By Charles Lawley Head of Advocacy for Syria Relief
In one single day this week, 10 schools and a hospital were hit by military fire in Idlib. At least 21 people were killed, 9 were children from the schools and three were teachers. On top of the deaths, 81 people were severely injured, half of whom were women and children, according to UOSSM.
According to the Middle East Institute’s Charles Lister, a rocket, designed to carry 30 cluster bombs also landed in a nursery yesterday morning, luckily it didn’t detonate but if it did, the amount of preschool age children killed could have been catastrophic.
If you do not get daily updates from Idlib, this might shock you. However, for those who work in Idlib every day, it is not shocking at all. It is normal. This is how the Idlib crisis, which has displaced around a million people in three months and killed hundreds, is being conducted. The targeting of schools, the targeting of hospitals, kill children, kill patients, kill doctors – achieve a military victory by what is, literally speaking, terrorism. This happened yesterday and this will probably happen today and tomorrow. This is the new normal for people living and working in Idlib.
But it is also the new normal for us, the British Public. We have become accustomed to atrocities happening in Syria and have now decided to largely tune out. A poll commissioned by Syria Relief and conducted by YouGov found that 3 in 4 people in the UK were not aware of humanitarian crisis in Idlib. Have we just decided to accept that innocent people, disproportionately women and children, are to be murdered until this conflict is over and turn our attention elsewhere?
I believe that, after the debacle of the Iraq war, we have become a more insular country – especially when it comes to matters outside of the Anglosphere. The atrocities being committed in Syria, the current suffering in Yemen or even the genocide committed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar in 2017, barely raised an eyebrow. Yet when you compare this to the public outpouring of the wildfires in Australia, not just for in sympathy for the Australian people, but for Australian wildlife too. If the hospitals and schools being bombed in Idlib were full of koalas, would we perhaps start to ask if the deliberate targeting of civilian life should not be normalised?
This month, we at Syria Relief, have had a colleague Ibrahim Saddo killed. He managed one of the healthcare centres we operate in Idlib. The week previous his healthcare centre was destroyed. He was amongst the rubble trying to salvage materials when another airstrike hit, killing him. It is now accepted that aid workers and healthcare workers, like children and teachers, are to be murdered in this conflict. If you are a healthcare worker in a healthcare facility in Idlib, you must now accept that there is a very real chance you will be murdered where you work.
Likewise, if you send your child to school, you must now accept that there is a very real chance you are sending your child to their death. Six of the 163 schools Syria Relief operates in Syria have been hit by airstrikes. The most recent was on January 1st at 11:45am. It was hit by a cluster bomb and nothing that could be misconstrued as a military target was in the same town. 12 people were killed, 5 were children. The two youngest victims were six-years old. And this is now perfectly ordinary, schools routinely get destroyed and little boys and girls are to die, their only crime is going to school.
Idlib is now a tragedy, wrapped in a tragedy, wrapped in another tragedy – not only are innocent civilians being deliberately killed, but no one is willing to do anything to try and stop it, in fact no one is listening. And it’s all become completely normal.
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