It was a moment of déjà vu in the UN Security Council this week when China and Russia voted against sanctions on Syria. Their votes were out of line with a global consensus that the Syrian régime’s war on its people violates human rights and is a threat to regional peace and security. What those two states did was dismissed on the streets of Syria’s smaller cities, where people carried banners that read “Russia and China do not [favor] freedom or dignity,” but is also reminiscent of the Cold War when the progress of human rights was held hostage by the Soviet Bloc and the US and its allies.
Some historians have argued that the Cold War merely interrupted the history of human rights; I tend to think the politicization of human rights by states in this fashion is the norm and that consensus building in the UN around human rights action is the unique, rare and now fleeting exception.
Still, the EU, Turkey and the US are continuing to build a sanctions régime against Syria. And reports from inside the country show no let up in demonstrations, a trickle of military defections and the gradual organization in exile of an alternative government. Still Aleppo and Damascus are quiet and their inhabitants, though fully aware of what is happening in the rest of the country have yet to rise in solidarity.
All this means for now is continuing misery in Syria: the UN has just announced that 187 children have been killed since demonstrations began last Spring and word comes of additional harassment of Syrian dissidents living abroad.
Along those same lines, I call your attention to the case of Yassin Ziadeh. Yassin’s brother, Radwan, is an important Syrian dissident who fled Syria several years ago. Radwan has even visited Davis as a Scholar at Risk and was a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Peace a year before I was. He has been at the forefront of identifying human rights abuse in Syria. Now his family back home, in particular his brother, are being targeted by the régime. According to Scholars at Risk, Yassin is being held incommunicado and without charge. Presumabley this is being done to pressure his brother and frighten others in the Syrian diaspora; if they support the opposition their families back in Syria are in danger. If you have a chance please use the model below to write to the Syrian ambassador on behalf of Yassin.
I’ll blog more about Syria over the weekend.