Spring is Life reasserting its dominance over death. ‘Tis the season where the reemergence of green leaves on naked branches of trees heralds the promise of new and better things for a world that, for some months before, had to endure the drab desolation of harsh winter.
Alas, such promise is not for the victims of another type of spring: The so-called Arab Spring. For them, there will be no lilting songs of re-energized birds, or display of exciting greenery that presages the warm colors of summer, or demonstration of spirited care of mother animals for their offspring born in hibernation. All that they will sense, as they incessantly have for years past, are the unnerving explosions of guns and bombs, the red color of blood flowing through their once safe and familiar streets, and—for three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, shown in the picture—the icy disregard for human dignity in what proved to be the last and permanent cold winter of his life.
Spring was never waiting for Aylan and for millions of his compatriots whose lives matter little if at all to the powers who think of nothing in terms of human and economic costs of war. For these powers, human misery does not even factor in the calculus of politics. They simply dismiss them with an equally dispassionate term, “collateral damage”.
“Arab Spring” is the paradoxical term coined to describe the civil uprisings that have been sweeping across the Middle East and Saharan Africa beginning the year 2011. It saw many Arab countries in those two regions undergo a catharsis as sectors of their populace sought the democratization of their authoritarian political institutions. It not only pitted autocratic leaders against their political opponents but it also eventually saw one branch of faith wage war against other branches of the same faith and even against members of other faiths.
The struggles intensified when the western powers decided to dip their fingers in what were supposed to be mere domestic issues, in the name of hegemony which, as usual, was sugar-coated with the epithet, “support for democratic struggles”. After helping bring about a regime change in Libya, the western powers next prepared to intervene in Syria to help the ongoing uprising there depose President Bashar al-Assad. At the last moment, however, the United Kingdom and France turned cold feet, leaving the United States isolated, causing it to abandon the plan likewise after the United States Congress thumbed it down.
After the western leaders found themselves thus manacled, a new group of Arab radicals came into the picture from out of the blues. Astonishingly well-equipped with modern military hardware, they spread into Iraq first and then to Syria, leaving in their wake devastation and unmentionable atrocities not only toward fellow Arab Moslems but even toward ethnic Arab Christians in the region.
Resultantly, whole communities that managed to escape the carnage in Syria and Iraq went into mass exodus to seek refuge in other countries, giving rise to humanitarian crises and issues. The Washington Post reported that Canada allegedly turned down the Kurdi family’s application, filed by a daughter who lives there, for them to be allowed to emigrate into that country; the United Nations allegedly refused to register the members of the family as refugees; and Turkey allegedly declined to grant them exit visas.
Still, the Kurdi family chose to undertake the long, arduous and dangerous escape and sea journey, knowing that their only choice was either to get killed in their own country or to suffer the consequences of their illegal entry into Turkey. As fate would have it, it was a case of “too near yet so far” for the Kurdis who must have been glad, just the same, to have reached Turkey, as symbolized by Aylan’s kissing of its shores even in his lifeless state.
Even though we live in a place where the drums of that war and the tormented cries of its victims are hardly heard, we cannot opt to look the other way and pretend that the tragedy does not exist and affect us. We need to force ourselves to look at Aylan’s poignant picture as we wage our own inner struggle to find answers to the tragedy: Should we be glad that he was able to escape a more horrible death in his native land? Or, should we die in ourselves, too, for the angst of knowing that he and his countless fellow children of war will no longer witness another spring in their very young lives, all because of the scant regard the powers-that-be have for the value of human life in their convoluted game of power politics?