From Newtown to Damascus

Mohammed Salaymeh

Daniel Barden

Charlotte Baker

Ahmad Abu Daqa

Olivia Engel

O’laa Jablawi

It is extremely difficult to look at any of these names and not be reminded of some of the horrors that the world has had to face last year.

daniel barden
Daniel Barden

The subway system in New York a few weeks ago was filled with awestruck passengers reading about the massacre that shook Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut last month. Daniel Barden, Charlotte Baker, and Olivia Engel, all six years old, were just some of the names of the victims that appeared in these reports, shot and killed for no reason, sparking what appears to be the most heated gun control debate the US has seen in years.

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Mohammed Salayma

A few weeks ago, on the 12th December of 2012, what was referred to as a “once in a lifetime date”, Mohammed Salayma celebrated his seventeenth birthday with his friends and classmates. He was more excited, however, to celebrate his day with his family. He was so excited he actually volunteered to choose and pick up his birthday cake himself, but sadly never got to try it. Just a short distance away from his home, Sulayma was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint in Hebron. Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint claimed that Sulayma was holding what turned out to be a plastic gun. No evidence suggesting the presence of a toy gun surfaced.

Ahmad Abu Daqa of Gaza was shot dead by Israeli artillery fire while playing soccer with his friends just a few blocks away from his house. He was wearing his favorite Real Madrid jersey. A picture of him wearing it on the Gaza shore last year spread like wildfire on Facebook. This wasn’t the first time a Palestinian was killed playing a sport, but it was this case that caught the attention of global soccer celebrities, including Didier Drogba. These players expressed their solidarity with the “people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom.”

AlZaatarirefugeecamp
Al-Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan

O’laa Jarbawi, the last name on the list, is one of more than 4000 children reportedly killed by Assad’s forces since March 2011. The 2 and a half year old from the besieged city of Latakia was shot in the head as she and her parents attempted to flee the city. Their car came under fire. Children in Syria have not been spared, and have been killed in the most gruesome of ways. Those who manage to escape and make it to refugee camps must endure horrible living conditions, cold nights in tents, and little water and food.

Violence is rooted in the history of many countries. Whether these have been in the Arab World or here in the US, many of the populations in these countries are considered “conquest societies,” where organized militia groups collected as much fire power as possible to fight off government tyranny and gain independence. It is from these historical moments that the founding ideas for freedom, justice, and the right to live peacefully arose.

What our world has come to today challenges these principles. The hurt caused by the Newtown elementary school tragedy reverberated across the globe. Videos and images emerging from Syria showing several massacres and child victims are unbearable to watch, and children in the West Bank and Gaza have consistently been shot and injured without any evidence to support justifications provided by the Israeli army.

No matter the context, no matter what kind of violence, when children are the victims it definitely hits closer to home. As we welcome the New Year, here’s hoping our governments and societies gain the capacity to take responsibility for the mourning and loss they cause. For whether in a small town in Connecticut or a small town in Syria or the West Bank, the grief felt by the families of the victims is uniform, and in all cases impossible to recover from.

*This post is dedicated to Maryam Al Khawaja, whose activism and bravery in pursuit of freedom is inspiring to us all.
*If you’re in Jordan, visit
this page to donate to Syrian refugee camps.
 

About @WomanUnveiled

@WomanUnveiled is a Middle Eastern gal that grew up in Jordan and has been able to explore the world from there. She has camped in Petra, touched the sky at Burj Khalifa, driven through the streets of Riyadh (shhh), and partied the night away at Sky Bar in Beirut. Her home, for now, is New York. The journey continues at womanunveiled.com.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Occupation, syria, US Politics

{ 13 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Sam905 says:

    A great article, although the writer singled out the , “Assad’s forces” in killing the children of Syria. Knowing for fact that foreign Islamist, who are supported by the west and the some Arab countries have committed more massacres against the Syrian people and they still do, the bombing of Aleppo university yesterday is just one of many. The Assad regime is definitely responsible for not protecting its citizens, but we have to be accurate when we try to end the violence and the people who cause it.

    • From the way I phrased what I said it does sound like I’m singling out Assad’s forces you’re right. I agree with you though what’s going on is much more complex and there are many parties involved.

      • Rusty Pipes says:

        Actually, your title and your donation link make this look like an anti-Assad propaganda piece, couched in concern for all the innocent children worldwide who aren’t protected by their governments. If your final example is of a child hit by a stray bullet in Latakia, why does your title emphasize Damascus? Interestingly, even when Western politicians condemn “both sides” in the Syrian violence, it is only the Syrian government that they try to hold responsible, certainly not the “activists” and “freedom fighters” whose car bombs are responsible for a good percentage of civilian deaths — men, women and children.

        • rusty, the anonymously unveiled woman (who appears veiled )is a supporter of defectors of assad’s who was as well a trainer of free syrian army forces. link to womanunveiled.com

          i’m not sure why she didn’t just say she singled out assad’s forces on purpose. certainly she couldn’t have not noticed making no mention of al-Nusra recognized by our state department as a terrorist group, responsible for suicide bombings (by their own account) and connections to al queda. link to cnn.com

          perhaps it’s because, since she says she grew up in jordan (and the US is training salafist forces jordan) she doesn’t recognize their contribution to civilian death in syria.

          the link raises money for Zaatari Refugee Camp, recipient of USAID and where they recruit for free syrian army. some allege it’s run by the cia. sad conditions:

        • Rusty Pipes says:

          “It’s complicated”

        • Actually it is complicated. I think your comments are a little bit unfair. My blog is anything but anti-Assad propaganda piece. The links to my blog that you include more than anything discuss the bravery of the women I mention, not their connection to the FSA. At the same time, the goals of the FSA, those involved, and the whole “organization” is an enigma, just like the whole situation in Syria.
          As for your comment Annie, just because I do not mention al Nusra does not mean that I do not recognize them. As for Al Zaatari camp, it holds 30,000 Syrian refugees, just 30% of the entire Syrian refugee population currently in Jordan. My including the link was honestly and sincerely an attempt to raise awareness on the conditions of the camp and to help foster donations.
          I’d be happy to answer any more concerns, but I think some of your comments were uncalled for and farfetched.

        • Donald says:

          WomanUnveiled–I agree with your criticisms of the Assad regime, which has committed countless atrocities, but I clicked on Annie’s link above and you do seem rather supportive of the FSA in those posts, more than you are here. So I’m not sure where you stand. If you are just trying to make people aware of the suffering of the children, that’s fine, but it does seem clear that Assad’s armed opponents have committed numerous atrocities themselves.

        • woman unveiled, if you care to assert you had no intention of leaving the impression all the children killed in syria since the beginning of this conflict were killed by assad’s forces just do so.

          From the way I phrased what I said it does sound like I’m singling out Assad’s forces you’re right.

          i’m probably not the only person that noticed you completely evaded mentioning why this was. people here are not fools. there’s a war going on in syria. you blamed all the child civilian deaths on assad’s forces and tied a direct link to a recent massacre in sandy hook, to make an emotional appeal. and you think i am being unfair? this is not rocket science.

          just because I do not mention al Nusra does not mean that I do not recognize them.

          it would never occur to me (or anyone) you do not recognize al nursa UW, nor would i, or did i, suggest this. but again, you evaded my point which was:

          their contribution to civilian death in syria.

          when you want to be forthcoming let me know. i am very sorry about the conditions of syrian refugees in jordan.

        • Rusty Pipes says:

          Human nature may be complicated. The long history of a region and the interactions of its various groups may be complicated. However, the neocon playbook for Syria has been clearcut for over a decade: destabilization and regime change. Neocon political appointees in US Defense, State and Intelligence during the Bush administration were given free rein to pursue that agenda and even if the Obama administration has channeled its forces away from direct military intervention, it has not reined in that agenda of regime change. As Glenn Greenwald noted over a year ago:

          The current turmoil in the Middle East is driven largely by popular revolts, not by neocon shenanigans. Still, in the aftermath of military-caused regime change in Iraq and Libya (the latter leading to this and this), with concerted regime change efforts now underway aimed at Syria and Iran, with active and escalating proxy fighting in Somalia, with a modest military deployment to South Sudan, and the active use of drones in six — count ‘em: six — different Muslim countries, it is worth asking whether the neocon dream as laid out by Clark is dead or is being actively pursued and fulfilled, albeit with means more subtle and multilateral than full-on military invasions (it’s worth remembering that neocons specialized in dressing up their wars in humanitarian packaging: Saddam’s rape rooms! Gassed his own people!). As Jonathan Schwarz (or, as he would be called by establishment newspapers: “a person familiar with Jon Schwarz’s thinking on the subject who asked not to be identified”) put it about the supposedly contentious national security factions:

          As far as I can tell, there’s barely any difference in goals within the foreign policy establishment. They just disagree on the best methods to achieve the goals. My guess is that everyone agrees we have to continue defending the mideast from outside interference (I love that Hillary line), and the [Democrats] just think that best path is four overt wars and three covert actions, while the neocons want to jump straight to seven wars.

          The difference between seven and four overt wars isn’t non-existent or unimportant, of course, but it’s a question of means. The neocon end as Clark reported them — regime change in those seven countries — seems as vibrant as ever. It’s just striking to listen to Clark describe those 7 countries in which the neocons plotted to have regime change back in 2001, and then compare that to what the U.S. Government did and continues to do since then with regard to those precise countries.

  2. One more thing to reiterate:
    Assad’s forces are not alone in causing the bloodshed we see every day in Syria, but I do believe that in any context it is the responsibility of the state and the government to protect its people. Assad’s government has let go of that responsibility.

    • American says:

      @ unveiled

      Don’t try to use children killed as part of or a plea for your “side’ of the Syria conflict.
      We know more about the ‘complications” involved than you think.
      Your side isn’t simeon pure and neither is it a ‘Popular People’s Revolt for Syria”…..Sunni Saudi isn’t funding your side for no reason and foreign fighters aren’t in your ranks for no reason.

    • I do believe that in any context it is the responsibility of the state and the government to protect its people.

      that’s kind of tricky when thousand for foreign jhiadist supported by the global superpower are crossing over your borders, embedding themselves in the neighborhoods and using them to stage attacks. i’m not so clear how one protects the people under those circumstances.

      Assad’s government has let go of that responsibility.

      maybe they think going after the invaders is, indirectly, in the best interest of the people. or do you like how libya turned out?

      • Donald says:

        “maybe they think going after the invaders is, indirectly, in the best interest of the people.”

        Most dictators see themselves as the heroes in their own drama. I don’t see either the FSA or the Assad regime as anything more than butchers, based on their actions, not on how they see themselves.