Today, on International Women’s Day, I’ve been reminded of how grateful I should be. Maybe it’s because I’ve been flipping through images of women’s protests around the world. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching sentimental videos that make me feel inspired (even if they are marketing ploys by Google). Either way, I can’t help but feel grateful.
By the time this post goes up around midnight tonight, it will no longer be International Women’s Day. Before then, I’d like to take a moment to be thankful, and highlight ways we can support other women in their fight to win these privileges too.
1. Freedom and Safety
When I get up in the morning, I do not feel afraid. My country is not at war. My physical safety is not threatened. Throughout history, this was not something most women could take for granted. In many countries around the world this is still something women cannot take for granted.
Since the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, I encountered several articles that criticize the way the Western world responded to the tragic loss of life in Paris. While each of these articles bemoans the loss of 132 innocent lives, they also highlight similar atrocities that happened before the Paris attack and were almost completely overlooked.
In a lot of ways this event, and its media response, reminded me of the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. While the media response to this tragedy has been a little more self-aware, our international reaction has been similar to how it was last time this kind of tragedy affected a Western nation. Rather than discuss the way we responded to these attacks, I wanted to examine why we reacted the way we did.
1) It felt close to home
I remember waking up the morning of 9/11, walking into the living room to see my mom crying. My dad turned to me and told me the world had changed overnight. Hearing about the attacks on Paris gave me the same shiver of fear that I felt that day. I don’t think it’s hard to dissect what motivates that feeling. These particular attacks were frightening because they happened to Western nations, and we in the West are very accustomed to feeling in control. We took control over much of the world during an age of imperialism, colonization, and slavery. Today we continue to control much of the world through unfair aid practices and political manipulation. These kind of attacks are terrifying because they make us feel like we don’t have as much control as we think we do.
Refugees from the Syrian civil war, Aylans family’s had attempted to escape to Vancouver, only for their application to be rejected by the Canadian government. With nowhere else to turn, the Kurdi family fled to Europe in a final effort to escape. While the Kurdis found passage on a small boat bound for Greece, the vessel was far overloaded with refugees and tipped a few miles off the Turkish coast. Aylan, his brother Galip, and six other passengers (all but one of them children) fell overboard and drowned, their bodies washed ashore to where this heartbreaking picture was taken.
I was born in the US, but the vast majority of my life was spent in the Middle East. In spite of the civil war that’s been raging in my adopted homeland for the past couple of years, I’ve remained largely silent on the issue here on the blog. More than anything else, I’ve done so because I know that there’s really no happy ending to anything I can say. For all my raging and foaming at the mouth, I really and truly don’t enjoy having to lambaste things- more than anytime else when there’s really and truly no light I can see at the end of the tunnel. Nevertheless, with American warships closing in on the Syrian coast and a mountain of evidence growing for the regime having unleashed a chemical attack on its own people, there’s really no keeping quiet at this point.
So here it goes.
I. There Is No Free Syrian Army
If you’ve been watching the situation or if you listen to the news, you may hear the term “Free Syrian Army” or “FSA” thrown around. While initially formed out of deserting Syrian soldiers and officers in the early stages of the conflict, there never really was- and still isn’t- any kind of centralized command. There’s a myriad of different militias and cells in Syria all operating under the banner of the FSA, but there’s really no connection between any of them, militarily, ideologically, or demographically. There’s also no connection, as is otherwise sometimes portrayed, between the self-declared opposition government operating out of Turkey and the FSA- they’re two completely different groups. It’s important to understand this to keep from being led into the false assumption that there’s only two sides to the conflict- the dictatorial regime and the pro-democracy rebels. There’s going to be a temptation to grossly oversimplify the situation- don’t let it happen more than it already has.