Amidst the endless rubble in Idlib, Syira lies the remains of a hospital supported by ‘Medecins sans Frontiers’ or ‘Doctors without Borders’ in the latest wave of Russian airstrikes on Syria that saw 9 people killed and many more injured on Monday, 15th February.
For the civilians in Syria, caught up in the crossfire of a deeply complex geopolitical conflict involving its own government, international intervention and internal civil disputes for power, this attack is the latest show of aggression in an ongoing 5 year war.
With the intensity of the conflict increasing in Syria and the exponentially rising refugee crisis a result of constant aerial bombardment, those still trying to live their lives in conflict zones such as Idlib and Aleppo have become desperately dependent on infrastructure such as this hospital supported by MSF and the deliberate targeting of a place of refuge and treatment could ‘constitute war crimes‘ according to France and has been unequivocally condemned by international bodies.
The timing of this airstrike comes just days after Russia and other world powers agreed to bring about a pause in fighting that would allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid and the revival of Syrian peace talks. The destruction of this one hospital leaves a population of around 40,000 without any access to basic medical facilities and will inevitably result in the death of many more innocent Syrians.
In an already deeply perilous situation for the people of Syria and from the fallout of another attempt at peace talks between the Syrian regime and opposition forces, the question that arises is one of accountability and the likelihood of a realistic resolution to this conflict.
In the immediate short term, there needs to be a revised effort for a ceasefire on all sides that will allow humanitarian services to deliver the much needed aid and medical attention that is needed for the Syrian people.
There needs to be an international effort to deter the Russian government from deliberately targeting areas of high civilian populations. Under the guise of attacking the likes of ISIS, we cannot allow for the continued assault of the innocent Syrian people at the behest of their dictatorial regime. Syrian children have already seen a lifetime of conflict, and continued aggression in this manner will result in the loss of an entire generation.
There is also a role to be played here at home by our community and in particular religious leaders (our Imams an Scholars). As a body of united religious leaders, there is the potential to put pressure on the government and other international bodies to increase in their efforts to bring about peace in the region.
It is also important for our Imams to be at the forefront of community engagement with refugees and in bringing about greater awareness of the situation. Imams and Islamic community leaders need to be encouraging the community to take in refugees, via adoption and fostering services as well as opening Mosques and Islamic Centres to those in need, be they Muslim or not.
We must ensure that we emulate the life of the Prophet (saw) in the best way by remembering that he was the most caring for those in need and encouraged his companions to be as well. As always, we continue to pray for the lives of those affected by violence and conflict across the world.