Charles Lawley

My despair at those who weep for Quassem Soleimani

My despair at those who weep for Quassem Soleimani
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A few hours into the new year, pro-Assad forces targeted a school in southern Idlib with a cluster bomb. The bombing took place at 11am when it was clear the school would have been busy. Five children were killed. Two of those who died were just six years old; the oldest child victim was only thirteen. Four adults were also killed. I will forever be haunted by the faces of Yahya and Hour, the innocent six-year-olds who were amongst the child victims who attended – and died at – the school run by the organisation I work for.

This isn’t the first time one of our schools has been destroyed. In fact, six of our schools have been hit in as many months in Syria. Make no mistake: this is a clear co-ordinated bombing campaign against children.

Yet with the Syrian civil war entering its ninth year, the reaction to these dreadful, evil crimes is muted. Instead, the outrage appears to be directed elsewhere.

Two days after the New Year's Day attack in Syria, Iran’s Quassem Soleimani was killed by a US airstrike near Baghdad airport. Many of my friends were furious. But why?

Were they concerned about the impact it would have on the region? No, they had never heard the name Soleimani until news of his death broke.

They knew little of his influence in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and further afield. Instead, quite simply, they were furious because his death resulted from a decision made by Donald Trump. Trump is bad and therefore this was bad, the logic seemed to be. Few paid heed to the crimes against humanity Soleimani is accused of. Soon, many of my Facebook friends had turned into foreign policy experts queuing up to predict that “WWIII” was inevitable. It was all Trump’s fault, they said. In the aftermath of Iran's retaliation against US airbases, this fervour has only increased.

Don't get me wrong here: I'm no Trump fan. If I had more time, money and fewer commitments, I would hop on a plane to a swing state and be volunteering for Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg’s campaign. I passionately hope Trump loses in November. The world would be a better place without him in the White House.

But let's not draw any false equivalence between Trump and Soleimani. What angers me is the hypocrisy of those who shout loudly about the injustice of Soleimani's killing, yet who stay quiet about Assad's indiscriminate bombing of children. And while Trump's critics have been busy bemoaning his misdemeanours, what of the actual genocide committed against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar? The mass imprisonment in concentration camps of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang? State-sanctioned violence against pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, Venezuela or Russia?

Yet when Trump comes to visit London – or orders the death of an evil individual – there is no shortage of people queuing up to protest.

Back in Syria, it's a matter of if, not when, our next school is bombed. When the inevitable happens, it seems more people would get cross if Donald Trump was responsible and not Bashar al-Assad. Syria's dictator seems to get a free pass from all too many people online, unlike the democratically-elected president of the United States.

This is a sad reflection of the hypocrisy of those (predominately on the British left) who formerly led the way in campaigning against international injustices, from Apartheid, the Ethiopian famine or the Iraq war. Now, it seems, the appetite for campaigning against state-sanctioned murder of innocent civilians with impunity has evaporated. It has been replaced instead with a rage that the likes of Donald Trump have successfully won elections.

Since Yahya and Hour were killed on 1 January, I have had anger bubbling away inside me. In Syria, children are dying. Yet too many turn a blind eye to what is happening there, directing their fury instead at what Jeremy Corbyn condemns as the 'reckless and lawless killing of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani'.

Let's not cry for Soleimani. Let's weep instead for the 370,000 people who have been killed in Syria's bloody, ongoing civil war.

Charles Lawley works for a humanitarian aid NGO