The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) says more than 440,000 internally displaced Syrians and about 31,000 of those who have fled abroad have now returned to their hometowns, the BBC reports.
According to the BBC, “most of them have returned to Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus with the aim of checking on their properties and finding out about family members.”
What do these locations have in common? They are all more or less in the hands of the Syrian government. Late last week, the Syrian Arab Army repelled ISIS from its last remaining posts in Aleppo – the city the Russian and Syrian militaries heavily bombarded last year in an effort to retake it from a number of rebel groups.
The media attempted to paint the Russian and Syrian onslaught of Aleppo in 2016 as an outright massacre (though one would be hard-pressed to explain why, if the rebels were truly fighting for freedom, hundreds of thousands of civilians would wait until these American-backed fighters left these areas before they returned to their homes).
In recent days, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad took his first trip to Hama since the start of the conflict, marking his growing confidence in the Syrian war. Clearly, from the U.N.’s statistics, as explained by the BBC, Assad wasn’t the only one feeling confident enough to travel back there, as thousands of civilians have also returned to these areas.
All of this begs the question: what were Syrians fleeing to begin with, if not the Syrian government? According to a report entitled “If the Castle Falls,” compiled by a think tank founded by the Tony Blair Foundation, the majority of Syrian rebels share ISIS’ core ideology. The report also found that Syria’s rebels cannot be divided into radicals and moderates because they all work together on the ground.
Let’s suppose every single allegation against Assad is true. The fact of the matter is that the world is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since World War II, and it’s causing major division and conflict across our societies.
Let’s face it: nobody wants these refugees. England doesn’t want them. America doesn’t want them. Germany doesn’t want them. France doesn’t want them. New Zealand doesn’t want them. Australia doesn’t want them.
Few are willing to say it, but if the ultimate aim of our policy is to put an end to the refugee crisis, then the war in Syria must come to an immediate end. The U.S. and its allies must pull out of Syria immediately and discontinue all financial and military support for the various groups attempting to overthrow the Syrian government.
After these areas have been liberated, the Syrian people will return home again. It doesn’t matter what you think you know about Assad and his government. Syrians continue to tell a different story that the mainstream media completely ignores. As explained by Alternet’s Rania Khalek, who interviewed a number of Syrians who lived under rebel rule:
“The insurgents renamed the center of the town [in Idlib] ‘Slaughter Square,’ publicly punishing people there for moral code violations like smoking and adultery. Areej [a university student] complained, ‘The style of the armed groups is disgusting. Their beards are like 5 meters long. They think they are living like in Mohammed’s time. They are wrong. And anyway, we are in 2017. They think they are in 1014 Islamic State.’”
Comparatively, Assad’s government is somewhat secular. France once praised him for his protection of the rights of Syrian Christians – something these U.S.-backed, fanatical jihadist rebels do not promote.
After witnessing what happened in Iraq and Libya after the U.S. decided to forcibly remove the “dictators” of the aforementioned nations, the West will have to make a cold, hard choice. They must either continue these disastrous regime-change operations, including their violent and indiscriminate war against ISIS — which is burying civilians under the rubble and showering them with white phosphorus — and accept the millions of resulting refugees without complaint.
Or, Western countries can remove themselves and their horrifying policies from Syria and allow the Syrian people to stabilize themselves, as they are trying so hard to do. If thousands of Syrians want to return to their hometowns, as they are doing now, America’s decision to confront Assad’s military numerous times over the past month or so makes no sense at all in terms of providing the Syrian state with any stability.
As the Iraqi Vice President, Ayad Allawi, recently stated, the U.S. has abandoned its global leadership role. To take this even further, the U.S. has no role at all in Middle Eastern affairs. It continuously delivers chaos and instability and very rarely promotes any potential peaceful progress in the region.
Clearly, Syria would be doing quite alright by itself had the U.S. never interfered in its country. It would by no means be perfect, and Assad would be responsible for many egregious human rights abuses, as is often the case with Middle Eastern dictatorships (including our close allies).
Singling Assad out makes little sense in that context. Perhaps one day, Assad can be brought to trial for the numerous criminal allegations against him, but until that day comes, the millions of Syrians who want to return to their homes and get on with their lives unabated should surely come before Donald Trump and the West’s over-inflated egos.
This should be all that matters in this conversation. All future threats of war must be taken completely off the table, and the rest of the world should assist the Syrian people in taking back their territory and re-establishing themselves as the middle-income, relatively peaceful country they once were before a foreign-backed insurgency plagued the country in 2011.