Do not turn a blind eye to the Syrian refugees

The ongoing situation in Syria has transformed from a political crisis, to a military confrontation, and now to a humanitarian crisis that simply must be addressed. No longer can the Middle East, or indeed, the world, turn a blind eye to the situation or attempt to shove it off onto the back burner of international politics. What is happening within Syria, an ancient land with a long and glorious history, is an issue that must be addressed not only for the sake of the people who live there, but for the long-term stability and political health of the entire region.

Besides being a political issue, taking the necessary steps to end the suffering of the Syrian people requires all our joint efforts as well. It is an undeniable fact that Bashar Al-Assad has a considerable amount of support within his country. That is a great mass of people which constitute about twenty percent of the total population. While this level of support would certainly be considered minimal in any democratic nation, in a dictatorship such as that as we find in Syria, long under the domination of the Ba’ath Party, it is enough to convince President Al-Assad and his circle of partisans that they must fight; we must also bear in mind that as far as President Al-Assad and the Ba’athists are concerned, it is not merely a struggle for political survival – they are fighting for their very lives. President Al-Assad quite likely harbors no illusions whatsoever about his fate, or that of his family, were he to be captured. The memory of the demise of the late President Saddam Hussein of Iraq or recently, that of Colonel Muammar Kaddafi of Libya no doubt stand starkly in his thinking, as well as that of the regime’s loyalists. Therefore, what should be done above all else is to convince Al-Assad through dialogue. He should be persuaded to see that the strife in the country cannot be resolved with continuing aggression; he needs to be convinced that with a peaceful solution he should step down and allow the Ba’athist regime to give way to new political solutions attained through democratic means. In the efforts to establish peace and to find a solution for the situation in Syria, ignoring him and the great mass of people supporting him would be meaningless and irrational, especially if we keep in mind that it is, from the point of view of President Al-Assad and his circle of intimates, an existential matter – it is quite literally, to be or not to be. If the solution is sought without considering the people who support Bashar Al-Assad, continuing tension and further outbreaks of violence will be inevitable. fo.

According to the statement made by the Turkish Republic Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency on November 6th, 2012, there are currently 111,890 Syrian citizens on the Turkish lands. There are a total of 13 tent cities; Hatay (5), Sanlıurfa (2), Gaziantep (3), and Kahramanmaras, Osmaniye and Adıyaman (1 each). This aside, there is one container city in Kilis with a population of 12,000. In these camps there are schools, mosques, trade and health centers, police headquarters, press briefing units, playgrounds, television halls, water tanks, water purification centers, and generators. 723 people are currently being treated in hospitals.

These people who have fled from their country are welcomed in Turkey and have been situated in the refugee camps within the Turkish borders. The Turkish refugee camps are extremely well-equipped ones, with much better living conditions compared to other neighboring countries. But urgent solutions are needed both for the refugees who are expected to reach 700,000 by the end of this year and the millions of women, children, infants and the ill still within the Syrian borders. Some initiatives must be promptly undertaken to provide clean potable water and hygienic conditions. The materials that are needed must be determined urgently, and proper organization and logistics must be put into place to meet them. More importantly, a vigorous public pressure must be generated to put an end to this persecution in Syria as soon as possible.

Providing help to those in need has always been a priority for the Turkish people. Our Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed the Syrian citizens in the refugee camps in Turkey and said; “You are now in the lands of your brothers and sisters, you are at home here. Until security can be ensured and peace can be established in Syria, until you will wish to return to your country of your own will, you are most welcome here.”

With all this currently being done by Turkey, we respectfully suggest that a commission to be formed in the European Parliament for Syrian Refugees in order to better define the proposal of the various solutions regarding the situation in Syria. Many intellectuals, scientists and religious leaders all over the world are willing to support this commission as an Advisory Group. The mission of this commission should be to help solve this ongoing conflict in Syria and thus solve the problems of the refugees at the outset. In this effort, we also want to be able to help decision makers of the world draw a roadmap for the establishment of a democratic environment in Syria for free elections to be held, for defining an alternative administration, to provide the environment for Al-Assad to peacefully step aside and leave the country in order to alleviate the tension in the country and for the formation of an international consensus with the contribution of countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and even Iran. Failure to do so will only prolong the agony of the Syrian people, and further increase regional tensions and instability, creating the ideal grounds for the forces of chaos and darkness to thrive. To allow that to happen while we have the means (if not always the political will) to do something to prevent that would be a tragic failure, one that future generations will certainly rue.

About the Author
Ece Koc, an economist and peace and interfaith advocate, is a host on the "Building Bridges" show on Turkey's A9TV satellite television channel.