He turned his country into a graveyard. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, including 25,000 children. Millions more have been forced to flee. Terrible crimes – war crimes, crimes against humanity, widespread torture, indiscriminate bombing, chemical attacks – have been committed in his name, and continue to this day. Syria lies in ruins. So why, 10 years after the war began, is Bashar al-Assad still in power?
It’s a question with many answers, which boil down to one: inertia. Syria’s dictator-president has survived this long because the international community has allowed it. The UN’s independent international commission of inquiry has produced dozens of damning reports since 2011. Its latest records how tens of thousands of civilians have been “forcibly disappeared” by the regime, or subjected to “torture, sexual violence or death in detention”.
The commission’s chair, Paulo Pinheiro, points to a collective global failure. “Parties to this conflict have benefited from the selective intervention and woeful negligence of the international community that has left no Syrian family unscathed. [Syrians] have paid the price as a brutal, authoritarian government unleashed overwhelming violence to quell dissent,” he said last month.
“Opportunistic foreign funding, arms and other support to the warring parties poured fuel on this fire that the world has been content to watch burn.”
Yet while few will dispute his analysis, even fewer pay him heed. The UN’s reports gather dust. A mountain of evidence has been collected by UN and European organisations – but is not systematically acted on. Assad’s tyranny continues unchecked. [Continue reading…]