rhetoric?
Mosul’s Christians have been offered as a blood sacrifice that has soiled the hands of the ISIL criminals and put to shame the world community. Till when? It breaks my heart that no one has any idea.

WATANI International
3 August 2014

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